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Nicki Minaj Discloses Suicidal Thoughts and Crowd Laughs

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BET Awards 2014

Despite the deplorability of Black performances, the 2014 BET Awards was very insightful, in regards to, the current perception of mental health within the Black community.

Nicki Minaj was accepting her 5th award for "Best Female Hip Hop Artist" when she disclosed to a crowded audience and viewers worldwide that she is still struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Furthermore, the massive crowd laughed after her disclosure.

Perhaps this was due to the uncomfortable mood Minaj's statement set in the room, but it could also be argued that Blacks are merely insensitive to mental health issues.

Nicki Minaj cites near death experience during BET Awards speech

Minaj at BET Awards: I was recently near death

Minaj at BET Awards: I was recently near death

Core Psychological Issues Black Women Face

Core psychological issues that Black women face within American society include: sexual devaluation and victimization.

The media’s perception of Black women, as mainly hypersexual objects, has created an issue where Black women have become more at risk of sexual assault.

The consequences for Black women include: substance abuse, headaches, feelings of shame, and low self-esteem.

Interestingly, Black women are more ambivalent about blatant degradation (e.g. being called bitch/hoe as a term of endearment).

However, this could be attributed to the struggle most Black women have with their perceptions of beauty and self image.

Nicki Minaj's self disclosure is evidence that she is struggling with a culmination of the above mentioned issues.

SKIP 3:30 Nicki Minaj Discloses her Suicidal Thoughts @ the 2014 BET Awards. Listen 4 Audience's Response. Was Something Funny?

Analysis of Minaj's Case

Nicki Minaj has seemingly adopted the Strong Black woman Persona (e.g. when Black women internalize stereotypes and let them become their character).

For example, "Sapphire" syndrome is typically portrayed as overly aggressive and too strong. This Black woman rarely gets her needs met because people are too scared of her and she is quick to get angry instead of dealing with her own internal issues.

Black women who assume this type of persona" are often frightened of attachment and dependency, which they experience as a dangerous loss of strength. The result can be chronic loneliness and emotional isolation.

Minaj seems to be internalizing other persona complexes, which and can be detrimental to her health, in terms of: panic attacks, social phobias, OCD, specific phobias, and anxiety disorders.

It could be argued that she is having alter ego problems, which could prevent her from leading a normal life outside of entertainment.

The definition of alter ego is: a second self, a second personality within a person, who is often oblivious to the persona's actions.

Minaj (e.g. the paid performer) may be dominating over Onika Tanya Maraj (e.g. the real person). Her defense mechanisms are evident through her self disclosures and sudden change in appearance.

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Minaj's "made-under" look has become another point of controversy but it could be a personal attempt to strip the alter egos and become more comfortable in her own skin (Kudos Onika!).

Media Continues to Question Minaj's New Look

"Make-under" or Makeover?

"Make-under" or Makeover?

How Do You Feel?

Alter Egos vs. Strong Black Woman Personas

Nicki Minaj relies on “alter ego” to deal with the pressures of being an international superstar.

Alter EgoFirst ApperanceDescritionComparison to SBW Persona

Nicki Lewinsky

"Sunshine" - track #2 on Nicki Minaj's mixtape, "Sucka Free"

One of the most known alter egos of Minaj, as an underground artist, and is well known for overt sexual lyrics.

"Jezebel": A promiscuous Black woman with an insatiable sexual appetite whose reputation ensures that her credibility is doubted.

The Harajuku Barbie

"Itty Bitty Piggy" - track #3 on Nicki Minaj's mixtape, "Beam Me Up Scotty"

Usually shortened simply to Barbie, is the name of one of Minaj's most famous alter egos, well known for being soft spoken.

"Sisterella": A naive Black woman who assumes all the responsibilities and rarely if ever take cares of herself, which ultimately leads to health problems.

Nicki The Boss

"Jump Off 07" - track #7 on Nicki Minaj's first mixtape, "Playtime is Over"

Described as the ingenious austere business woman, always thinking out of the box, and unafraid to assert herself.

"Mz. Independent": An independent Black woman depicted as a narcissistic, overachieving, and financially successful; she also emasculates black males in her life.

Roman Zolanski

"Bottoms Up" mainstream song by R&B singer Trey Songz featuring Nicki Minaj

Well-known alter ego, described as an outspoken blonde homosexual.

"Sapphire": A strong Black woman persona portrayed as over antagonistic, aggressive, bitchy, stubborn, hateful, sharp-tongued, and easily dismissed.

The Real Issue/Concerns

The issue, in Nicki Minaj's case, is the audience's & the media's response to her intense self disclosure.

People who openly dispose that they've actively considered suicide generally stir feelings of concern in others. But, the audience displayed disregard for her situation.

There was no sense of sensitivity or awareness from the audience, perhaps, this is because Minaj couple her comments with ideas of grandeur (e.g. superwoman mentality).

Nevertheless, many Black women who internalize these complexes tend to disregard depression, because it is culturally incongruent with being strong.

And, often times, Black women mask these issues. They attribute them to chronic stress, which in itself is often attributable to prejudice and discrimination; the need to be hyper-alert/"on guard" to manage bias and bigotry; and to the pressure of being emotionally strong and “keeping it up”.

