Nicki Minaj says she's not mean: 'I have to be able to look in the mirror and be OK with myself'

A woman with light blonde and pink hair and hoop earrings making a kissy face
Nicki Minaj opens up about her reputation, history of addiction and family life in the December issue of Vogue. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images)

Hey, yo, Anna, h-h-hey yo Anna Wintour, she got that cover, baby girl.

The Nicki Minaj brand machine — in full force ahead of the rapper's long-awaited "Pink Friday 2" album — is here to undo your preconceived notions about the "Barbie World" rapper.

Speaking candidly in the December issue of Vogue, the cover star said she's had a lot of time to figure herself out and offset long-held misconceptions about her combative and indignant reputation. Incidentally, the interview was published just days after Minaj told her legion of Barbz that she doesn't condone threats made in her name.

Read more: Nicki Minaj delays 'Pink Friday 2.' Fear not, Barbz: It'll be her 'biggest gift' to 'humanity thus far'

The 40-year-old, who is set to release her five-years-in-the-making “biggest gift I’ve ever given humanity” on her Dec. 8 birthday, recoiled at the idea that she isn't nice — the misconception about her that rankles her most.

“When I hear the word mean, I think about the core of who the person is,” she told Vogue. “I always tell people that the difference between being mean and being a bitch is that bitch passes. Bitch comes and goes. Mean is who you are. I could be the biggest bitch, at the height of my bitch-ness, but if the person I may be cussing out at that time needs something from me, I’m going to give it to them. I have to be able to look in the mirror and be OK with myself.”

Even with her prickly history with the media, the “Starships” and “Super Bass” rapper displayed a softer, more introspective side in the interview. She's happier than she's ever been, she said, and tries to keep herself "in a grateful frame of mind." (She opened her "73 Questions" video interview with "I'm blessed.")

"The things that you can be thankful for seem to start adding up, and you realize that in the big scheme of things, most of the stuff you would have complained about is so trivial. It’s been a constant race. But then you stop and realize, there’s nothing to run around for. That’s the thing that’s changed in me. It’s not that I’ve taken these amazing steps. It’s just about finally being happy with who you are as opposed to where you are.”

Not to say that hasn't come with challenges. The Trinidad-born, Queens-raised rapper opened up about her difficult childhood, marital woes and struggle with body image and a Percocet addiction. Onika Maraj (that's her real name) will have you know that "Nicki Minaj" is just her most famous alter-ego.

“I think of ‘Nicki Minaj’ more like the Superman suit — who you change into when you go into the telephone booth," she said, later adding, "Do you all think that Nicki Minaj is the same person I am with my child’s nanny?"

Read more: Nicki Minaj tells long-combative Barbz 'to never threaten anyone on my behalf'

The challenges of motherhood also cut down the boundlessly confident emcee, who gave birth to her first child in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her son, known to the public as Papa Bear, is also featured in the spread, and getting a shot of him sleeping on her chest for the magazine was a feat in and of itself.

"[T]here’s no such thing as confidence in parenthood. I kind of wish that someone had told me. ... So often you think: I don’t know how to do this!”

Minaj also reflected on substance abuse and how it's especially common for those who live public lives.

"Look at some of our biggest celebrities. They eventually either get laughed out of wanting to go outside anymore, like Michael Jackson, or criticized, like Whitney Houston, or they fight silent battles, like Prince," she said. "These are some of the greatest of all time. And one day they decided, ‘You know what? I’d rather self-medicate and be in my own world. ... Should you keep on doing interviews and pouring out your heart so people can laugh? No.”


Minaj's fans celebrated her candor on X, formerly Twitter, tweeting tidbits and answers along with the hashtag #NickiVogue after the interview was published Thursday. The rapper retweeted several fans and replied to one who asked how she stays "in alignment" after experiencing an "insane amount of spiritual growth."

"I don’t think anyone of us STAYS there, we’re human," Minaj tweeted. "...but having the DESIRE to stay there is sometimes enough. It means you keep checking yourself (even when it’s difficult) & checking back in (via prayer) with God to acknowledge you can’t do it alone. #NickiVogue"

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.