Nicki Minaj Is The Cover Star For Elle USA’s July Issue

On being a perfectionist and her career

“I feel like true icons shift music, uplift music, switch music, have the balls to take a chance,” she says, her voice like sandpaper. “The things that people do come so easy to me. I could do it in my sleep. But I’m such a perfectionist that when something is too easy to me, I actually feel guilty. It would’ve been so easy to listen to all the trap music out there right now and say, ‘Let me just copy this,’” she goes on. “But I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.”

On relationships and spiritual growth

“I went through a moment where I got to know myself again, and then I went through a moment where I got to know myself as the rapper again. And then I locked [myself] in the studio”—see?—“and I didn’t want to leave.” She basically hasn’t left since. “Spiritually, I’ve experienced more growth in the last six months of my life, of my career, than I have in the last eight years.”

Why do you think that is?

“It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever been single.”

Nicki is now in her midthirties, and from the age of 15 until just last fall, she has always had a serious boyfriend. “Six years, twelve years, three, four,” she says. Over time, this came to have consequences she didn’t anticipate.

“I remember feeling like I could do anything at one time in my life,” she says, “and somewhere along the line, I just started second guessing myself, for whatever reason.” That all ended when she started learning how to sleep alone. “As soon as I realized that I could actually live and breathe, and eat and sleep, and walk and talk without having a boyfriend, something clicked in me.”

“Becoming single,” she goes on, “was one of the things that made me feel strong and powerful. The fact that I am a young woman who doesn’t need a man for money. I don’t need a man for a job. I’ve never had to fuck for beats. I’ve never had to fuck for a record deal. I don’t have those pressures. I get up when I want, shop when I want.”

On being a sex symbol and the effect it has had on younger girls

She says she will never apologize for her persona—“I love being sexy; I’m never gonna stop being an exhibitionist”—but it, too, has had consequences she didn’t anticipate.

One of her messages on the new album, she says, is “it being okay to keep your legs closed.” She’s speaking slower than usual, as if she’s searching for the way to preach self-respect without sounding like she’s slut-shaming. “I don’t really know how to say that without being offensive.”

She tries anyway. “Maybe I was naïve, but I didn’t realize how many girls were modern-day prostitutes,” she begins. “Whether you’re a stripper, or whether you’re an Instagram girl—these girls are so beautiful and they have so much to offer. But I started finding out that you give them a couple thousand dollars, and you can have sex with them. I was like, Yikes. It’s just sad that they don’t know their worth. It makes me sad as a woman. And it makes me sad that maybe I’ve contributed to that in some way.”

On Meek Mill doing time in jail

I assume you saw his release got denied again by that judge?

For just a flash, she winces. “Again?” But then she hardens. “I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.” A long pause. “But I’m also not gonna bad-mouth a judge who…because anything I say stays on the record.”

If she’d stopped right there, we’d all assume she was being scrupulous on Meek’s behalf, trying to avoid riling up his judge. But she didn’t stop, and what she says next catches me off guard, because she seems to side with Brinkley.

“I know that when I went there pleading for his freedom, I know that she”—Judge Brinkley—“spoke to me and was very sweet and maternal, and we both cried in her chambers, and she gave him another chance,” Nicki says. “So I don’t know what’s going on.”

Read the full interview and see more pictures here

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