As good as the women who are competing on American Idol (Fox, Wednesdays & Thursdays, 8/7C), have been, this season is all about Nicki Minaj. Whether she’s dishing out nicknames, praising a particularly good performance or gently(!) eviscerating a bad one, Minaj has been the star of the show since the premiere.
Yesterday, she spoke with a group of journalists/bloggers. The result was no less captivating.
Hi, Nicki, how are you?
Nicki Minaj: I’m good. How are you?
Great. Happy Pink Monday to you.
Nicki: Thank you.
We’re a gay publication in Chicago. I wanted to know if you had a favorite gay contestant that tried out or any of the people that have been in the competition like from Bang Boy to Papa Peachez, did you have a favorite gay one?
Nicki: I definitely think Papa Peachez is the one that was probably the dearest to my heart only because I felt that he was such a super star, but I don’t think he really knew that yet. Whenever I meet someone where I feel like they don’t really know their own worth it kind of bothers me. I just thought he was so exciting like I wanted to just see him perform his original music every week, but unfortunately as soon as he didn’t perform the original music he kind of got overshadowed by all the other big singers. I guess it would be Papa Peachez.
Great. Well, I look forward to seeing you in Chicago. I saw you at the Chicago Theatre opening for Britney and you’re just an awesome performer.
Nicki: Oh, thank you.
Nicki, just first and foremost I’m a huge fan of everything you do. It’s so great to see you on the show. I wanted to ask you specifically about our local girl Amber Holcomb. I know you’ve been a fan of hers. Tell me what you like about her and what you think she needs to do to really surge and make it to that finale.
Nicki: What I loved about her is that she got hardly any air time prior to like Vegas. I feel like America didn’t even know she existed until Vegas showed. She already had something kind of going against her, and then when she sang “My Funny Valentine” and it’s like she just became a young Whitney Houston. I think everyone was just kind of like blown away, and so I think that it’s really exciting that we sort of got to see her become a super star as opposed to already figuring out she was one of the contenders that was already in everyone’s minds.
In terms of what she needs to do I think that she just needs to come on stage and treat it like she’s fighting for her life every single night because last week she, for whatever reason, probably was resting on her laurels thinking, “Everybody loves me now. I don’t have to have such a dynamic performance,” and then she was in the bottom three. If she comes out there and keeps that sparkle in her eye every single week and keeps on making it feel like it could be her possible last time on stage I think that she will be fine because I think her voice is out of this world.
I’m wondering if you would review yourself what have been your best and worst moments on IDOL.
Nicki: My best and worst IDOL moments, I don’t have a worst IDOL moment. I’ve been spectacular. Yes, I’m going to toot my own horn. And then, my best moment is every single moment, I’ll toot it again.
In your opinion who do you see right now as the front runner for Season 12?
Nicki: I would say Kree and Angie I think are our front runners. I mean Kree, Angie, and Candice.
Okay. Any reason for those three?
Nicki: I think that outside of their voices they’ve just sort of won people over already, which I think is evident in just what I see on Twitter with my fans. You know those three singers have really, really made an impact not only with just a great voice that sounds like it should already be making albums but for some reason their personality seems to … a lot of fans.
I wonder how you feel about the fact that a lot of people have said you know, “When I started watching IDOL with Nicki Minaj I wasn’t really familiar with who she was or maybe I had some idea about her but now I think she’s the best thing that ever happened to this show. I love her judging style.” How do you feel about winning new fans over just by being on the show like that?
Nicki: I think God is good. I feel like my entire career and life I’ve been judged by people who really did not know me, but I don’t think that they—I definitely think that they probably were right to assume what they had assumed about me because there was such little to go on, you know, out there. If you only see videos and me being crazy and hearing little things here and there then obviously you’re not going to have any idea who I really am.
I’m just happy that IDOL producers gave me a shot on the show for me to be able to show who I really was because I feel like I’m every single women. I really, really don’t think outside of maybe some pink wigs that there’s anything that separates me from every other women in America, so I’m just happy that I was given the opportunity. Some people don’t get an opportunity to show the world who they really are. Some people come out and put an album out and people just never talk about them again, but I was given an opportunity to show who I was as a human being and I really appreciate that.
