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The record-breaking rapper who turned her tough childhood into musical magic

Featured Nicki Minaj

IMG_3493We all feel we know the inner lives of celebrities, but no matter how many fan facts we read, we never really do. Every celeb comes to our notice with a backstory that can be good, bad, happy or incredibly sad. One of them, Nicki Minaj, has a reputation as a badass rap queen with musical connections to Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Trey Songz. The part of her we can’t see in airbrushed photos is her challenging personal history. Even her name is a stage persona, created to separate her present life from her difficult beginnings.


Humble start

Nicki was actually born Onika Tanya Maraj, on December 8, 1982 in Trinidad and Tobago. From the age of five, she was raised by her grandmother after her parents moved to the US looking for a new life. Her mother eventually returned to take her to live with them in New York. Nicki’s home life wasn’t happy, though. Her father was a severe drug addict with a nasty temper and violent streak. At one point he set fire to the family’s home in a failed attempt to kill Nicki’s mother.


Escapism to survive

To get away from her problems, Nicki would create people or characters in her mind. Through them she would live a happier life because they allowed her to be a “new person”. It turned out that Nicki also had a keen ear for music. From an early age, she played the clarinet in her middle school band and, at the age of 12, Nicki wrote her first rap song. Afterwards, she won a place at La Guardia High School, the inspiration for the movie Fame and a place that has spawned generations of performing arts students.


Turning crisis into creativity

Nicki’s method of creating alter egos has become one of her creative characteristics. One early incarnation was someone she called ‘Cookie’, then came ‘Harajuku Barbie’. She finally settled on Nicki Minaj. Her fame has grown around this incarnation. Nicki is widely known for her bold fashion statements, crazy, colourful make-up schemes and unconventional hairstyles. These theatrical looks are all part of her creation.


Strength through adversity

“Fantasy was my reality.” Nicky has once said. Because of her positive reaction to all that was happening to her, the singer emerged as a creative powerhouse. Nicki’s early struggles have fuelled her drive to raise her experiences above those of her parents. “I’ve always had this female-empowerment thing in the back of my mind,” she told Details magazine, “because I wanted my mother to be stronger, and she couldn’t be. I thought, “If I’m successful, I can change her life.”‘

In 2013, Nicki was the first artist to be awarded Best Female Hip-Hop Artist four years in a row. She further topped the pile by winning again the following year. According to sources, this talented rap singer now has an estimated net worth of $50 million.


Nicki has shown us that no matter what happens to you during your childhood, you can still rise to the top.