Onika Tanya Maraj (born December 8, 1982), known professionally as Nicki Minaj (//), is a Trinidadian-born rapper, singer, songwriter, actress, and model. Born in Saint James, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and raised in Queens, New York City, she gained public recognition after releasing the mixtapes Playtime Is Over (2007), Sucka Free (2008), and Beam Me Up Scotty (2009).
Minaj promoting her fragrance in 2012
Onika Tanya Maraj
December 8, 1982
|Residence||Beverly Hills, California, U.S.|
|Home town||South Jamaica, Queens, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Awards||List of awards and nominations|
|Associated acts||Cardi B|
After signing with Young Money Entertainment in 2009, Minaj released her first studio album, Pink Friday (2010), which peaked at number one on the US Billboard 200 and was ultimately certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Her second album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, was released in 2012 and debuted at number one in several countries. Minaj made her film debut in the 2012 animated film Ice Age: Continental Drift. In 2013, she was a judge on the twelfth season of American Idol. Minaj's third studio album, The Pinkprint, was released in 2014. She subsequently played supporting roles in the films The Other Woman (2014) and Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016). Her fourth studio album, Queen, was released in 2018.
Early in her career, Minaj was known for her colorful costumes and wigs. Her rapping is distinctive for its fast flow and the use of alter egos and accents, primarily British cockney. Minaj was the first female artist included on MTV's annual Hottest MC List. In 2016, Minaj was included on the annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. As a lead artist, she has earned four top-five entries on the Billboard Hot 100: "Super Bass" in 2011, "Starships" in 2012, and "Bang Bang" and "Anaconda", both in 2014. She has accumulated the most Billboard Hot 100 entries among women of all genres.
Minaj has been called one of the most influential female rap artists of all time. Throughout her career, she has received numerous accolades, including six American Music Awards, 11 BET Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, a Billboard Women in Music Rising Star Award, and 10 Grammy Award nominations. Minaj has sold 20 million singles as a lead artist, 60 million singles as a featured artist, and over five million albums worldwide, making her one of the world's best-selling music artists.
Onika Tanya Maraj was born on December 8, 1982, in Saint James, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Her father, Robert Maraj, a financial executive and part-time gospel singer, is of Dougla (Afro-Trinidadian mother and Indo-Trinidadian father) descent. Her mother, Carol Maraj, is also a gospel singer with Afro-Trinidadian ancestry. Carol worked in payroll and accounting departments during Minaj's youth. Minaj's father was addicted to alcohol and other drugs, and had a violent temper, burning down their house in December 1987. She has an elder brother named Jelani, an older sister named Maya, a younger brother named Micaiah, and a younger sister named Ming.
As a small child, Minaj and a sibling lived with her grandmother in Saint James. Her mother, who had moved to The Bronx in New York City to attend Monroe College, brought the family to Queens when Minaj was five. By then, the family had a house on 147th Street. Minaj recalled, "I don't think I had a lot of discipline in my household. My mom motivated me, but it wasn't a strict household. I kind of wanted a strict household." Minaj successfully auditioned for admission to LaGuardia High School in Manhattan, which focuses on visual and performing arts. After graduation, Minaj wanted to become an actress, and she was cast in the Off-Broadway play In Case You Forget in 2001.
At the age of 19, as she struggled with her acting career, she worked as a waitress at a Red Lobster in the Bronx, but was fired for discourtesy to customers. She said she was fired from "at least 15 jobs" for similar reasons.
2004−2009: Career beginnings
Minaj briefly signed with Brooklyn group Full Force, in which she rapped in a quartet called The Hoodstars composed of Lou$tar (son of "Bowlegged Lou"), Safaree Samuels (Scaff Beezy) and 7even Up.
In 2004, the group recorded the entrance song for WWE Diva Victoria, "Don't Mess With", which was featured on the compilation album ThemeAddict: WWE The Music, Vol.6. Minaj later left Full Force and uploaded songs on her Myspace profile, sending several of her songs to people in the music industry. At the time, she was managed by Debra Antney. Later, Fendi, CEO of Brooklyn label Dirty Money Entertainment, signed Minaj to his label in 2007 under a 180-day contract. Originally adopting the stage name Nicki Maraj, she eventually changed it to Nicki Minaj stating that "my real name is Maraj. Fendi flipped it when he met me because I had such a nasty flow! I eat bitches!"
Prior to Minaj releasing her mixtapes she's featured in numerous street DVDs such as "THE COME UP" and "Smack DVD" where shes being interviewed displaying her Queens, NY upbringing in the streets and in the studio freestyling and promoting her mixtapes, getting the real Nicki Minaj before the glitz and glamour and showing her come up as not only a rapper but as a woman in a male dominated field. The purpose of these DVDs were to interview upcoming rappers by showing their upbringing and hunger that they have while on their way to road to fame.
