Nicki Minaj (Sebastian Kim/Teen Vogue)
And though she's not everyone's favorite -- Minaj tends to be one of those people you instantly embrace or don't -- the 30-year-old star has a loyal fan following, not to mention her own perfume, a campaign for M.A.C. Viva Glam makeup, and a job as a judge on "American Idol." (She may or may not be returning to the singing competition next season, depending on whom you ask.)
In the new issue of Teen Vogue, the "Beauty and the Beat" singer explains how she developed the thick skin that enables her to be her authentic self, no matter what anyone else thinks.
It all began when the Trinidad and Tobago native found herself and her family moving around NYC often. As a result, Minaj became used to being the new kid in school.
"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 shares. "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."
Interestingly, Minaj says she found comfort in the tunes of someone "Idol" viewers might not expect.
"Music was my life," she declares. "Mariah Carey was one of my favorite artists when I was a teenager."
(Sebastian Kim/Teen Vogue)
One of the main storylines of the season is the alleged feud between Minaj and Carey, which came complete with a war of words via Twitter and barbs exchanged on the air. Minaj, who's known for saying anything that's on her mind, stays diplomatic when talking about the show.
"Listen, like every job, it's not one thousand percent peachy keen all the time," she says. "But I love the producers -- I feel so happy that they gave me the chance to be on the show. It's a way for me to interact with my fans. I go onto Twitter after every episode to see what people say."
She's less charitable talking about the entertainment industry, which she compares to being similar to her life as a teen.
"People treat this business like it's high school. It can absolutely feel like one big popularity contest, and you know what? I can't be bothered," she says. "I can't allow myself to play ridiculous games with grown adults in the industry. I can't be nice to someone just because they're hot right now. I can't do it."
Whether or not she comes back for more "Idol," Minaj has a lot going on. She's launching her own clothing line for Kmart in October featuring her own unique take on fashion.
"My style is euphoric, girly, and powerful. I love designers like Versace, Alexander McQueen, and Oscar de la Renta," Minaj notes. "I probably wear Christian Louboutin shoes every day. But I also want to get into the head of the every day girl."
Still, she promises that even people not quite as bold as she is will be to find something to add to their closets.
"One of my best friends asked me, 'You're going to make regular clothes, right?'" she says. "It's going to be relatable, hell yes."
Read the full interview with Minaj in the June/July issue of Teen Vogue, on newsstands May 21.
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