Sex 101 with Princess Nokia, Part 4: Normalcy

In the final installment of our series with hip-hop royalty Princess Nokia, the rapper waxes poetic on the values of being different.

Complex Original



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.”


“[I had been existing within this kind of world dating back to when] I started kissing girls in school. Gay culture always stood out to me. Queerness was always the coolest thing to me. When I was a kid, so many aspects of [RuPaul and Boy George’s] lives and cultures, it just spoke to me a lot. I was just like that's my world, instantly. From the beginning. I knew that was my world.”

“I will be an outsider till the day I die. It's not a negative thing. I'm an outsider everywhere. That's the life that I was given. Some people are born to a certain family, to a certain economic stance and culture. That's the life that I was given as my path.”

Gay culture always stood out to me. Queerness was always the coolest thing to me. When I was a kid, so many aspects of RuPaul and Boy George’s lives and cultures, it just spoke to me a lot. I was just like that's my world, instantly. 

“I'm kind of different from someone my age. My analysts, and teachers, and people are always like, 'She's really different from people her age.' For me it was like my mind, my maturity, everything was just really advanced. It was harder when I was younger, because when you seem different and you see things differently, you don't relate to people. I'm not pompous and I don't have an air about it, I just understand that I'm different. I understand myself. I'm okay with it. I have to let it be known in case anyone ever has a confrontation. Listen, I'm an outsider. Understand that.”

“Within the art world, the hip-hop world, [it was the same in] high school, it's the same from summer camp, it's the same from cliques, it's the same from nightlife. I've always been an outsider no matter how inside I am. At the same time I feel like I'm a regular kid. I'm just a regular person living and breathing and respecting everything and everyone around me, and I have a lot of respect and divine appreciation for the world.”


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