Minaj released her first mixtape, Playtime Is Over, on July 5, 2007, and her second, Sucka Free, on April 12, 2008. That year, she was named Female Artist of the Year at the 2008 Underground Music Awards. She released her third mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, on April 18, 2009; it received favorable coverage on BET and MTV. One of its tracks, "I Get Crazy", reached number 20 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart and number 37 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
After Minaj was discovered by fellow rapper Lil Wayne, in August 2009 it was reported that she signed a recording contract with his Young Money Entertainment. That November, she appeared with Gucci Mane and Trina on the remix of "5 Star Bitch" by Yo Gotti. Minaj also appeared on "BedRock" and "Roger That" on the compilation album, We Are Young Money (2009). The singles peaked at numbers two and 56, respectively, on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100; their parent album reached number-nine on the U.S. Billboard 200, and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). At Jay-Z's suggestion, Robin Thicke featured Minaj on his single "Shakin' It 4 Daddy".
2010–2011: Breakthrough with Pink Friday
On March 29, 2010 Minaj released "Massive Attack". Intended as the lead single from her forthcoming debut album, Pink Friday, the song was dropped from the album due to poor commercial performance and the next single, "Your Love", released on June 1, became the album's lead single, peaking at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number-one on the Billboard Rap Songs chart. In September, Minaj released "Check It Out" and "Right Thru Me" as follow-up singles. In October, Minaj became the first female solo artist to have seven songs on the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously and the first woman to appear on MTV's Annual Hottest MC List. In 2010, Minaj received her first Grammy Award nomination for her guest verse on Ludacris' song "My Chick Bad".
Pink Friday was released on November 19, 2010, debuting at number-two on the Billboard 200, with first-week sales of 375,000 copies. Upon release, the album received generally positive reviews from critics. Sam Wolfson of NME complimented Minaj's "pop sensibility" and found her "volatility and quirks ... reminiscent of heyday Lil Wayne". Entertainment Weekly's Brad Wete commended Minaj's "knack for melody" and "boasting lyrics". Allison Stewart of The Washington Post wrote that the album "nibbles at the edges of what female rappers are allowed to do, even as it provides a steady helping of pop hits". The album was certified platinum in December, and eventually reached number-one in the United States in February 2011.
"Moment 4 Life" was released as the fourth single from Pink Friday shortly after the album's release. Minaj performed "Right Thru Me" and "Moment 4 Life" as the musical guest on the January 29, 2011 episode of Saturday Night Live. "Super Bass", the album's fifth single, was released in April 2011, and became a sleeper hit and commercial success; it ultimately peaked at number-three on the Billboard Hot 100 and was eventually certified octuple-platinum in the U.S. Minaj credited the song's initial exposure to its mention by Taylor Swift, after videos of Swift and Selena Gomez rapping along to the song went viral on social media.
Minaj was one of the opening acts on Britney Spears' 2011 Femme Fatale Tour. She and Kesha appeared on the remix of Spears' "Till the World Ends", which peaked at number-three on the Billboard Hot 100. On August 7, 2011, Nicki experienced a "nip slip" during a live performance on Good Morning America. Minaj was criticized for wearing the low-cut shirt during her performance which led to the brief exposure of her breast on a live telecast. ABC apologized for incident. Minaj, while interviewed on ABC's Nightline show, apologized for the incident and denied that she intentionally sought to expose herself on live television as a publicity stunt. The incident attracted protest from the Parents Television Council. Despite this, Minaj continued to perform at high profile events throughout 2011; Donatella Versace invited her to perform with Prince for the introduction of a Versace collection for H&M, and she performed "Super Bass" at the 2011 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
In December 2011, Minaj was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist and Best Rap Album for Pink Friday. Also that year, she won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Hip-Hop Video for "Super Bass", marking her first VMA win.
2012–2013: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and The Re-Up
"Starships" was released in February 2012 as the lead single from Minaj's forthcoming second album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. The song reached number-five on the Billboard Hot 100, and went on to become the fifth best-selling single of 2012 and one of the best-selling singles of all time. Minaj's crossover into pop music was criticized by some, despite her commercial success. Minaj was sued by Chicago artist Clive Tanaka in September 2013 for its alleged copyright infringement. Follow-up singles "Beez in the Trap" and "Right by My Side" were released shortly after. Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded was eventually released on April 2, 2012, two months later than planned. The album was preceded by the promotional singles "Roman in Moscow" and "Stupid Hoe". The album debuted at number-one on the Billboard 200, with first-week sales of 253,000 copies, and was certified platinum by the RIAA in June 2012. However, its mix of hip-hop songs and mainstream pop material received mixed reviews from music critics. Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times commended its "minimal, bouncy hip-hop tracks" for highlighting Minaj's "charm and achievement", but wrote that the "disjointed, artistically confused" album "drives off a cliff" with "dance pop songs as simple as they are generic". Slant Magazine's Matthew Cole panned it as a "mediocre rap album". In a positive review for Rolling Stone, journalist Jody Rosen called it a "filler-free mega-pop album" and commented that "the energy never flags". "Pound the Alarm" and "Va Va Voom" were later released as the final singles from the album.
Minaj and rapper M.I.A. joined Madonna to perform the single, "Give Me All Your Luvin'", during the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show on February 6, 2012. Minaj was the first solo female rapper to perform at the Grammy Awards, premiering "Roman Holiday" during the 2012 ceremony on February 12. Her exorcism-themed performance was controversial, with the American Catholic League criticizing Minaj for bringing a fake "Pope" to escort her on the red carpet. The "exorcism" scene that was performed during her appearance was criticized as well. Catholic League president Bill Donohue called Minaj's performance "vulgar".
