(Trinidad Express) Trinidad-born rapper Nicki Minaj compared T&T to Liberia on television on Wednesday, saying she didn’t think she would get out alive. Liberia is known for having endured bloody civil war during the past two decades, in which more than 200,000 people died and a million sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz said on Thursday he could not comment on Minaj’s latest comment on the “nothing” place she came from, since he was not sure exactly what location she was referring to. Minaj, on the American Idol show last Wednesday, likened her own underprivileged background to that of contestant Zoanette Johnson, a Liberian refugee living in the US, the UK Daily Mail reported on Thursday.
Minaj said, “I’m so proud that this place gives people like you and people like me, who came from absolutely nothing, a place that we didn’t think we’d make it out alive from, it gives us the chance. Thank you.” The story in the Mail said: “Trinidadian-born rapper Nicki Minaj wasn’t born with much, and she fought tooth and nail to gain her stardom. “That could be why the Pink Friday singer got so emotional on American Idol this week, when a Liberian refugee, Zoanette Johnson, brought the house down with Circle of Life.”
Zoannette, 20, has been in the US since she was two, after escaping from her war-torn motherland, the newspaper reported. “Listen, Zoanette, you make me so emotional, you came from Liberia, all those siblings, they are going to get a chance to see you on this show. I am so proud of you. So proud of you,” Minaj said.
Minaj, born Tanya Onika Maraj, is from Bournes Road, St James. She lived there with her grandmother until the age of five, when she migrated to Brooklyn, New York, to be with her parents.Cadiz said he could not comment because he was not sure whether Minaj was referring to a hard life she lived in Brooklyn or in St James. “I have no idea what her family life was like,” he said.
Cadiz said he would not like to think of St James as a “nothing” place and noted that Minaj would have had some kind of good opportunity in order to reach the US. “I am not casting aspersions on Brooklyn but I don’t know if she had a hard life in the States…She would have to explain what she meant,” he said. The minister recalled that not long ago Minaj spoke about the high number of Aids cases in T&T and quoted totally erroneous figures.
In November, she was quoted in the UK Guardian as saying 250,000 people in T&T were living with the disease. The actual figure is reported as being a tenth of that.