For Vogue’s December 2023 cover story, Nicki Minaj steeped into the depths of her music career, personal life, and even motherhood.
Minaj—who’s mother to toddler son, “Papa Bear”—opened up about how the new territory of parenting not only changed her level of interest in music, but also her level of awareness for herself and others. She also revealed that motherhood has helped her embrace the physical changes she sees looking back at her in the mirror, and not compare herself to others—even when social media makes it difficult not to do so.
“I think that deep down inside, I believed that once I had a family, I would just lose the desire to make music,” she said. “I would always tell people, ‘Watch, when I have a child I’m going to cook every meal for him and bake cookies every day.’ Maybe subconsciously I hoped my focus would just be on being a mother, and I looked forward to that idea. It felt like a relief. But what happens is that you find out you have to work.”
Speaking to a younger, hungrier Minaj, the Queens, N.Y. native recalled being 25 and in her prime and mentioned how she believes “body positivity” and “unhealthy bodies” shouldn’t coincide with one another.
“I just looked at a video that I posted on Instagram when I was 25, and I would f**king pay to look like that right now,” she expressed. “But today I can say that I’m at peace with who I am and how I look. I have to say this as a Black woman, though. I’ve made certain choices for my son, to not give him sweets and candy and juices, because of illnesses like diabetes that run in our community. I’m not in favor of body positivity if it means unhealthy bodies.”
“That’s bull,” she added. “It’s not believable, so let’s stop pretending. Recently I had to get a breast reduction, and actually I love it. I used to want a bigger butt, and now I look back and realize how silly that was. So — love your curves, and love your non-curves. There’s nothing wrong with any of it.”
Admitting to feeling “rushed” after pregnancy to “snap back” into tip-top shape, Minaj said she felt every amount of pressure that new moms feel to look and be perfect and touched on how some people turn to substance abuse to cope with life’s many challenges.
“There are questions that you can’t just google,” she explained. “Every day a mom has to wake up and be a supermom no matter what they’re faced with. It’s gotten so easy to be alone physically, where young people spend 12, 16 hours a day in their rooms on their phones, looking at these false realities, comparing themselves. I’ve seen artists gone way too soon, and I wonder if that could have been avoided if they’d just had the chance to talk about what they were going through.”
Despite those moments of doubt, unhappiness, and even uncertainty, Minaj is clear about one thing: her son is the reason behind everything she does.
“You know that feeling when you unlock one of the secrets of life?” she asked. “For me, the idea of accepting what you can’t change—it just never clicked with me before. So now, if I find myself trying to control it all, I try to remember what’s really important. I look in my son’s face, and my whole soul lights up. He has no clue how nerve-racking it’s been for me to be a mother and an artist.”