Minaj began her headlining Pink Friday Tour on May 16, 2012, which was followed by the Pink Friday: Reloaded Tour beginning October 14, 2012. Although she was scheduled to headline the June 3 Hot 97 Summer Jam at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, at the request of Lil Wayne she canceled her appearance the day of the show after Peter Rosenberg of the station dismissed her single "Starships" as "not real hip-hop". The following month, Minaj voiced Steffie in the animated film Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012). She won awards for Best Female Video (for "Starships") at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards and Best Hip-Hop at the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards. Her collaboration with Pearl Future on the song "Looking At Me" made it to the top 20 in BBC Radio 1. An expanded version of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, subtitled The Re-Up, was released on November 19, 2012. That month, Minaj was the subject of a three-part E! documentary titled Nicki Minaj: My Truth. She announced plans for her own record label after signing Parker Ighile, Brinx, Keisha, and Blackout Movement. In September, Minaj joined the judges' panel for the twelfth season of American Idol with Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, and Randy Jackson. That October, a leaked video circulated online, which showed Minaj and Carey in a heated argument during auditions in Charlotte, North Carolina. Carey accused Minaj of saying, "If I had a gun, I would shoot that bitch", but Minaj denied the allegation. Carey said that Minaj created an "unsafe work environment", increasing her security as a result.
Tensions escalated after Carey said that Minaj did not have a number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100 during a live broadcast in May 2013. Minaj and Carey left the series that month, at the end of the season. That year, Minaj was the most-charted female rapper in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, with 44 entries, tying Mariah Carey among women of all genres. Her seven nominations led those for rap musicians at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards, and she was the first rapper to win the BET Best Female Hip-Hop Artist Award four consecutive times.
2014–2017: The Pinkprint and other ventures
Minaj's first live-action theatrical film The Other Woman was filmed in spring 2013 and premiered on April 25, 2014. She played Lydia, assistant to Carly (played by Cameron Diaz). In 2013, Minaj described her then-forthcoming third album, The Pinkprint, as "a continuation of The Re-Up with a lot more" and said it would focus on her "hip-hop roots". During an MTV interview, she said that her third album would be "next level" and that she has "much to talk about".
"Pills n Potions" was released as the lead single from The Pinkprint in May 2014. "Anaconda" was released in August as the second single, peaking at number-two on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her highest-charting single in the U.S. to date. The music video for "Anaconda" attracted significant controversy and went viral upon release online; it set a 24-hour Vevo record, accumulating 19.6 million views on its first day of release, breaking the record previously held by Miley Cyrus for "Wrecking Ball". In December of that year, Minaj received two Grammy Award nominations, for Best Rap Song ("Anaconda") and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance ("Bang Bang" with Jessie J and Ariana Grande).
The Pinkprint was officially released on December 15, 2014, and debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, with first week sales of 244,000 overall units (198,000 in pure album sales and 46,000 combined album-equivalent units and streams). Upon release, the album received generally positive reviews from critics. Billboard magazine's Niki McGloster called it "her best album to date". Sheldon Pearce of The A.V. Club thought that The Pinkprint is "the closest Nicki Minaj has ever gotten to balancing her tendencies". Randall Roberts from the Los Angeles Times wrote that throughout the album, "she's intent on channeling her talent to explore and document her many moods. The combination is often, if not always, intoxicating". At the 58th Grammy Awards, Minaj received three more Grammy Award nominations, including a second Best Rap Album nomination for The Pinkprint.
On June 29, Minaj became the only artist to win the BET Award for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist for five consecutive years, while also tying Missy Elliott for the most wins, with five in total. In November 2014, Minaj released a video containing Nazi-style imagery for her third single "Only". There was immediate backlash from the Anti Defamation League, who stated that it was "troubling that no one among Minaj's group of producers, publicists and managers raised a red flag about the use of such imagery before ushering the video into public release." They called the video "insensitive to Holocaust survivors and a trivialization of the history of that era."
On November 9, 2014, Minaj hosted the 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards at The SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Scotland. She also won the Best Hip-Hop Award for a second time. In March 2015, Minaj embarked on her third world tour entitled The Pinkprint Tour and also became the first female artist to chart four songs simultaneously in the top 10 of Billboard's Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop airplay chart. At the 2015 BET Awards, Minaj won her sixth consecutive award for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist, becoming the female rapper with most wins in that category.
In September 2015, it was announced that Minaj would executive produce and appear in a scripted single-camera comedy series for ABC Family (now Freeform) based on her life growing up in Queens, New York. The show was titled Nicki and the pilot episode was filmed in Minaj's hometown in January 2016. In October 2016, Minaj stated the filming was postponed for undisclosed reasons.
In May 2015, it was announced that Minaj would feature in the third installment of the Barbershop film series, alongside Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, and other original cast members. Titled Barbershop: The Next Cut, the film was released on April 15, 2016, and received critical acclaim, earning an average score of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes; the site's critical consensus reads, "Heartfelt, thought-provoking, and above all funny, Barbershop: The Next Cut is the rare belated sequel that more than lives up to the standard set by its predecessors." Minaj's character in the film is a "sassy" hairdresser named Draya. For her performance, she was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Actress: Comedy.
