The tragic real-life story of Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj is one of the most successful artists of all time, but her life hasn't been perfect. Far from it. Born Onika Tanya Maraj in St. James, Trinidad and Tobago, Minaj solidified her status as a rap powerhouse with the release of her very first album, 2010's Pink Friday, which shot to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart

In February 2019, she became the first-ever female rapper to sell over 100 million units "across albums, singles and features" according to Chart Data and, in March 2020, her net worth soared past $100 million, making her "the wealthiest female rapper to ever live," according to Hypebeast. Add to that 10 Grammy nominations and the fact that she's tied with Elvis Presley for having the fourth-most Hot 100 hits of all time (that's 109 entries on the Hot 100 chart, according to Forbes) and you might think that Nicki Minaj has been nothing but blessed. Her childhood, however, was truly scary and her young adult life was also marred by pain and heartbreak. This is the tragic real-life story of Nicki Minaj.

The American Dream was a gritty reality for Nicki Minaj

When she was just five years old, Nicki Minaj left her native Trinidad to move to the U.S. but the American dream she had built up in her mind was far from the reality awaiting her. In fact, the entire move was anything but pleasant.

First, she was left in Trinidad to be raised by her grandmother. As Minaj explained in her 2010 MTV News documentary, Nicki Minaj: My Time Now, "A lot of times, when you're from the islands, your parents leave and then send for you because it's easier when they have established themselves; when they have a place to stay, when they have a job," she said, recalling, "I thought it was gonna be for a few days, it turned into two years without my mother."

Once she finally did join her parents, she was in for another harsh surprise. "I thought it was gonna be like a castle," Minaj admitted. "Like white picket fence, like a fairy tale." Instead, she arrived at a home she'll never forget. "I remember that the furniture wasn't put down," she recalled. "It was, like, piled up on each other and I didn't understand why, 'cause I thought it was gonna look like a big castle." Her first impression of New York also shook her. "I remember the smell," she reminisced. "I could always remember the smell when I got out of the airport of the snow, and I had never seen snow."

Nicki Minaj tried to protect her mother from her abusive father

In addition to the culture shock she experienced when she first arrived Stateside, Minaj was in for another blow as she found her parents fighting like never before. "I started hearing a lot of arguing, and I didn't know why," she told fans in her Nicki Minaj: My Time Now documentary. "I was always very nervous, very afraid," she admitted, adding, "My father would yell and curse a lot."

Minaj also alleged that her father was physically abusive, and, although they didn't know it at the time, a "victim to crack" soon after arriving in the States. Years later, in her Queen documentary, he rapper recalled trying to protect her mother. "As a little girl, I would stand in front of my mother and go like this," she said, spreading her arms wide.

Speaking with Rolling Stone in 2010, Minaj revealed she turned to her faith for solace. "When I first came to America, 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," she recalled. "Because I always felt like if I took care of my mother, my mother wouldn't have to stay with my father." She added, "We didn't want him around at all, so I always felt like being rich would cure everything, and that was always what drove me."

Her dad would 'terrorise the whole family'

As Robert Maraj's addiction to drugs and alcohol took over, he became increasingly abusive. Nick Minaj's mother Carol Maraj described how frightening the situation got, telling The Sun in 2014 that Robert once set their home on fire while she was inside. "I had to run out of the house and it burned to the ground," she recalled, adding that she wasn't the only victim. "My husband used to get high on cocaine and alcohol and would come home and terrorise [sic] the whole family," she said. "He was so violent. He would threaten us and keep us up all night ... He would hit the children too."

Opening up about her childhood to Rolling Stone in 2010, Minaj revealed, "I remember there being a lot of arguing, lots of screaming — there were holes punched into the walls in anger, and cops being called to the house all the time." Noting that she was "afraid, very afraid, that something would happen to [her] moth­er," she told the outlet that she "had nightmares about it."

Minaj also accused her father of being a thief. "I thought we would just be happy, but with a drug-addicted parent there is no such thing as being happy," she told VIBE. "When you have a father who is stealing your furniture and selling it so that he can buy crack, you suffer. You come home from school and your couch is gone. You're like, 'What happened?'"

Things got so bad, Nicki Minaj 'wanted to kill' her father

As the situation at home grew worse, things got so bad that Nicki Minaj actually thought about turning violent on her father. As she confessed in a 2012 interview with Nightline, "I wanted to kill him. I wished he was dead," she proclaimed. Explaining what drove her to have such dark thoughts, she added, "We were afraid for [my mother's], life because whenever he would have a real bad outburst, he would threaten to kill her." Amazingly, Minaj is said to have "forgiven" her father, who told Nightline "he's been clean and sober for years."

There are two sides to every story, however, and according to family sources who spoke with TMZ, Robert Maraj "never knew" his daughter felt that way. While he conceded to having issues, he was said to be "completely torn up" by her statement. What's more, the insiders went as far as to tell TMZ that the "Anaconda" singer was exaggerating and that things were never as bad as she made them out to be.

A teen pregnancy made Nicki Minaj feel like she might 'die'

As Nicki Minaj grew up, so did her problems. Things weren't getting any better at home and while she was still in high school, her own personal life began causing her grief. Speaking with Rolling Stone in 2014, Minaj opened up about the pregnancy and abortion she went through as a teen. Referencing one particular line from a track off The Pinkprint called "All Things Go" in which she raps, "My child with Aaron, would've been 16, any minute," Minaj got candid, admitting, "I thought I was going to die."

