“Everything in Trinidad reminds me of my family that is no longer here,” Nicki Minaj begins in a scene from her forthcoming MTV News documentary “My Time Now” (airing Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on MTV). And for Minaj, recalling her late loved ones from the island nation overwhelms the typically freewheeling MC with emotion.
During the scene, the Young Money diva’s coolly confident façade crumbles, and tears stream down her cheeks when a filmmaker asks her about her late grandmother, who took care of the lyricist before she emigrated to America. The “Right Thru Me” artist gazes intently at her interviewer as she struggles to maintain her game face, nodding faintly as she concedes her grandmother would be proud of her achievements and the woman she has become.
But as soon as the tears begin to roll, Minaj jumps to preserve her makeup — and her bold reputation — reaching for a mirror to fix her expertly applied maquillage. But, ultimately, she succumbs to the emotion and begins to weep harder, covering her face with her hot-pink manicured fingers.
The moment is a rare glimpse at the rising superstar’s vulnerabilities that are typically obscured by her hard-hitting rhymes and zany-yet-sexed-up persona. In the film, cameras document Minaj’s return to Trinidad for the first time in seven years, as she reconnects with family, lavishes loved ones with shopping sprees and navigates throngs of screaming fans. The accomplished MC breaks down the sacrifices her family had to make in order to forge a better life for the young Minaj in the U.S.
“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. I thought it was gonna be for a few days, it turned into two years without my mother,” she says of living with relatives.
The “Your Love” hitmaker also opens up about leaving her native Trinidad to join her parents in New York to chase the American dream. Unfortunately for the starry-eyed young Minaj, her first impressions of life Stateside were nightmarish.
“I thought it was gonna be like a castle. Like white picket fence, like a fairy tale. I got off the plane and it was cold. I remember the smell. I could always remember the smell when I got out of the airport of the snow, and I had never seen snow,” she says. “I remember the house. I remember that the furniture wasn’t put down. 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.”
Far from a castle, Minaj’s home was rocked by conflict, which kept the Queens youngster on edge.
“I started hearing a lot of arguing, and I didn’t know why. I was always very nervous, very afraid. So I knew that wasn’t normal. My father would yell and curse a lot,” she recalls.
The MC candidly reveals that her dad’s drug abuse compromised the stability of the household.
“It was right in the crack era. We didn’t know, but he fell victim to crack shortly after he moved to America,” she says. “When you’re on crack, you can’t keep a job. And when you can’t keep a job, you don’t have money. And when you don’t have money, you steal. And you steal from your family.”
Don’t miss the documentary “Nicki Minaj: My Time Now,” premiering Sunday, November 28, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on MTV!