In February 2017, Minaj was featured on Jason Derulo's single "Swalla", which reached the top ten in several countries, including a peak of number six in the UK singles chart. The following month, Minaj signed with the major modeling agency, Wilhelmina Models.
On March 20, 2017, when her singles "No Frauds", "Changed It", and "Regret In Your Tears" were released simultaneously, Minaj broke the record for the most Billboard Hot 100 entries for a female artist in the chart's history, which was previously held by Aretha Franklin. In May, Minaj opened the 2017 Billboard Music Awards with a medley performance that was described by a Rolling Stone writer as "flamboyantly produced" and "dexterous".
Throughout the remainder of 2017, Minaj performed guest verses on several singles, including Migos' "MotorSport" and Yo Gotti's "Rake It Up", both of which peaked inside the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, at numbers six and eight, respectively. She also featured on Katy Perry's "Swish Swish", which peaked at 46 on the chart and was certified platinum in the US and Canada.
Minaj officially announced her fourth album, Queen, on the red carpet at the 2018 Met Gala; the album was scheduled to be released on June 15, 2018. Its lead single, "Chun-Li", was released on April 12, 2018, and peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Another single, "Barbie Tingz", was also released alongside "Chun-Li", but ultimately did not make the final album cut. It is, however, included on the Target version of the album. A promotional single, "Rich Sex", featuring American rapper Lil Wayne, was released on June 11, 2018. The album's second single, "Bed", featuring Ariana Grande, was released on June 14, 2018 alongside the album pre-order, and peaked at number 42 on the Hot 100.
On May 19, 2018, Minaj was the musical guest for the finale of the 43rd season of Saturday Night Live; the show was hosted by Tina Fey and Minaj performed "Chun-Li" and "Poke It Out", alongside rapper Playboi Carti. Minaj later announced via her Instagram account that she was pushing back the release date of Queen from June 15 to August 10, 2018. In early June 2018, Minaj released the cover art for the album on Twitter, shot by Mert and Marcus, which features Minaj topless, wearing pasties, with a Cleopatra-inspired head-dress, and revealed that her next tour would be a double-header with rapper Future. On June 23, 2018, she performed a medley of "Chun-Li" and "Rich Sex" at the 2018 BET Awards.
On July 22, 2018, Tekashi 6ix9ine's single "Fefe", which featured Minaj, debuted at number four, and later peaked at number three, on the Billboard Hot 100. "Fefe" marked Minaj's highest bow on the Hot 100 chart as a featured artist, besting the number six start of "Bang Bang" in 2014. Minaj was also featured on 6ix9ine's song "Mama", along with Kanye West. Both songs were included on 6ix9ine's debut album Dummy Boy.
On August 1, 2018, Minaj pushed back Queen once again, to August 17, 2018. Minaj ultimately released Queen on August 10, 2018, a week ahead of schedule. The day before the release of the album, Minaj launched her own Beats 1 radio show, Queen Radio. Queen debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 with 185,000 album-equivalent units, of which 78,000 came from pure album sales. It also debuted at number five in the UK and at number four in Australia, marking the highest debut of Minaj's career in the latter country. Upon debuting second on the Billboard 200, Minaj expressed frustration and criticized several people in a series of tweets, including Travis Scott, whose album Astroworld claimed the top spot for a second week in a row, blocking Queen from number one. Queen's roll-out and the ensuing controversy was criticized by several news outlets and commentators. "Fefe" was added to the album in the middle of its first tracking week.
Queen received generally favorable reviews, though some critics took issue with the album's length and lyrical content. Mosi Reeves of Rolling Stone wrote that Queen "brings a new Nicki Minaj character: the regal, haughty monarch, a woman who insists on sword-sharpened rhymes as a prerogative for excellence", however noted it to have "a flabby, meandering mid-section". In a mixed review, Bryan Rolli of Forbes concluded that Queen is "a great 10-song album hiding inside a messy 19-song album", though complimented Minaj's lyricism, and said the album "gives fans plenty to sink their teeth into". For The Washington Post, Chris Richards said, "Queen only feels connected to the current rap zeitgeist in the saddest way — as another portrait of a visionary rapper in decline [...] A great Nicki Minaj comeback album would be the first great Nicki Minaj album, period."
Following the release of Queen, Minaj released a music video for the album's opening track, "Ganja Burn". "Barbie Dreams" was sent to rhythmic contemporary radio on August 14, 2018, as the album's third single. On August 20, Minaj won her fourth MTV Video Music Award for the "Chun-Li" music video, at the 35th annual ceremony. Later that month, BTS' single, "Idol", featuring Minaj, was released; it debuted and peaked at number 11 on Billboard Hot 100, marking it as the group's second highest charting song.
On September 2, 2018, Minaj co-headlined the annual Made in America Festival. The following week, on September 4, Minaj appeared as a guest and performed several songs on The Ellen Degeneres Show. Throughout the episode, Minaj and Degeneres, with the participation of Walmart, gave out over $150,000 in donations to fans.
On October 12, 2018, British girl group Little Mix released their single, "Woman Like Me", which features Minaj. The single debuted at number 5 in the UK. A music video, which features Minaj wearing "Elizabethan ruff and not much else", was released the same month. A BBC writer opined that the video "tackle[s] gender stereotypes".