She was dating an older guy at the time but was still a child herself and, as she recalled, "It was the hardest thing I'd ever gone through." Despite revealing that the difficult decision has "haunted [her] all [her] life," the rapper knows it was the right thing to do. "I wasn't ready," she told the magazine. "I didn't have anything to offer a child."

As Rolling Stone pointed out, "All Things Go" wasn't the MC's first time opening up about the abortion. She initially did so on a mixtape track called "Autobiography" but "didn't expect anyone to hear it," because she was still an unknown. The second time around, people certainly did hear it.

Nicki Minaj was convinced 'love had to hurt'

Given her parents' relationship and her own experiences, it's no surprise Nicki Minaj's outlook on love was tainted. "I saw my parents fight & argue non stop & never divorce, so I thought this was normal behavior," she tweeted in 2019. "I [really] used to think love had to hurt," she continued before highlighting the negative role social media can play in domestic abuse. "It's not easy to leave," she noted. "Especially in the world of IG where all [people] want to do is post relationship goal pics for clout & attention. A man should make you feel safe, not afraid," she proclaimed.

Minaj then alluded to her own toxic past, writing, "I remember being so afraid to speak [because] I never knew when that person would be in a particular mood and I could maybe say one wrong thing that would get me hit." Although she never named names, she also opened up about the abusive relationship in her Queen documentary, telling fans, "I let one human being make me so low that, like, I didn't even remember who I was," she confessed tearily. "I was scared to get in the studio, like, I didn't believe in myself."

Minaj credits learning to love herself with setting her free. "If you wouldn't let a man treat your mother, your sister or best friend like that [because] you LOVE them, then you wouldn't let a man treat YOU like that [because] you love YOU," she concluded

Was Meek Mill physically abusive to Nicki Minaj?

Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill called it quits in late 2016/early 2017 ("To confirm, yes I am single," Minaj tweeted) but as of February 2020, their post-breakup feud was still going strong. In fact, it reached a new level when Minaj accused him of being abusive.

According to The Shade Room, Minaj was ticked off by Mill liking a meme that made fun of her husband Kenneth Petty's outfit, so she took to social media to slam her ex. "N**** been tweeting 'bout my man for a year now ... move on," she tweeted before firing off a serious accusation in her Instagram Story, writing (via Complex), "You a [clown]. U do IT for likes. #TwitterFingers beats women, scared of men."

Mill almost instantly responded, tweeting, "The only way you can try to kill my career is to say I beat women... Talk about ya brother convicted of rape and you been knew and paid for his lawyer," he fired back, seemingly referencing Jelani Maraj who, according to Page Six, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting his 11-year-old stepdaughter. Minaj wasn't having it and fired back moments later with additional accusations, writing, "You beat your own sister and taped it ... Kicked me in front [of] your mother and sent her to the hospital." Getting the final word in, Mill concluded, "For clarification, I don't hit women."

Her husband's scary criminal past has left Nicki Minaj constantly defending him

In October 2019, Nicki Minaj said "I do" to her high school sweetheart, Kenneth Petty, but their seemingly sweet love story has been tainted by Petty's criminal past. While Minaj seems absolutely smitten, even sharing childhood snaps of the pair on Instagram, critics have been relentless in digging up dirt on Petty.

As TMZ reported in 2018, Petty "was convicted of first-degree attempted rape in April 1995," and spent nearly four years behind bars. To this day, New York State lists him as a level-two registered sex offender, and his criminal streak didn't end there. Petty returned to jail for seven more years (and was released in 2013) after being "convicted of first-degree manslaughter."

Rather than enjoying her relationship, Minaj has repeatedly had to defend her beau. In December 2018, she clapped back on Instagram, addressing Petty's first arrest, writing [via The Shade Room], "He was 15, she was 16... in a relationship. But go awf Internet. Y'all can't run my life. Y'all can't even run y'all own life." In 2019, she shut down accusations that Petty's a golddigger in a tirade on Queen Radio. She slammed (via Us Weekly), "When a person is with a n**** that loved them before they had a dime in their pocket? How do you not understand that? How do you not understand happiness vs. clout?" she asked, adding, "How f***ing dare you talk about lowering standards."

Nicki Minaj used her experiences to grow stronger

Despite everything she's gone through, Nicki Minaj has come out on the other side as a strong, successful woman who has been shaped by her negative experiences in a positive way. As her mom, Carol Maraj, told The Sun, watching her own toxic relationship with Minaj's father "helped [Minaj] learn not to relive my life. She became strong and very conscious of dominant and obsessive men," Maraj noted. "That helped her become the truly fierce person she is today."

Minaj shared the same sentiment in her Queen documentary, telling fans, "Maybe some people would describe me as abrasive or b***hy or whatever" but what they're really seeing is her strength. "[It's] because I vowed from that age no man would ever abuse me, call me out my name — treat me like that," she said of her strong personality. 

In addition to her home life, the borough she grew up in also helped shape her. In 2012 she told The Fader, "I grew up in South Side Jamaica, Queens — I am South Side Jamaica, Queens." That love is mutual. In 2017, Minaj was presented with a key to the city. Not bad for a young girl from Trinidad who arrived in the States with not much more than a dream.