This interview was performed in partnership with LifeStyles Condoms, who’s “Smart is Sexy” campaign aims to empower men and women and change the conversation around sexuality by redefining what it means to be sexy and feel confident.

With a new year often comes a whole new slew of information, a new wave of attitudes and cultural shifts, doing away with the old and embracing the new. Growing up in New York City—first in the Bronx and then later in Harlem and the Lower East Side—Princess Nokia was exposed to progressive values and sobering realities early on in life, giving her a perspective that most don’t gain till adulthood. With these experiences, Princess Nokia gained an incredible insight into the world that would leave her feeling both blessed and ostracized.

In romantic spheres, feeling like an outcast or outsider can create a sense of being alienated from one's partner, leading to an unsuccessful relationship. But according to Princess Nokia, this should hardly be the case. She believes that feeling like an outsider is actually a great thing, that not being "normal" should be embraced, that individuality can make a relationship stronger, more meaningful, and longer lasting. Normalcy is subjective and being smarter and more outspoken should be rewarded rather than being shunned.

We sat down with Nokia to talk about coming up in New York City, how embracing her own differences helped her to accept others, and how finding her place in the world allowed her to overcome self-doubt and to love her life to the fullest. Here is Princess Nokia, in her own words:

“Growing up in New York City in the early '90s, I kind of got to see everything and know about it all at a really young age. I came from a really liberal family on both sides. My Grandma—who raised me—was very keen to befriend families of different sexual orientations and lifestyles. Growing up my family would have play dates with another family that was a threesome couple. They were married and had children, and so as a child, I understood what polygamy was and I'd known a polyamorous marriage. That [type of relationship] was normalized in my household.”

“My sister and I were never brought up with overzealous theology or [the kind of] Catholicism that was shameful like in typical Latino communities, families, or households. I have a dad that is totally down with everything—who has friends of all spectrums—that used to take me to the Village. There's so many gay people in my family or friends of family. It made me the most open, non-judgmental, supportive person to all. [It also helped going to] all types of parties and [appreciating different] ways of life; understanding nightlife, understanding drag queens, [understanding] transgendered people.”