Minaj was featured on Tyga's song "Dip", which reached number 63 on the Hot 100, becoming her 100th entry on the chart, thus extending her record as the female artist with the most entries and fourth overall.
In April 2019, Minaj made a guest appearance at the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival during Ariana Grande's set. She performed alongside Grande to their collab hits such as "Side to Side" and Bang Bang". Minaj's appearance was praised despite the technical difficulties that occurred in which Minaj's earpiece was not working.
— Minaj on her rapping technique in a Billboard interview
Minaj is known for her animated rapping style and her unique flow. Her rapping is distinctive for its speed and the use of alter egos and accents, primarily British cockney. She often both sings and raps in her songs and combines metaphors, punch lines, and word play into her work. The alter egos are incorporated with her lyrics in British accents (Roman Zolanski) or soft-spokenness (Harajuku Barbie). Ice-T said about Minaj's rapping style, "[Minaj] does her thing. She has her own way of doing it. She has an ill vocal delivery. She kind of reminds me of a female Busta Rhymes, like how she throws her voice in different directions."
The New York Times called Minaj "a sparkling rapper with a gift for comic accents and unexpected turns of phrase. She's a walking exaggeration, outsize in sound, personality and look. And she's a rapid evolver, discarding old modes as easily as adopting new ones." Although many critics describe her technique as bubblegum rap, Minaj said: "What people don't know is that before I was doing that craziness I was doing me, I was just doing regular sounding rap that anyone could hear and identify with. But once I started doing all that weird shit—I'm not mad at it because it got everyone's attention."
Noted as a rap artist, she lends herself to electronic music genres (especially electropop). Pink Friday marked her exploration of the genres, spawning electro songs including the pop-laden "Super Bass". Also combining rap with synthesizer music, Minaj's second album had a number of electro-hop and electro pop songs: "HOV Lane", "Whip It", "Automatic", "Come on a Cone", "Young Forever", "Fire Burns", "Roman Holiday" and "Beez in the Trap"; while "Starships" is a eurodance song. She collaborated with other artists, producing more electronic songs: "The Boys" with singer Cassie and "Beauty and a Beat" with Justin Bieber.
Her verse on Kanye West's "Monster" was critically acclaimed and contributed greatly to her popularity; many critics said she had the best verse in the song. Her verse was listed by Complex as the best rap verse of the 2010s. West claimed at one point he considered deleting her verse from the track, because he was worried it would outshine his own work:
It was like that moment when I thought about taking Nicki's verse off of "Monster" because I knew people would say that was the best verse on the best Hip Hop album of all time or arguably top ten albums of all time. And I would do all that work, eight months of work on "Dark Fantasy" and people to this day would say to me 'My favorite thing was Nicki Minaj's verse.' So if I let my ego get the best of me instead of letting that girl get the shot to get that platform to be all she could be, I would take it off or marginalize her, try to stop her from having that shining moment…
With her parents frequently fighting during her childhood, Minaj lived through characters she created as a means of escape. She recalled that "fantasy was my reality" and her first identity was Cookie, who became Harajuku Barbie and (later) Nicki Minaj. In November 2010, Minaj assumed the alter ego Nicki Teresa, wearing a colorful headdress and calling herself "healer to her fans" during a visit to the Garden of Dreams Foundation at Fuse Studios in New York. She introduced another alter ego, Rosa (pronounced with an exaggerated R), to commemorate her December 2010 appearance on Lopez Tonight.
For Pink Friday, Minaj created another alter ego: Roman Zolanski, "a demon inside her", Minaj's "twin brother" whose character she assumes when she is angry. Roman has been compared to Eminem's alter ego Slim Shady, and on "Roman's Revenge" Minaj and Eminem collaborate as their alter egos. On her next album, she said that there would be a lot of Roman: "And if you're not familiar with Roman, then you will be familiar with him very soon. He's the boy that lives inside of me. He's a lunatic and he's gay and he'll be on there a lot." Roman has a mother, Martha Zolanski, who appeared on "Roman's Revenge" with a British accent and singing on "Roman Holiday" for the first time. Martha appeared in the "Moment 4 Life" video as Minaj's apparent fairy godmother. Although Minaj was rapping in songs such as "All I Do Is Win (Remix)", she promised to introduce Nicki, Roman and Onika on her first album.
Minaj cites Foxy Brown and Jay-Z as major influences: "I really loved [Foxy] as a female rapper. I was really interested in her mind and her aura [and] I was really, really into Jay-Z. Me and my friends in high school, we were reciting all of the Jay lyrics. His words were our words in our conversations all the time." She said, further: "I never really told Foxy how much she has influenced me and how much she changed my life, and you've gotta tell people that when they're alive to even be able to take the compliment, instead of paying tribute to them when they're no longer here", adding that Foxy Brown was "the most influential female rapper" for her, though she initially was compared to Lil Kim when she debuted. Nicki and Lil Kim, often cited as Foxy's main rap rival, have reportedly exchanged words with each other, on social media and in their music.
Jada Pinkett Smith is one of Minaj's role models in her acting career. Minaj was inspired by R&B singer Monica, singing "Why I Love You So Much" at every talent show she entered. While performing in Atlanta as part of her Pink Friday Tour, she called Monica one of her all-time greatest musical influences. Minaj has also cited Madonna, Enya, Lil Wayne, Eminem, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Trina and Drake as influences.
