Remember Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac? Every morning the spectacularly dry-voiced host would sermonize on the vibrant legacy of famous poets, journalist and writers. “Today is the birthday of,” he would gravel, before launching into some remarkable anecdote about Tennessee William’s personal life or Sylvia Plath’s writing process.

So in the style of Keillor, we figured everyone should know that today is the birthday of Onika Tanya Maraj aka Nicki Minaj aka Nicki Lewinsky aka Roman Zolanski aka Cookie aka The Harajuku Barbie, and the list goes on. And, in honor of the Trini-born rapper’s 34th year of existence we compiled a list of seven facts about her you might not know but should…

She Played Clarinet…


It’s common knowledge that a young Nicki attended LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts – yes, the school the movie Fame was based on. Early in her career her arts and acting background frequently shone through in the creation of alter egos, and her over-the-top, costume-oriented style. However, what many people don’t know is that Nicki was involved with art and music long before her high school days. As a middle schooler she was a clarinet student – band Nicki FTW.

She Was Fired From Red Lobster…


Nicki da Ninja was on the Red Lobster wave long before Beyonce. The only difference is that an evening of seafood with Minaj is far more likely to end in customer service complaints than being rewarded for good sex. In 2014 she revealed to GQ that she had been fired from the chain as a teen waitress. The catalyst? She chased down a patron who had taken her pen and then proceeded to flip them the bird. When asked if the pen was particularly special, Minaj said that it was not about the pen but rather about the principle.

She Sold Mixtapes Out of a BMW…


In a 2015 New York Times profile – where she also happened to read the interviewer for absolute filth – Minaj revealed that at one point she owned a BMW 323i that she, “scrimped and saved to buy.” It was out of that vehicle she first sold some of her earliest mixtapes. Though Minaj declined to provide dates for when this occurred, we can assume it was obviously before being discovered by Cash Money.

She Used to be Timid…


In the same New York Times profile Waka Flocka Flame’s mother, Deb Antney, who was also Minaj’s manager at one point, is quoted as saying, “Nicki was the timidest little girl you’d ever want to see in your life – she was so broken up, but she was so determined, all in one breath…I used to have to scream at her: ‘You’re not going to sit here and cry, you’re not going to let nobody shut you down…'” The Nicki Minaj we see today has clearly learned the ins and outs of the industry because it’s hard to imagine her letting anyone make her feel less than.

Her Intro On “Dark Fantasy” Was Inspired by Roald Dahl…


Considering her performing arts background it comes as little surprise Minaj would take inspiration from prolific British writer Roald Dahl. Her winding intro in Kanye West’s single, “Dark Fantasy,” parallels the intro to Dahl’s poetic version of the story of Cinderella.

Nicki’s Version:    

You might think you’ve peeped the scene
You haven’t, the real one’s far too mean
The watered down one, the one you know
Was made up centuries ago
They made it sound all wack and corny
Yes, it’s awful, blasted boring
Twisted fictions, sick addictions
Well, gather ’round children, zip it, listen

Road Dahl’s Version:

I guess you think you know this story.
You don’t. The real one’s much more gory.
The phony one, the one you know,
Was cooked up years and years ago,
And made to sound all soft and sappy
just to keep the children happy.
Mind you, they got the first bit right,
The bit where, in the dead of night,
The Ugly Sisters, jewels and all,
Departed for the Palace Ball,
While darling little Cinderella
Was locked up in a slimy cellar,
Where rats who wanted things to eat,
Began to nibble at her feet.

Her Favorite Fast Food is Popeyes Chicken…

Do not give Nicki Minaj Kentucky Fried Chicken because she is a Popeyes girl through and through. In 2012 she sat for an interview with Wonderland magazine where she revealed some of the highlights of her extensive tour rider. It’s lengthy, but what would you expect from a diva? One of her demands was, “three twelve-piece buckets of fried chicken, spicy – no thigh, lots of wings.”

Also, there was this:

She Views Herself as the Voice of Reason in Her Family

In December 2014, Minaj was revealed as the cover star for the Complex’s recently-shuttered print magazine. In the interview she candidly discussed grappling with guilt over her demanding career. According to Minaj, her global lifestyle took her away from her family to the point that she couldn’t be there to assuage some of the drama that arose in her absence. “I feel like I’m the voice of reason in my family,” she shared, before going on to say, “I’ve always taken control and tried to help my family stay on the right path.”

For more on Nicki Minaj, be sure to check out our 6 reasons why she should be your role model. You can also catch Nicki in the recently released Beats by Dre commercial, which you can watch below.

Words by Stephanie Smith-Strickland