Wed, May 15, 2013 at 4:45 PM
VIDEO + INTERVIEW: Nicki Minaj's Teen Vogue...
WERQ Nicki! [snaps in z-formation].
Nicki is Teen Vogue's newest cover girl for their June/July 2013 issue (cover HERE). Read a preview of the interview below & pick up the complete interview in the June/July issue, on newsstands NOW!
Meeting Nicki Minaj is an operation that's handled with military-like precision. It's 6:58 p.m. when I pull my car into the sprawling American Idol lot and 7:01 p.m. when I check in with Nicki's publicist. It's 7:02 p.m. when I get the first update: "Nicki is en route," she says urgently. At 7:03 p.m. I'm ushered to the entrance of the studio, where I see a petite blur of platinum blonde hair stride past, surrounded by a chattering crowd of hairstylists, makeup artists, assistants, and friends. They duck into a black Maybach. "She's riding to her trailer," her publicist says, pointing to one of the six massive structures 20 feet away.
I am, to be frank, uncertain what to expect when interviewing a celebrity who rides a Maybach to a trailer ten steps away. But whatever preconceived notions I may have had of Nicki Minaj, none of them fit the woman I meet, who's curled up on an oversize couch in a vintage T-shirt and pink velour track bottoms, her tiny manicured feet tucked into plush Hello Kitty slippers that coordinate with the Hello Kitty figures dotted throughout her otherwise simple trailer. She is entirely sans makeup, with the exception of doll-like false lashes. "Do you want a slice of pizza?" she asks. "It's been a long day."
No stranger to working hard, Trinidad-born, Queens-raised Nicki took her first step toward stardom by self-publishing her songs online. Before long, she caught the eye (or, technically, the ear) of Lil Wayne, who signed her to his label in 2009. Just three years later she was called the most influential female rapper of all time by The New York Times. Her career has been a Technicolor-costumed ascent—one she credits to a preternaturally strong sense of self that she developed during her teenage years. "Every time my parents fought, my mother would have us move and I would have to go to a new school, which meant I'd have to face the task of making new friends," she recalls. "I dreaded it. I had butterflies in my stomach each time: Are people going to like or hate me? Will they talk about me?"
She grew a thick skin, she says, because she didn't have the choice not to. "I encountered jealous girls a lot—it wasn't like I had nice clothes, so they couldn't be envious of that, but they were like, 'You shouldn't be that confident,' " she reveals. "Sometimes, if I felt like there was a physical threat, I would call my older brother and say, 'Can you meet me after school because I don't know what might happen?' Sometimes there'd be a fight, sometimes not. I let people know I wasn't going to be pushed around. What it came down to is that the bullies wanted me to bow down to them. And I just wouldn't."
Eventually, Nicki created her own strategy for dealing with haters: "I was a jokester. I let everything roll off my back," she says. "I always felt like I had other things going in my life outside of school, like church and extracurriculars—I was even on the softball team," she adds with a laugh. When Nicki began freshman year at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, the famed New York City performing arts institution, things finally clicked into place. "It was the first time I felt like I really fit in. Everyone there was creative," she says. "For once, I didn't feel like there was something weird about me."