WHO: Straight-talking rapper who released no music, but had a profound influence on pop culture.
WHY: When the MTV VMAs failed to nominate Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ video for their top prize in July, the American rapper dropped a lightning bolt on Twitter, suggesting their decision may have been swayed by her skin colour and body shape that deviates from the Caucasian ideal. “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year,” she tweeted.
Her ensuing ‘Twitter spat’ with Taylor Swift doesn’t need rehashing here, but the result of their back and forth is important. Tellingly, Swift admitted she had “missed the point” of what Minaj was trying to say about the entertainment industry’s ingrained racism, then apologised to the rapper for her ignorance.
Nicki Minaj knows that speaking out about issues can affect how she is portrayed in the media. “Let me make this clear: I’m not difficult, I’m just about my business,” she rapped on ‘All Things Go’. But she continues to use her voice to try to make a difference all the same. “Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it,” she tweeted in July. Thanks to Nicki Minaj, many more of us are now aware of this problem and seeking to redress the balance.
WHAT SHE SAYS: “Women in the industry are judged more. If you speak up for yourself, you’re a bitch. If you party too much, you’re a whore. Men don’t get called those things.”
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HER: “You’ve become an inspiration to women everywhere. I love how you’re never afraid to speak your mind.” – Queen Latifah
HOW SHE MADE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE: Started conversations about race and gender in the entertainment industry that keep on getting louder.
Read about why we picked the rest of our People of the Year 2015:
Taylor Swift – For establishing herself as the most powerful pop star on the planet
Kendrick Lamar – For making rap righteous again
The Libertines – For the year’s most beautiful (and unlikely) comeback
Mhairi Black – For changing the face of British politics
Skepta – For taking grime global
Miley Cyrus – For refusing to conform, and celebrating diversity
Mathieu Flamini – For trying to save the world with his geo-energy company GF Biochemicals
Adele – For breaking every record in music history
Jennifer Lawrence – For being the year’s best role model
JJ Abrams – For re-awakening The Force
Noel Gallagher – For cutting through the crap and making us laugh