What began as a worldwide Twitter contest to join Nicki Minaj at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas or accompany her in the studio for the night exploded into an amazing display of social media generosity.
Last weekend, Nicki drummed up excitement when one of her fans asked her to pay their college tuition. Nicki was more than happy to. The stipulation? You needed to have a 4.0 GPA.
After a while, Nicki got rid of the 4.0 requirement and began promising fans she’ll pay their outstanding payments in order for them to go school—everything from books and supplies to student loans and tuition.
One of those lucky people is Jordan Kennedy, a 22-year-old student attending the University of Las Vegas and majoring in political science. After going to College of Southern Nevada for a few years, he transferred to UNLV in 2016. He balances school with a full-time job working at Verizon, but says he has about three more semesters left until he graduates.
Another is Devonte' Portis, a sophomore at Ohio University majoring in public relations. We spoke with Kennedy and Portis about becoming a Nicki Minaj fan, her philanthropy quest for getting fans in school, and how grateful they are of her generosity.
When did you become a fan of Nicki?
I would say back in the day right when she was coming up. I was just super interested in her, and followed, of course, Young Money: Drake and her. I just saw her blew up around the same time Drake was. I think in 2010 she started to follow me on Twitter. That’s kind of how it happened. I got to meet her four or five times. She knew who I was just based on my Twitter. Just knew me right off the bat and called me by my first name. After that, I’ve just been in contact. She’s always done stuff like this with her diehard fans, but I’ve always been in contact with her via Twitter. Last week, I just decided that I saw that people were tweeting her and I knew she would see me because she follows me. She saw it, she retweeted it, and responded back.
What was it about Nicki that made you a fan?
It was something about the way she sounded. You can kind of tell her apart from everybody else. She had that cadence to her voice. You can definitely tell who she was. I just thought she was really interesting. And then when she started to pop with the features and she was on every other song, I started to get more and more interested in her and I researched her childhood and stuff like that. I saw how she was just exploding.
I’m supportive of her because I think she’s dope. I think a lot of guys are afraid to admit that. I think she can go as hard as other people and I think other people just aren’t comfortable with the fact that, ‘Oh, I listen to her. I’ve been to her concert.’ But she really does go in.
You said you met her through meet-and-greets. Around Vegas?
Yeah, actually, one was a meet-and-greet. Other times, when American Idol was here, when they were taping it, she stood after when all the judges left and the taping was over. So I got to meet her there, talk to her. She knew who I was because I had that relationship with her on Twitter. American Idol twice, and then also California. I went to the BET Experience [in 2015]. I got to meet her again and I got to talk to her.
What’s your favorite song and album from her?
There’s a lot of records that she has that a lot of people haven’t listened to because it’s mainly not mainstream enough or whatever. But I would say there’s a lot of features I think really displays who she is a lot. I would say probably her first album [Pink Friday]. That was her best piece of work. But I would [also] say her most recent one [The Pinkprint]. I thought it was dope. “Shanghai,” one of the songs on there. “Want Some More.” There’s just a lot of records that she really does go in.
When did you see the Twitter contest of Nicki paying her fans’ loans happening?
I was actually driving home from work, and like everybody else, I was looking at my phone here and there. I was pulling up to my house and I saw everybody tweeting her. I was like, "I don’t know what they are talking about." And then I saw one of the people I follow, he tweeted her. He said, "You want to pay my tuition?" I guess people started to send her all these things. I figured, "OK, I’ma shoot my shot, and I’ma do my thing."
On Instagram, she gave a list of people she paid loans for. And it says she paid two of your loans. Is that correct?
Yeah, she did. It was almost $4,300 or so is what she put towards them. I was more than grateful for that. Those are on my credit now, which is good. But it will be even better as showing them paid off on two of them at least. It’ll definitely help because my community college was cheaper but I was super grateful for that. That was awesome.
She says she wants to revive the contest in a month or two. Would you tell your friends about this?
You know what? Yeah, I would encourage people to do that. But to be honest, she does stuff like this for the diehards. I’m not saying nobody normal has a chance, but she knows her core base of support and she goes above and beyond for them. I’m sure there’s going to be contests where it might not be Twitter based. But yeah, I would encourage anybody to shoot your shot. Most celebrities don’t do stuff like this. It goes to show that she does care about her core supporters.
After she paid your two student loans, did you feel some weight has been lifted off your shoulders?
My mom, she just got hired this year, and she was literally just talking to me about giving me $5,000 or $10,000 to pay some of my loans. It was really ironic because that’s exactly what she was going to do. It definitely is a relief. It makes me want to grind even harder to finish school. I plan on going to law school, getting my degree in political science. It just makes me want to help people out in the future and return the favor in some way. It definitely is a huge relief, for sure.
What are your thoughts on Nicki starting a student loan/tuition charity?
She’s talked about this for years and years. It doesn’t surprise me. She’s definitely going to do it. I don’t know if it’s gonna be a foundation or whatever it is, but she’s been doing this for a long time. I don’t know if you were aware, but she did meet with President Obama last year or the year before that. I think that has something to do with it too. It just really shows that you can really make it.
With this show of generosity from Nicki, how does it reflect on her character?
Like I said, I’ve known how nice she’s been to fans. It’s one thing to get a free ticket or a backstage pass. She’s always made sure that her fans were taken care of in some way or another. Whether they gonna be at a show and they couldn’t afford to actually meet her. There were times when she would have her team reach out to that person and get to meet her backstage without paying for it or if they couldn’t afford it. She likes helping people. I’ve always known who she was because I’ve seen beyond the media and the mainstream people see her as. Obviously, I’m just a fan and I’m nobody special, but she responded to me too. It’s just crazy. It’s really humbling. I respect her even more than I did before.
I've been a fan of Nicki's since 2009. "Itty Bitty Piggy" truly made me fall in love with her and ever since I've been a die hard. I will drag you if you talk about my baby lol.
She was having a competition for her "Regret in Your Tears" video and in the midst of that someone asked for their student loans to be paid. I also asked and several others. Me and my best friend Christina Holland who is also a Bobcat (Ohio University) who was in debt also got chosen. So coincidental! A blessing.
She has since then paid our debts off (took less than a week to get it all taken care of) and I'm registered to go back this summer! I'm so thankful to be a part of a fan base where the artist genuinely and authentically cares about her fans. Nicki has always pushed us to further our education and to be assertive and go after what we want. I look forward to continuing my education at OU and will forever be grateful for her making it possible for me to return to the school I love, because without this help I would not have been able to return anytime soon.