She called Betsey Johnson a fashion inspiration: "[Betsey] is a free spirit. When I met her the other day, I felt like I knew her for my whole life. She's so warm and considerate and caring. She's amazingly talented and I've been wearing her clothes forever, so to meet her was like, 'Yay!' [I was] bowing down to her; she's dope!" Minaj has also expressed appreciation for Cyndi Lauper's style and how her videos inspired her as a teenager: "When I first went to get my hair colored, I was about 14 and I wanted blonde highlights. The beautician said, 'No, you have to get your mother on the phone,' and I was just crying and begging. I've always been experimenting. Cyndi Lauper's videos – that's what intrigued me."
Minaj has been referred to as the "Queen of Rap" on several occasions, and has been considered to be one of the most influential female rap artists. In 2012, a New York Times editor said that some consider her to be "the most influential female rapper of all time". In 2017, Patrik Sandberg of Dazed opined that Minaj "has, by any available metric, surpassed every other female hip hop artist to become the most successful in history. Minaj will be as important to this decade as The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac were to the 90s."
Minaj has been called the "black Lady Gaga" because of her colorful costumes and wigs. In one interview, Minaj rejected the comparison, but in another interview, she said that she is inspired by Gaga's creativity. Minaj has cited Alexander McQueen, Gianni Versace, and Christian Louboutin as her favorite designers. The Huffington Post described her style as "risk-taking" and "far-out", with "bold sartorial choices"; Yahoo! called her dress "colorful" and "crazy", and wrote that "the fashion and music world would certainly be very quiet without Ms Minaj".
Minaj is considered a modern sex symbol; since 2011, she has been included on the annual Maxim Hot 100 list several times. Her physique, notably her buttocks, has attracted significant attention from the media.
Early in her career, she made autographing breasts part of her movement to empower women. In 2010, she said that although she originally felt obligated to mimic the provocative behavior of the "female rappers of [her] day", she intended to subdue her sexuality because she "[wants] people—especially young girls—to know that in life, nothing is going to be based on sex appeal. You've got to have something else to go with that."
However, later in her career, Minaj embraced her sexuality and frequently attracted media attention for her sexually explicit and provocative lyrics, performances, and social media presence. Commentators and critics often debate whether Minaj's work empowers or objectifies women. The cover art and music video for her 2014 single "Anaconda", both attracted significant controversy upon release. The music video was viewed 19.6 million times in its first 24 hours of release. Detractors called the video and cover art "too racy", while others praised Minaj for "owning her sexuality", examining her work through a feminist perspective. A writer for The Guardian said, of the "Anaconda" song and music video: "Minaj is literally butting into Sir Mix-A-Lot’s ode to buttocks with Anaconda, turning the classic song into a conversation, and refusing to let the camera objectify her lap dance by keeping it zoomed out, at a distance."
In 2015, Madame Toussauds unveiled a wax figure of Minaj, which depicted her bent down on her hands and knees—the pose from the "Anaconda" music video. The attraction received criticism from some, including rapper Azealia Banks and The Independent, who called it "sexist" and "racist". Despite this, Minaj voiced her approval of the wax figure on social media. After numerous visitors began taking sexually suggestive photos with Minaj's statue, the museum instituted extra security.
Minaj talked about feminism in an interview with Vogue in 2015, saying "There are things that I do that feminists don't like, and there are things that I do that they do like. I don't label myself." In 2018, an interview with Elle, in which she discussed sex workers, her own sex appeal, and sexuality in music and on social media, attracted criticism.
Billboard listed Minaj the fourth-most-active musician on social media on its March 2011 Social 50 chart. As of 2018, Minaj is the world's most followed rapper on Instagram. On Twitter, she is one of the most followed rappers, with over 20 million followers on the app, as of 2018.
In 2010, Minaj performed for service members during the 2010 VH1 Divas Salute the Troops concert. In 2012, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Minaj donated $15,000 to the Food Bank For New York City and held a turkey drive at her alma mater, PS 45.
In May 2017, Minaj offered via Twitter to pay college tuition fees and student loans for 30 of her fans. She appeared to grant their requests, ranging from $500 to school supplies to $6,000 for tuition, promising to respond to more requests in a month or two. She also announced that she would launch an official charity for student loans and tuition payments in the near future. In the same month, Minaj revealed on Instagram that she has been donating money to a village in India for a few years via her pastor, Lydia Sloley. These donations helped the village get a computer center, a tailoring institute, a reading program, and two water wells. "This is the kind of thing that makes me feel the most proud", she said about the new additions to the village.
In August 2017, after Hurricane Harvey hit the city of Houston, Texas, Minaj answered a social media challenge by comedian and actor Kevin Hart and donated $25,000 to the Red Cross, saying she was "praying for everyone there".
Products and endorsements
Minaj has been affiliated with several manufacturing companies and has endorsed a number of products during her career. Her first collaboration was a November 2010 endorsement deal with MAC Cosmetics which sold a lipstick, "Pink 4 Friday", for four consecutive Fridays to promote her album Pink Friday.
