What Is Nicki Minaj’s Ethnicity?

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When it comes to Nicki Minaj, ethnicity and race aren’t simple black-and-white questions. Minaj was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago. Technically, that makes her “Caribbean,” but she only lived there—mostly under the care of her grandmother—until the age of five. At that point, she moved with her parents, who are of mixed Indian and Afro-Trinidadian ancestry, to the racially diverse borough of Queens in New York City.

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Minaj is sometimes referred to as “Trinidadian” or “Trinidadian-born” in the media, but she’s also labeled “Queens-bred” or “New York City-raised.” Nicki has spoken candidly about her childhood drama with her father, who was addicted to drugs and alcohol. In that sense, it’s perhaps not surprising that she’s cultivated a culturally nonspecific persona. She wears crazy colored wigs and zany outfits, and given her light skin tone and range of accents, it’s hard to pinpoint her ethnicity or peg her to any racial group.

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Complicating things further, Nicki, like Gwen Stefani, has a fondness for Japanese culture. She calls herself the “Harajuku Barbie,” a reference to the supremely fashionable Tokyo district. Of course, as her song “Starships” suggests, Minaj is not exactly of this world. Maybe she’s not black, white, Caribbean, Indo-Trinidadian, Afro-Trinidadian, or any other such hyphenate; she could be a funky alien sent to Earth to mess with our heads. Whoever beamed her down—thanks!

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