When I look at the Nicki Minaj franchise—the fashion, the success of songs like “Superbass,” the media thirst—I don’t see you in any kind of supporting role.When you’re told something for a long time, even when it changes, your mind frame doesn’t change and you’re subconsciously trying to prove everyone wrong. Even though I know what I’m capable of, I still haven’t had a performance where I would say, “I want this to go down in the Nicki Minaj history book.” I am my own worst critic. For instance, the American Music Awards was set to be an amazing performance, but then I had a horrible malfunction with the clothes and the hair ten minutes before I opened. So I was backstage having a fucking nervous breakdown.
My hair was supposed to light up, my choker was too small. So while I was in the box, waiting for the show to open, I had to rip the shit off, throw it to the side, and act like nothing happened. When I got off stage I freaked out because it was just so emotional. I really, really, really wanted that to be a dope show.
But I was watching and didn’t notice anything wrong.
Does that ease the frustration at all?
No, because I’m not doing it for everyone else. I’m doing it to prove to myself that I can do it. To prove to myself that I don’t have to settle for less because I’m a female rapper or because I’m black. And until I prove it to myself, it’s not gonna matter. No one’s opinion is going to matter. I really just have to perfect something.
Perfection is a never-ending mission for us women, because so much depends on...
Yup. And so many things can go wrong that guys never worry about.
Men walk on stage and they have their band behind them and they have their hat on and that’s it. I don’t want a pity party, but people don’t understand.
The camera's my worst enemy and my best friend. It’s the way I convey my emotions to the world without saying a word, so I use it.
You’re on track to hit all your marks in 2012. Grammy solo set? Check. New album and tour? Check, check. Five million in sales? Possibly. What else?
I’m working on my fragrance and my apparel line. They took stuff that I’ve worn, focused on what I like, and then they started doing sketches. They’re pretty amazing. I was like “Oh my God, the kids are going to love this.” It’s not gonna get done overnight, but I know that it’s something they’re going to love.
What’s your off-stage persona?
I’m the biggest homebody. But I’ve been like this. Nothing about me has changed since I got fame. I never liked to go to clubs. I never liked to go out. I don’t know where that public craziness came from. I was always like a comedian to my friends and family, but in a lot of ways I’m shy. I think people read my shyness as being mean. They misinterpret it. The first and only person who ever called me out for being shy was Wayne.
Did he recognize it in you because he could relate to that shyness?
Actually, no. Wayne is the least shy person in the world. He loves to be the center of attention. He eats it for dinner. And that’s why I was so drawn to him. I wanted that confidence. Wayne wants to put on a show for everybody. He enjoys people looking at him.
He would make up raps in front of people. Meanwhile, it took me so long to allow people in the studio because writing was such a personal thing to me. It was revealing everything about myself. How could I let people see that before I fine-tune every word, the delivery, the flow? But with Wayne, he just trusts his first gut.
Like so many women, it sounds like you’re hyper-aware of both your action and the world’s reaction. With all the hundreds of photos you have to take, do you feel more confident with cameras?
I hate cameras. I hate cameras and I hate camera phones. The camera’s my worst enemy and my best friend. It’s the way I convey my emotions to the world without saying a word, so I use it. People always say, “You come alive as soon as the camera’s on!”