In 2011, Minaj helped introduce the Casio TRYX in Times Square, and created a six-piece nail polish collection for OPI Products with colors named after her songs. That December, Mattel produced a custom-made, Minaj-themed Barbie doll valued at about $15,000 for auction on charitybuzz.
In April 2012, Minaj helped launch the Nokia Lumia 900 in Times Square. The following month, Minaj appeared in television and internet advertisements for Pepsi's "LiveForNow" campaign, which featured a remix of her single "Moment 4 Life". She endorsed the 2012 Viva Glam campaign with Ricky Martin, which raised $270 million for the Mac AIDS Fund.
With designer Jeremy Scott, Minaj signed an endorsement deal with Adidas' fall and winter 2012 campaign to appear in internet advertisements and commercials for Adidas Originals. Set to her song, "Masquerade", her segment of the advertisement was filmed in Brooklyn and also featured Big Sean, Derrick Rose, Sky Ferreira and 2NE1 in other locations worldwide.
In early 2013, Minaj fronted the Viva Glam campaign by herself, which included the introduction of "Nicki 2 lipstick and lip gloss". She also introduced the "Nicki Minaj Collection" clothing line for Kmart, composed of clothing, accessories and housewares. In February 2013, Bluewater Comics announced that Minaj would star in the Fame biographical-comic series, debuting in Fame: Nicki Minaj. She partnered with Beats Electronics to introduce her "Pink Pill" speakers in April 2013, appearing with DeRay Davis in a commercial for the speakers that same month.
Minaj has a prominent fragrance line, which was first launched in September 2012. She partnered with 'Give Back Brands' to introduce her first fragrance, "Pink Friday", which was nominated for three 2013 FiFi Awards for Fragrance of the Year, Best Packaging, and Media Campaign of the Year. A "Pink Friday: Special Edition" was released in April 2013. A deluxe edition version of the fragrance, titled "Pink Friday: Deluxe Edition", was also launched in December 2013.
Her second fragrance line, "Minajesty", was launched in September 2013. A flanker fragrance, "Minajesty: Exotic Edition", was released exclusively to the Home Shopping Network in June 2014. This was followed by the launch of her third fragrance line, "Onika", in September 2014.
In December 2014, Minaj was announced as the new face of the Roberto Cavalli spring/summer 2015 campaign. The campaign images, shot in Los Angeles by Italian photographer Francesco Carrozzini, see Minaj posing in flowy bohemian dresses, defined by embroideries and animal prints typical of the Cavalli brand. On March 30, 2015, it was announced that Minaj is a co-owner of the music streaming service Tidal. The service specializes in lossless audio and high definition music videos. In addition to Minaj and company owner Jay Z, sixteen stakeholders including Beyoncé, Madonna, Rihanna and Kanye West own a 3% equity stake in the service.
Disagreements between Minaj and rapper Remy Ma originated in 2007, when Ma took note of Minaj's freestyle record, nicknamed "Dirty Money", from her mixtape Playtime Is Over (2007). In the record, Minaj recites: "Tell that bitch with the crown to run it like Chris Brown/she won three rounds, I'ma need a hundred thou/like 'Chinatown'—bitches better bow down/oh you ain't know, betcha bitches know now/fuck I got a gun—let her know that I'm the one". Minaj reportedly never confirmed or denied that the song was about Ma, however Ma remarked in a 2010 interview, "To this day I still feel like [the song] is a stab at me; I'm gonna [diss Minaj] back for that one". Although Ma and Minaj shared words of encouragement in recent years, their relationship soon soured, and they began releasing verses and songs with lyrics aimed at each other, including Ma's "Money Showers" with Fat Joe and Minaj's "Make Love" with Gucci Mane. On February 25, 2017, Ma released "Shether", which contained a number of accusations and allegations regarding Minaj's personal and professional life. On March 3, 2017, during a visit to The Wendy Williams Show, Ma accused Minaj of "trying to keep [her] off of red carpets" and "trying to make sure awards don't go to [her]". A week later, in an interview hosted by BuzzFeed News, Ma stated that she had second thoughts about releasing the diss track, and commented on the difficulties of being a woman in the music industry. Minaj subsequently responded with the song "No Frauds", in which she accused Ma of spreading falsehoods.
Minaj has been embroiled in a feud with veteran rapper Lil' Kim since her success with Pink Friday. Kim accused Minaj of copying her image, saying: "If you are going to steal my swag, you gonna have to pay. Something gotta give. You help me, I help you. That's how it goes to me." Minaj's single "Roman's Revenge" with Eminem was believed to be a response to Kim's comments, although she later denied this. She responded to the situation in an interview with HOT 97's Angie Martinez saying, "She picked a fight with Foxy, then she picked a fight with Eve, then she picked a fight with Remy, then it was Mrs. Wallace, then it was Nicki Minaj. Every time you in the news, it's 'cause you gettin' at somebody! Where's your music? Put your music out, and when I see your name on Billboard, that's when I'll respond to you. Other than that, goodbye. It's Barbie, bitch." Lil' Kim reignited the feud with the release of her mixtape Black Friday (the title of which directly referenced Minaj). The artwork portrays Lil' Kim decapitating Minaj with a sword. A fragment of a diss track called "Tragedy" was released in response by Minaj in April 2011. Following the release of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, critics suggested that the track "Stupid Hoe" may have contained attacks directed at Kim. Lil' Kim later suggested in an interview with 105's Breakfast Club that the song "Automatic" was similar to her unreleased material, also calling Minaj "obnoxious" and "catty".