And one of the things that you always seem to focus on with the constantans is not just their performance but their whole look, their package, their clothing right down to their belt or their lipstick. Do you feel in this day and age that is just as important as the performance?
Nicki: I think so. I mean I don’t think that ultimately it will have anything to do with them winning IDOL because I feel like the IDOL viewer is really not bias when it comes to the look. But I think that when you go out in to the real world as an artist you may want to think about it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with thinking about how you want to look, how you want to present yourself to the world.
I also think that they need to hear criticism on their look on the show because that’s what they’re going to be criticized on in the real world. They’re going to go on … every single day and see themselves on the worst dressed list or best dressed list or saying they look bad or whatever so they need to start getting an idea of the real world.
Andrea Okay. Great. Thank you.
My fiancé Mathew and I dance around to your music all the time and we think you’re the best thing since sliced bread.
Nicki: Thank you. Give him my love. Thank you.
Morrie: I absolutely will. I’m so freaking nervous right now. I have to ask you if you were asked to return next season to AMERICAN IDOL —by the way, if you can sort of compare me to a food when we’re done—if you were asked to return to AMERICAN IDOL next season would you do so? Have you had that much fun?
Nicki: Would I come back next season? I think people would rather be surprised. I like to save the mystery and the drama. I never give that away, but you know what I always say this and I mean this from the bottom of my heart that just the people behind the scenes at IDOL have been just like a dream to work with and I really, really honestly mean that. Mike Darnell took a chance on me. Nobody else understood it. They were like, “Nicki who?” and he took a chance on me. He believed in me. His daughter and his wife believed in me and so I’m just super grateful to have been given the opportunity.
Nicki: In terms of what kind of food you would be, do you wear glasses?
Oh, my god how did you know?
Nicki: Because you sound like you wear glasses.
Oh, is there such a thing as sounding like you wear glasses?
Nicki: Yeah. I would call you a string bean.
Wow! It’s like you’re in the room with me. You are so awesome.
I just wanted to know—the girl whose question you wouldn’t answer—just generally about making a splash. It does seem like you’ve really livened up the proceedings, if I can say that. You’re kind of a polarizing person on that judging panel. How do you feel about that as an image and are you just being you and people are just reacting to you?
Nicki: I am absolutely just being me. I didn’t know what to expect going in to the show. I was so nervous. I had a lot of anxiety. I felt like, “Okay. I know everybody’s just going to hate me. Oh well.” There were moments in the audition process that I would say to the producers, “I can’t do this anymore because if everyone is going to give good critic and I’m going to be the only one being honest then America is going to hate me. I’m going to be seen as mean.” And the producers said, “Nicki, trust me America is going to appreciate the honesty” and that’s all I had to go on.
I had Mike Darnell, Trish and Nigel telling me that, you know, take their work and that’s what I did. I took their word, and I came in every day and I was myself. What people see me doing with the constants is exactly what I do with my fans. Well, I don’t critic my fans but I definitely play with my fans and speak to my fans as if they’re my friends, and that’s why I started giving the contestants nicknames.
When I’m laughing on the show I’m genuinely laughing. I can’t come up there and pretend. I just can’t do it. I can’t be someone I’m not. I can’t sit there with a phony smile on my face; I can’t do it. I’m happy that people are responding well to it. I mean if I’m polarizing I’m polarizing. I don’t know, but I definitely didn’t have a preconceived notion of who I was going to be on that panel.
So has the reality of it been what you thought it would be going in?
Nicki: I didn’t have a real idea because it was so farfetched from my reality. Like I’ve never done anything even remotely close to this so I had no idea, and I think that’s why I was so afraid. I didn’t know what to expect. I really didn’t. I just didn’t know but I’m happy about the way it ended up turning out because it’s a fun thing. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, and, again, I feel like people have gotten to know the real me and that’s all I can ask for. Whether they like it or not at least they’re getting to know who I really am.
Thank you so much for speaking with us. I’m curious to know is there anything in particular that you’ve been surprised to learn about yourself as a person through judging a show like AMERICAN IDOL?
