Yesha Callahan

When Is Nicki Minaj Going To Define Herself For Herself?

nicki-minaj-01-320Remember when Nicki Minaj stopped donning bubblegum-colored wigs and fluffy tutu skirts a little over a year ago and everyone thought the pop-rap star had finally come into her own? Sike! While Nicki may look the part of a woman whose found herself, if you move past the straight raven-haired tresses and trendy body-con dresses she loves wearing these days, you can still very much see remnants of a black girl lost.

It’s become nearly impossible to scroll through your Instagram timeline without coming across a carefully staged photo of Nicki and Meek Mill “In love” — the storyline that’s now come to define both stars’ careers. No one’s talking about either rapper’s music — though in Meek’s case he brought that on himself — but as I look back on the trajectory of Nicki’s career it’s hard to pinpoint a time when the artist ever defined herself by her craft and for herself.

Those of us not familiar with an ass-less Onika got our first glimpse of Nicki as a plump-bootied rapping pop star who fashioned herself after a real-life plastic Black barbie doll. Few rap fans over the age of 21 were here for it, but we got it. Few entertainers enter the industry with the freedom to be their true selves. They’re fashioned into whatever their label tells them they need to be to sell records and tours and if they’re lucky, and fans stick around long enough, they eventually get to be themselves.

Most of us thought that was happening when Nicki got rid of the costumes and stripped her image down to embrace her natural Caribbean beauty, but I’d argue that this relationship charade with Meek is just a costume by another name. The east coast MCs are doing their darndest to convince the world they are “so attracted” to one another, but you only have to look at the way Nicki and her ex go back and forth on social media every so often to know truly unhappy she is with this new bae.

Nicki’s stated on more than one occasion that she dreamed of settling down and being a wife and having babies — a life that very much looked probable with ex Safaree. That is before she dragged him on social media and painted him out to be a jealous groupie. And now we see Nicki post videos of her twerking by Meek’s bedside and posting faux-candid shots of them together every chance she gets to simply sell fans another fantasy.


Enter the MTV VMAs last night when Nicki and Taylor Swift opened the awards together on the pretense of letting bygones be bygones. The bygone being Nicki finally seeming like she was standing for something when she called out MTV for an alleged bias in their VMA nominations, arguing that if she was a different “kind” of artist she would’ve received other noms. Taylor Swift jumped into the debate not even knowing the context of the argument and a Twitter dragging ensued, but yet again we saw Nicki essentially begging white folks to continue to let her play on their field when she appeared on stage alongside the biggest pop star out right now. I get it: industry politics. But if you’re gonna bow down to the man just to play with the big girls, don’t go crying when they expose the fact that you were never really in the club to begin with. And though her calling out of Miley Cyrus later was rather bold — “Back to this b*tch that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?” — that was more about alter ego and sustaining rap bravado than actually explaining why Miley’s rebuttal to her VMA concerns was all types of oblivious wrong.

At 32 and after six years of being in the mainstream public eye,  I can’t help but question whether Nicki’s tired yet. Tired of being someone she’s not, tired of being with someone she’s not really into, and tired of begging for respect in the game without ever giving the industry a sample of the real her to appreciate and embrace. I find myself already anticipating the public meltdown when Nicki can no longer pretend to be the character she’s presented to us for half a decade and hoping it doesn’t look remotely like that of other pop stars gone by. I’m specifically thinking Mariah Carey and Britney Spears here. *shutters*

Nicki’s got a strong enough fan base now that I’m sure should she decide to ever be as real as her raps allegedly are they’d embrace her wholeheartedly. Perhaps she needs to have a little seat on Oprah’s couch so she can remind her of one of her most poignant lessons: “If you come to fame not understanding who you are, it will define who you are.”

Image Credits: Getty Images/MTV

  1. August 31, 2015 - Reply

    For someone who may not know her personally, this article assumes a great deal. How do you know she isn’t exactly who she is? Sounds more like you think you you know who she is and she simply isn’t living up to your image of her. None of the celebrities and famous people give the audience their entire selves. To do so would be extremely unhealthy.