In February 2014, Malcolm X's daughter Ilyasah Shabazz voiced her displeasure by the artwork of her slain father used "inappropriately" for Minaj's single "Lookin' Ass Nigga". A statement from the Malcolm X estate read: "Ms. Minaj's artwork for her single does not depict the truth of Malcolm X's legacy, is completely disrespectful, and in no way is endorsed by [Shabazz or the Malcolm X] family." Minaj released an apology to the estate, however the rapper received backlash after remarks were made towards Shabazz in a mixtape recording ("Chi-Raq") that went: "Malcolm X daughter came at me/lookin' ass niggas ain't happy/rolled out with some Latin Kings and some eses in them plain khaki's."
In 2015, the New York Times reported on quarrels between Minaj and Miley Cyrus during parties. At the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Minaj stated onstage: "Now, back to this bitch who had a lot to say about me the other day in the press: Miley, what's good?" Cyrus later relayed that her Times interview was "manipulated". In 2016, Minaj referenced Cyrus in a remix to Yo Gotti's album track "Down in the DM".
During New York Fashion Week 2018, at an after party hosted by Harper's Bazaar, fellow rapper Cardi B caused significant controversy when she threw one of her shoes at, and attempted to physically fight, Minaj. Cardi B later stated that Minaj had previously "liked" comments made by other users on social media, who spoke negatively about Cardi B's abilities to take care of her newly born daughter. Minaj subsequently discussed the incident in an episode of her Beats 1 radio show, Queen Radio, in which she denied the accusations and called the altercation "humiliating".
Nicki Minaj received backlash for her choice to collaborate with 6ix9ine for their 2018 collaborative single "Fefe". That year, the controversial rapper had pleaded guilty to one felony count after posting explicit videos of his sexual performance with a 13-year-old child in 2015. Fellow American rapper Azealia Banks criticized Minaj in a series of tweets and Instagram posts dated July 24, for collaborating and touring with 6ix9ine. She said, "I'm sorry. Dude gets convicted and you ’re still trying to help him out of it? That is very dark," and described working with 6ix9ine as a "slap [to] all of your 8-15 year old fans and their moms in the face". She added that "pedophilia is absolutely gross and evil. Anyone who supports that shit is a lunatic". Nicki Minaj's decision to work with him on the single and the sexually provocative nature of its music video was criticized as "willfully ignorant" in the wake of the #MeToo movement. An article published on Pitchfork discussed the cultural normalization of predatory behavior. Nicki Minaj responded by pointing out that Lady Gaga's 2013 collaboration with R. Kelly had been praised by the same same publication despite public allegations of child pornography against Kelly. Minaj called the move bullying and claimed that this demonstrated a double standard within the music industry. After numerous requests, Nicki Minaj later on deleted her tweets.
In her song "All Things Go," Minaj reveals that she had an abortion as a teenager. Early in her career Minaj claimed to be bisexual, but eventually clarified her sexuality in a Rolling Stone interview saying she just did that to get attention: "I think girls are sexy, but I'm not going to lie and say that I date girls."
In late 2014, Minaj separated from her longtime boyfriend Safaree Samuels, whom she had dated since 2000. Several tracks on The Pinkprint are believed to have been inspired by the end of their relationship. Minaj began dating rapper Meek Mill in early 2015. On January 5, 2017, she announced via Twitter that she had ended their two-year relationship.
In early December 2015, Minaj's older brother, Jelani Maraj, was arrested and charged with abusing his step-daughter from the time she was eleven years old. Prosecutors alleged that he raped her repeatedly between April and November 2015 while her mother was at work. During the trial, which lasted over a month, the defense argued that the allegations were fabricated in an attempt to extort $25 million from Minaj. A Nassau County jury found Maraj guilty of child endangerment and predatory sexual assault of a child.
Awards and nominations
Throughout her career, Minaj has won numerous awards, including six American Music Awards, ten BET Awards, seven BET Hip Hop Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, Four MTV Video Music Awards, five MTV Europe Music Awards, two People's Choice Awards, one Soul Train Music Award, and four Teen Choice Awards.
Between 2011 and 2016, Minaj received a total of 10 Grammy Award nominations. She received her first Grammy nomination in 2010 for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for the single "My Chick Bad" with fellow rapper Ludacris. For the 54th Grammy Awards in 2012, Minaj received three nominations, including Best New Artist and Best Rap Album for her debut album Pink Friday. Minaj received her second nomination for Best Rap Album at the 58th Grammy Awards for The Pinkprint.
Minaj won the American Music Awards for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist and Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album in three different years for her first three albums. She has won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Hip-Hop Video three times, for "Super Bass", "Anaconda", and "Chun-Li", and has won the Best Female Video Award once, for "Starships".
- Pink Friday Tour (2012)
- Pink Friday: Reloaded Tour (2012)
- The Pinkprint Tour (2015)
- The Nicki Wrld Tour (with Juice Wrld) (2019)
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| Saturday Night Live musical guest
January 29, 2011
Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars
| Saturday Night Live musical guest
December 6, 2014