Nicki: I’ve been more surprised about the way people have reacted to me like because it almost seems like people weren’t expecting artists to come up there as judges and be completely real, and that’s the only thing that puzzled me. I just thought, “Hmm isn’t that what we should be doing? Why is that so shocking to people?”
I mean I guess the other thing was I didn’t realize that maybe I am a bit strange because like the way people react to what I say to the contestants it’s like that’s really how I act but people think it’s kind of strange. Like when I asked Kree to marry me I didn’t think that was strange but I guess looking back at it now maybe no IDOL judge has ever asked a contestant to marry them on live TV. I don’t know. I guess in general I’m just surprised at the way people react to things that I see as very normal.
Absolutely. You seem very emotionally connected to the contestants. Is it hard for you with that connection when someone is eliminated?
Nicki: Yeah. I mean I was like gutted when Curtis left because I feel like Curtis—his voice—I mean I feel like Curtis has the best male voice for the entire season, and he was exciting. I couldn’t wait to see him perform, and looking back now I wish we would have given him the save. I really do.
Do you have any interest—obviously you’re a busy person with a very busy schedule do you have any interest in doing a second season of AMERICAN IDOL and if not why not?
Nicki: Well, I’d rather not speak about that at this time. I feel like I’ve kind of already answered that but I would rather not even give any insight because I kind of feel like it’s exciting for people to not know who the next season judges will be.
No problem. Just as a quick follow up then I’ll just ask, how is your experience being a judge on AMERICAN IDOL compare to how you thought it might be?
Nicki: Okay. Well, I definitely did not have an idea of what it would be because I had never done anything close to AMERICAN IDOL I’ve never had to sit in front of you know 15 million to 18 million people every week and speak so I did not have an idea of what it would be. I think one of the things that I probably was shocked about was how interested the world is in AMERICAN IDOL and how people, you know writers they write about IDOL all the time. I guess I didn’t expect that; maybe that was the only thing but for the most part I just didn’t have any idea on what to expect.
So you have loved giving a lot of the contestants like little nicknames that have been really fun. If you had the opportunity to give yourself a nickname what would you call yourself?
Nicki: Young Hold.
Any explanation behind that?
Nicki: I don’t know it’s just Young Hold meaning like the young—well, no I don’t want to explain it. Either you understand it or you don’t and if you don’t understand it it makes it even weirder.
Out of the contestants that you’ve had on this show, who would you most likely, if ever, collaborate with and why?
Nicki: That’s a great question. I would love to collaborate with probably Burnell. He has a John Legend thing that I could definitely see myself collaborating with.
My question is about kind of Lazaro and the criticism that you have to give as a judge. Fans love you because you’re being honest as well as nurturing. How do you make that balance in making sure that you’re being yourself and you’re giving the contestants honest advice without perhaps upsetting them?
Nicki: Okay. So what is the question exactly? How do I make the balance?
Yeah. So how do you balance their emotions with honest criticism?
Nicki: I don’t really think about balancing anything. I just react on my real emotion. This last week I felt like you know I sympathized with Lazaro and that’s just where my heart went. With Paul Jolley I felt like you’re time is up. But you know even when I’m saying, “Your time is up” or “That was a bad performance” I still care about these people. I mean these people are sweet. They’re loving. They’re chasing their dream. Their families are there. I’m always in my heart carrying about them. I never try to hurt them at all, but I just say what I really, really feel.
I have been finding lately that I’ve been probably—since we’re down to the very best of the best I’ve definitely been trying to say things in a way that won’t discourage them because I want them to continue shining. I mean I know this is their moment and that one of these people will be the next AMERICAN IDOL so whereas maybe in the beginning I would say it in a blunt way, sometimes now because we’ve gotten so close to them I say it in a way that I just want them to fix it for next week so that they can actually stay in the competition and get votes you know as opposed to me speaking to them as if I’m writing them off and I have 100 more people to see, if that makes sense.
With the show seemingly to really want a girl to win and like you said one of the favorites Curtis has left is there even a chance for a guy to win this season?
Nicki: No absolutely not.
Absolutely not, so girl all the way.
Photos by Michael Becker/Courtesy Fox