Last week, E! announced Nicki Minaj would be starring in a number of reality specials on the cable channel. That was widely misconstrued to mean that the YMCMB rapper would be getting her own reality show. Not so. Minaj will be featured in three hour-long specials that will feature never-seen-before footage of her personal and professional life, starting in November.
Oddly enough, I’m anticipating this. I say “oddly” because I don’t consider myself a Nicki Minaj fan. I played the first album a couple of times to see what the hype was about, but other than a couple songs, I wasn’t feeling it. I heard the singles for the sophomore CD and passed. No real surprise, as at 30-plus I’m not her core demo. But even without trying to pay much attention to Nicki, it’s nearly impossible to avoid or ignore her. She’s landed a coveted slot as a host on American Idol (beside Mariah Carey, no less), scored an endorsement deal with Pepsi, was handpicked by Madonna to perform with her at the last Super Bowl, and recently debuted her own perfume, Pink Friday. That just scratches the surface.
When she speaks, or raps, it seems everyone is listening. Last month she dropped a verse on the remix to the uber-popular (and entirely misogynist) song “Mercy” that included the lyric, “I’m a Republican voting for Mitt Romney.” That apparent GOP endorsement reached the ears of President Obama, who, when asked about his take on it, said, “She likes to play different characters, so I don’t know what’s going on there.” Even the POTUS is aware of the ins and outs of her Barbie-pink universe. (Nicki confirmed via Twitter that the President’s hunch was correct — she was just channeling one of her alter-egos.)
About those personas... Nicki has many. Roman Zolanski, the one who likes to start trouble and who was probably the Romney supporter, is the best known, but there’s also Martha (his mother), Harajuku Barbie, Spanish Rosa, and Nicki Teresa. And clearly the usually tough-talking Minaj who speaks as the real Nicki on the remaining lyrics is another. All are controversial in some circles. In 2010, a young poet garnered national attention and summed up the perception of many when she spoke, “We have been waiting centuries for a woman like you to carve your stiletto in history, / This microphone is not a dildo so you are going to have to cum a little harder than that.”
While Nicki’s lyrics may not move me and others make me wonder “WTH?”, just because of all the interest Minaj has garnered — good and bad — plus the accolades she’s received in an entertainment industry she’s rapidly plowed through to get to the top, I want to know who the real Nicki is. How does a young girl with a family history so rocky — she has said her father was once a drug addict who physically abused her mother — manage to become one of the biggest stars on the planet?
Beneath those multicolored wigs, latex DayGlo costumes and that can’t-miss-it bubble booty, there’s obviously a story of perseverance, strategy and next-level talent. That’s what I’m hoping her E! specials will tackle.
Will you be tuning in too?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk