Nicki Minaj's childhood: the sad truth

Nicki Minaj at New York Fashion Week in September: Her childhood doesn’t sound like the stuff for an “inspiring and hilarious’’ show on ABC Family.
Nicki Minaj at New York Fashion Week in September: Her childhood doesn’t sound like the stuff for an “inspiring and hilarious’’ show on ABC Family. AP
Published Oct. 1, 2015

If you've seen Nicki Minaj talk about her troubled childhood in interviews, "comedy" isn't the first thing that comes to mind.

Yet this week, ABC Family announced the rap superstar will produce a scripted comedy inspired by her own life. The show will be based on when Minaj and her family immigrated to the U.S. from Trinidad in the early 1990s. According to the announcement, the series starts filming in Minaj's hometown this winter and "will focus on her growing up in Queens with her vibrant family and the personal and musical evolution that led to her eventual rise to stardom."

"Nicki is an international superstar, yet not everyone knows how inspiring and hilarious her true story is," said Karey Burke, ABC Family's executive vice president of programming and development. "And we can't wait to share it with the world."

It's true that not everyone knows, because the details Minaj has shared so far are definitely not funny. Minaj, who will occasionally appear on the show, has spoken publicly multiple times about her rough upbringing. Here's an excerpt from a Rolling Stone story in 2010:

"When I first came to America," (Minaj) says, "I would go in my room and kneel down at the foot of my bed and pray that god would make me rich so that I could take care of my mother." Minaj's father was a violent drug addict who once set their house on fire while her mother was inside. She has no qualms about sharing these stories, even though her parents still live together and her father would prefer that she not share their history. "It's the price you pay when you abuse drugs and alcohol," she says. "Maybe one day your daughter will be famous and talk to every magazine about it, so think about that, dads out there who want to be crazy."

She also talked about her father in a cover story for Vibe: "I thought we would just be happy, but with a drug-addicted parent there is no such thing as being happy. When you have a father who is stealing your furniture and selling it so that he can buy crack, you suffer," she said. "You come home from school and your couch is gone. You're like, 'What happened?' "

Minaj made waves in 2012 when she sat for an interview on Nightline and told similar stories to anchor JuJu Chang: "My father was abusive," she said. "We were afraid for (my mother's) life because whenever he would have a real bad outburst, he would threaten to kill her."

At the time, that set off a wave of stories including one from TMZ. The site quoted anonymous Minaj family members who insisted that the rapper was exaggerating about her past, and her father was "crushed" to see those quotes, which included her saying, "I felt a lot of anger. I wanted to kill him. I wished he was dead."

As for Minaj's show on ABC Family, the network says it wouldn't focus on these scenarios: "It's a comedy about the lighter aspects" of Minaj's life, a spokeswoman said. A representative for Minaj did not respond to a request for comment.

Of course, the ABC Family show is also about how her past impacted her evolution as a singer — she's addressed that, as well. In fact, one of her first alter-egos as a child was influenced when she wanted to remove herself from her personal drama at home. From New York magazine:

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"Her dad was an addict who sold the family's furniture to buy drugs; her mother, a nurse's aide, struggled to keep a stable home. 'To get away from all their fighting, I would imagine being a new person,' " Minaj says. 'Cookie was my first identity — that stayed with me for a while.' "

— Washington Post