Lil Kim Then & Now: Her Transformation Into An Icon

Despite all her setbacks, Lil Kim still exudes unwavering confidence both musically and in showbiz.

BYMichael Amimo
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Kimberly Denise Jones, famously known as Lil Kim, has undergone numerous noticeable transformations throughout her musical career. She has allegedly undergone surgery, and fans claimed it could be true because of how she changed. Despite all the rumors, the “No Matter What They Say” hitmaker still exudes unwavering confidence in all aspects of her entertainment career and personal life.

The rapper burst onto the scene during Hip Hop's Golden Era and amassed great success. She has also demonstrated some notable transformations throughout her career. Clearly, her music and fashion style successes have superseded her controversial physical appearance. A noteworthy fact is that Lil Kim’s fashion has just been as iconic as her music. She is known for her daring and revealing outfits, often featuring sequins, fur, and feathers. Her fashion choices inspire generations of women in rap and help to redefine hip-hop.

Lil Kim’s Transformation Journey

Lil' Kim (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Kim has been in the music business for over two decades and is known for her provocative outfits and aggressive music style. Over the years, she has undergone a significant transformation in her appearance and style. In the 90s, she established her iconic stature by working with high-profile peers like Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z, and Missy Elliott. She was also rumored to have an affair with Tupac Shakur, but she denied these claims.

Notorious B.I.G.’s Influence

Rapper Notorious B.I.G. AKA Biggie Smalls (Christopher Wallace) joined by Sean (Puffy) Combs and Lil' Kim receives Billboard Music Award on December 6, 1995 at The Coliseum in New York City, New York. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

In 1993, Kim met the Notorious B.I.G. at a rap battle. The two became close and began a romantic relationship. Biggie took Lil Kim under his wing and introduced her to Junior M.A.F.I.A., a rap group he was part of. Soon, Kim joined the group, boosting her iconic music career to the next level. Gaining momentum, Kim’s big break came in 1996 when she released her debut album, Hard Core. The album was a commercial success, selling over 1 million copies and reaching No. 11 on the Billboard 200. It featured production from some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Sean “Puffy” Combs, Jermaine Dupri, and The Trackmasters.

Lil Kim’s Iconic Prominence

The 2000s saw an experienced Kim continue to solidify her status as a hip-hop icon. Her music continued to evolve, and she released several successful albums, including The Notorious K.I.M. and La Bella Mafia. She also collaborated with other big names in the industry, such as 50 Cent, Christina Aguilera, and Missy Elliott. However, despite facing some setbacks, such as a brief stint in prison in 2005, Lil Kim’s music remained popular and influential.

Like most music icons, Lil Kim’s fashion sense continued to turn heads. She was known for her daring and provocative outfits, often pushing boundaries with bold choices. Although she faced some criticism for her fashion choices, Lil Kim remained unapologetic and true to herself. This signature “gangster” attitude only added to her appeal.

Additionally, her personal life has not been without its controversies. In 2005, she was convicted of perjury and sentenced to a year and a day in prison for lying to a grand jury about a shooting that involved her friends. Lil Kim: Countdown to Lockdown was a six-part docuseries released in 2006 that chronicled the rapper's final weeks before her prison stint.

Dominating The Rap Game

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 11: Lil Kim performs onstage during the VH1 Hip Hop Honors: All Hail The Queens at David Geffen Hall on July 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for VH1)

In 2011, Lil Kim released her mixtape Black Friday, which reportedly contained diss tracks directed at Nicki Minaj. She also announced that she would release an album entitled Hard Core 2K13, but it ultimately never materialized. In 2013, Kim purportedly underwent a series of plastic surgeries that drastically changed her appearance. This led to much speculation and criticism. She denied having any major procedures and attributed her new look to makeup and weight loss.

More recently, Kim’s looks have continued to evolve, and she has maintained her status as a style icon. Furthermore, the rapper sparked debates about her outfit at the 2019 BET Awards. Her stunning makeup perfectly complemented her outfits, and her fans couldn’t get enough. Her performance was also well received.

Praise & Controversy

Lil' Kim (Photo by Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Over the years, Lil Kim’s fashion style has continued to be a standout feature. In 2019, Cardi B paid homage to Lil Kim’s iconic 1999 MTV Video Music Awards outfit by wearing a similar purple jumpsuit to the event. Other celebrities have commented on Lil Kim’s legacy in the music industry. Missy Elliott praised Lil Kim as a “pioneer” and “icon” in a 2019 tweet. Fellow rapper Trina has cited Lil Kim as one of her biggest influences.

Kim has also faced controversies in recent years. The most famed one was the beef she had with Nicki Minaj. In the rap game, respect and appreciation are highly coveted by pioneers. However, Kim did not take lightly the disrespect she felt she received from Nicki. In an interview on Real 92.3 in 2018, she bashed Nicki for being selfish and not recognizing her contributions to her influence.

Lil Kim, The Legend

Lil' Kim during No Way Out Tour in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)

Many celebrities have taken to social media to express their thoughts on Lil Kim’s transformation. In a tweet from October 2022, singer Lizzo wrote, “Lil Kim has been an icon for years. Her music, her style, her confidence - she’s everything. I love seeing her still slayin’ in 2022.” Similarly, actress Halle Berry tweeted in June 2022, “Lil Kim’s transformation over the years has been nothing short of amazing. She’s still got it, and I’m here for it!” In another tweet, rapper Trina wrote, “I can’t wait to see the legendary Lil Kim. She’s a trendsetter and a true icon in the game.” Lil Kim is still slayin’ in 2023, and we can’t wait to see what she brings next.

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