Born Onika Tanya Maraj in Trinidad and raised in Queens, New York, Minaj went to Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, where she stoked her dream of becoming an actress. "By the time I'm 19, I'm going to be Halle Berry status," she remembers telling her classmates. "I really believed it," she says now, "and when it didn't happen, I started getting more and more crushed." But she was also a singer, and when she used Myspace to upload some early songs, she developed a following. She changed her name and changed course: She would become a female rapper.
Even before Minaj was famous—before rapper Lil Wayne discovered her and signed her to his Young Money record label, before she became known for her many alter egos (among them Harajuku Barbie, where "Barbz" comes from), before she appeared on her first magazine cover wearing her signature off-the-grid outfits (in her words, some of the "craziest, weirdest, ugliest stuff")—she knew technology was redefining modern stardom and was determined to harness its power. "With social media, there's a difference in the fan-artist relationship," she says. "When someone can hear you speaking through your thoughts and words, they get to make a very quick judgment—quicker than they'd have been able to make in the '80s or '90s. They get to feel: Are you real? Is this you? I tell my Barbz, 'You guys know the difference between rap, play, and dead-ass serious.' They know the difference between those three Nickis. And they're so smart. They teach me every day. They're the meat and potatoes of who Nicki Minaj is."
You can read more on feature over @ MarieClaire and also watch a behind the scenes video of Nicki's shoot below..