  2. August 31, 2015 - Reply

    As far as I know, Nicki was grown when she chose to don those barbie costumes. Who am I to assume someone made her do any of that? And why is her stepping away from a playful stage image the supposed mark of her growing into herself? Maybe her taste just changed. I know mine change every 5 to 10 years, but that doesn’t mean I’m not being myself at any point in time. And I especially can’t stand when folks make assumptions about other folks relationships without any facts. Instagram is not the bible, and none of us could say one way or another how in love or fake love they are based on pics. Let this woman live, please. I’m not here for womanhood politicking.

  3. August 31, 2015 - Reply

    Yes we only ‘know’ her public persona but that is a lot. Though I disagree that she is not being herself. She has crafted a complex public persona. This was on display in the less than two minutes it took to accept her award last night. Check out how her voice changed two or three times and her demeanor. Is this by design, is it working, is it healthy, does it speak to a clever artist/business person or is it troubling?

    I don’t know if she is headed or has already had a breakdown, but what I do know if that the self-assured, independent business person, in control of her sexuality person she professes to be is not what I see. I see a performer who lost her way trying to respond to a system that is not build for artist survival.

    Would the woman she professes to be have altered her person in the ways Nicki Minaj has? Would she have ok’d that horrific wax figure? This caricature of herself she has developed looks to be on the same unfortunate ride Lil Kim rode to nowhere. Which is unfortunate because she is talented and could have been the first female rapper to translate her success to the big or little screen. The modifications she has made to her body and the ones done on her mind and soul make this much more difficult. I hope she finds what she is looking for and needs.

  4. August 31, 2015 - Reply

    The music industry in the mainstream level is very tough and controversial at times. Nicki Minaj was in a group called Hoodstarz before she had international recognition. I can’t predict the future of her career and we can offer legitimate critiques about many things without judging the future of a woman in a pessimistic fashion. Obviously, she is not perfect (I don’t agree with her statements about Malcolm X, which she has apologized for. I don’t agree with some of her lyrics on other records). Another point is to be made too. We, as black people, are called to exist in immediate perfection permanently in our lives by mainstream society. While other people are given much more slack in their imperfections. Sometimes, folks have to be allowed to learn and to grow. In our time, with the events going on, we should definitely inspire her or Nicki Minaj. The future of her has not been written, so we shouldn’t write the future of her. We shouldn’t write her off forever. Many may be surprised at her future and we all hope for her to live her life in a greater fashion than the present.

    • August 31, 2015 - Reply

      “We, as black people, are called to exist in immediate perfection permanently in our lives by mainstream society. ”

      Yes! You get all my thumbs up for this. Everyone has some sort of expectation for black folks to live up to all the time, and they make it seem like being anything less than someone else’s perception is unacceptible. If we live outside of the box, then we must not have found ourselves. If we buck the system, then we must be debasing ourselves. It’s like everybody else knows what’s best for us, except us & we’re just supposed to step in line. I’m not a Nicki fan, but I respect her right to live exactly how she chooses to live as long as she’s not preventing someone else from doing the same thing.

      • August 31, 2015 - Reply


        I feel you. Many folks act like what Nicki Minaj is doing something new. There are many artists (among both genders and among many races) who have done more controversial stage actions than Nicki Minaj. There should be a balance between allowing people the chance to express themselves honestly and for people to be allowed to outline authenticity. Nicki Minaj went to art school when she was younger, so some of her stage performances are an extension of what she has learned from her art school, and from her other cultural influences. We shouldn’t be concerned with the establishment want us to be. People know that Nicki isn’t perfect and she made mistakes. The important point is that she has to be allowed to grow and we all have hope for her future to be better than present and the past. She has the responsibility to not harm another person’s light and we have the responsibility to be fair to her as well.

  5. September 1, 2015 - Reply

    This article assumes a lot about a person that they don’t know and a relationship they’re not in. It comes off as thirsty as hell. And I’m not a Niki fan, I’m a Jean Grae/Bahamadia underground hiphop fan.

  6. September 1, 2015 - Reply

    I thought when she was showing her buttocks in Anaconda that was who she was.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: