Nicki Minaj is one of the most popular performers in pop music today, and she has used that visibility to question sexism, racial bias and body image double-standards in contemporary media—perhaps most notably through highly-public confrontations with Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj in the run up to, and during, this year’s MTV Video Music Awards

The “Anaconda” star addresses the controversies and the broader structural issues around those incidents in this month’s New York Times Magazine. The whole story, which examines Minaj’s career and upbringing in exceptional depth, is worth a read, but we’ve gathered a few key passages and quotes that speak to why Minaj has taken on certain public battles. 

When speaking on her confrontation of Cyrus at the VMAs, Minaj is candid about Cyrus’s cultural appropriation and insensitivity towards the issues affecting black people: 

A month later, the episode was still bothering Minaj. Addressing Cyrus, she told me: “The fact that you feel upset about me speaking on something that affects black women makes me feel like you have some big balls. You’re in videos with black men, and you’re bringing out black women on your stages, but you don’t want to know how black women feel about something that’s so important? Come on, you can’t want the good without the bad. If you want to enjoy our culture and our lifestyle, bond with us, dance with us, have fun with us, twerk with us, rap with us, then you should also want to know what affects us, what is bothering us, what we feel is unfair to us. You shouldn’t not want to know that.’’

She also speaks about her message of body-positivity in the context of rap and Instagram celebrity culture: 

‘People’’—famous people, she means—‘‘are posting pictures of working out, and then there’s a change in their body” most likely from plastic surgery, “and they say it’s because they were working out! Ah-hahahaha.’’ Then she turns serious again. ‘‘Back in the day, in hip-hop, the thick girl was glorified. Now the rappers are dating skinny white women. So it’s almost like, ‘Wait a minute, who’s going to tell the thick black girls that they’re sexy and fly, too?’ ’’

 

In an especially captivating passage, the article’s author, Vanessa Grigoriadis, asks Minaj about the beef between Drake and her partner Meek Mill, only to regret her follow-up and have the interview abruptly end: 

‘‘They’re men, grown-ass men,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s between them.’’ How does it make you feel, I ask? ‘‘I hate it,’’ she said. ‘‘It doesn’t make me feel good. You don’t ever want to choose sides between people you love. It’s ridiculous. I just want it to be over.’’

‘‘Is there a part of you that thrives on drama, or is it no, just pain and unpleasantness—’’

The room went quiet, but only for an instant.

‘‘That’s disrespectful,’’ Minaj said, drawing herself up in the chair. ‘‘Why would a grown-ass woman thrive off drama?’’

[…] 

She pointed my way, her extended arm all I could see other than the diamonds glinting in her ears. This wasn’t over yet. ‘‘That’s the typical thing that women do. What did you putting me down right there do for you?’’ she asked. ‘‘Women blame women for things that have nothing to do with them. I really want to know why—as a matter of fact, I don’t. Can we move on, do you have anything else to ask?’’ she continued. ‘‘To put down a woman for something that men do, as if they’re children and I’m responsible, has nothing to do with you asking stupid questions, because you know that’s not just a stupid question. That’s a premeditated thing you just did.’’ She called me ‘‘rude’’ and ‘‘a troublemaker,’’ said ‘‘Do not speak to me like I’m stupid or beneath you in any way’’ and, at last, declared, ‘‘I don’t care to speak to you anymore.’’

 

Read NYT Magazine’s full story on Nicki Minaj here