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Before They Were Famous: Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj
Brad Barket, Getty Images

In the few short years since she rose to superstar status, Nicki Minaj has cemented herself as the leading rapstress in contemporary hip-hop and pop. Although she’s currently riding high on the wave of success, life wasn’t always so peachy for the ‘Pink Friday’ hitmaker. 

Nicki Minaj was born Onika Tanya Maraj on Dec. 8, 1982 in Saint James, which is a suburb Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. She lived with her grandmother while her parents searched for a home in the U.S., and when she was five, she and her family moved to south Jamaica Queens.

As a kid growing up in New York City, Minaj did not have an easy childhood, and it wasn’t just because she lived in a tough neighborhood. Her father was abusive and addicted to drugs, and Minaj spoke to The Sun about what it was like growing up in her household. “All of my young and teenage early years we lived in fear that my mother would be killed by my father. It was ridiculous,” Minaj said. “It was very tough emotionally for me to have a parent who was an alcoholic and a drug addict… My father was violent — physically and verbally.”

She also spoke to Rolling Stone about her father, saying, “When I first came to America, I would go in my room and kneel down at the foot of my bed and pray that God would make me rich so I could take care of my mother. Because I always felt like if I took care of my mother, my mother wouldn’t have to stay with my father, and he was the one, at that time, that was bringing us pain.”

However, despite the difficulties she had to face at home, she was able to channel her emotions into creative outlets like acting and her number one love, music. The Harajuku Barbie played clarinet in middle school, and she attended the prestigious LaGuardia High School in N.Y.C. to study drama — it’s easy to see why Ms. Minaj would’ve been a great theater student, as evidenced by her quirky personas and expressive faces. However, she ultimately decided to pursue a career in rap.

After working her famous booty off trying to land a record deal and get her material heard by producers, in 2007 she released her first mixtape ‘Playtime Is Over,’ which featured the collaborative Lil Wayne track ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.’ Then in 2008, she dropped her second mixtape ‘Sucka Free.’

After releasing more mixtapes and gaining more and more recognition from critics and fans, Minaj finally signed with Young Money Entertainment in 2009 with the help of her buddy Weezy. Nowadays, she keeps busy releasing chart-topping records, selling out shows, collaborating with anybody who’s anybody and starting new fashion crazes. Just like her song says, Ms. Minaj is a “starship” who was destined to fly all the way to top!

Next: Adam Lambert Before He Was Famous

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