The media's reaction to her speech did not go unnoticed either. It was unacceptable for reporters to have developed more stories about Nicki Minaj "dissing" Iggy during her speech than about her near death experience the night prior to winning the BET award.

These issues can be more factors that lead a person towards suicide. Nicki Minaj's role within the media is potentially damaging, pychonoxious, and counter productive to her mental health.

Nicki Minaj has Contemplated Suicide Before

Suicidal Risk Highest When:

  • The person sees no way out and fears things may get worse.
  • The predominant emotions are hopelessness and helplessness.
  • Thinking is constricted with a tendency to perceive his or her situation as all bad.
  • Judgment is impaired by use of alcohol or other substances.

3 Common Misconceptions About Suicide

  • FALSE: People who talk about suicide won't really do it.

Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like "you'll be sorry when I'm dead," "I can't see any way out," — no matter how casually or jokingly said may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

  • FALSE: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.

Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

  • FALSE: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.

You don't give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

R&B Diva, Michel'le Has Attempted Suicide

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Abused ex of Suge Knight - R&B Diva Michel'le - reveals suicide attempt

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Whitney Houston's Fatal Substance Abuse

by: Bill O'Reilly

by: Bill O'Reilly

Shocking Celebrity Suicide Attempts

Oprah - At age 14, attempted suicide by drinking a bottle of laundry detergent. She was scared of coming home to her father pregnant. Her baby died shortly after birth; however, looking back on her life, she sees it as a blessing in disguise. “When the baby died, I knew that it was my second chance,” she said.

Halle Berry - admitted to Parade magazine that, distraught over her failed marriage to baseball star David Justice, she tried to end her life by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Donna Summer - tried to leap from an 11-story window at a New York hotel at the peak of her career in 1976, but was discovered by a housekeeper.

Tina Turner - in her biography I, Tina, she revealed a failed suicide attempt in 1968.

Sammy Davis, Jr. - the biography Me and My Shadow reveals that a distraught Davis, fed up with cracks about his race, religion, and height, tried to kill himself on his wedding night by driving off a cliff.

Gary Coleman - announced in 1993 that he had tried to commit suicide twice by taking sleeping pills.

Paul Robeson - the "Ol' Man River" vocalist tried to off himself by slashing his wrists in a Moscow hotel room in 1961, although his son (Paul Jr.) claims the event was caused by a CIA/FBI conspiracy that drugged him with LSD.

Houston - the R&B singer was stopped after he tried to throw himself out of a hotel window in 2005, and then gouged out his own eye. Reports vary as to the reason behind this behavior.

Richard Pryor - later admitted that the fire that injured him while free-basing cocaine in June 1980 was really a suicide attempt.

Mike Tyson - in September 1988, the then-undisputed heavyweight champion crashed his car into a tree in what the New York Daily News described as a suicide attempt.

Ginuwine - this R&B singer's mother passed away from cancer less, a year after his father killed himself. He then tried to take his own life. He confessed, “I was done mentally and emotionally to the point that I had to go see a psychiatrist, but that didn’t do any good because I wasn’t interested. In fact, the two times I visited him I was high. I was depressed and felt like I had nobody to talk to that could relate to me.” He credits counseling with his pastor for helping out.

Ken Griffey Jr. - At age 17, attempted to end his life by downing over 200 aspirin pills. The future baseball great woke up in the intensive care unit. He said, “It seemed like everyone was yelling at me in baseball, then I came home and everyone was yelling at me there.I got depressed. I got angry. I didn’t want to live.”


Variables Associated with Black Suicide

There are culturally relevant variables associated with Black suicide.

Variables that help protect against suicide amongst Blacks mostly stems from acquired Christian values and religious participation (i.e. church attendance and prayer), especially for adolescents.

Black suicide is different from European American suicide because it tends to stay unreported due to religion.

In Black college students resistance to suicide is related to family support, suicide unacceptability, and collaborative religious problem solving.

Older, poorer, and less educated Blacks exhibit a more passive suicidal ideation characterized by thoughts of death.

6 Things You Need to Know if You Want to Die

Read Now If You Are In Crisis

Read Now If You Are In Crisis

To-Do's when someone says "I'm Suicidal

1) Listen. You may be the first person they've told, or you may be the tenth. However, you must strive to be the first to truly listen.

2) Be empathetic, not dismissive. Social support is crucially important. Believe anyone who says that they are having suicidal thoughts and let them know that you care about them.

3) Be aware of boundaries. If you are not a certified then don't try to be a clinician. You don't need any special training to be supportive, but know when it would be good to connect with someone trained professional who is competent in crisis intervention. If you are talking with someone who has specific ideas about how they would end their life, connect them with a crisis center or clinician immediately.

Suicide Prevention Resources


Know Your Resources

Quick resources for you or anyone expressing suicidal thoughts:

  1. USA Hotlines: 1-800-Suicide or 1-800-273-TALK
  2. UK Hotlines: Call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90
  3. Australia: Call Lifeline on 13 11 14
  4. New Zealand: Call Lifeline on 0800 543 354

If you are in immediate danger of harming yourself please phone the emergency number in your country (e.g. 911).

If you're a student, learn how to connect with the counseling center on your campus.

Assess the Suicidal Risk


Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds. Although its prevalence is evident within the Black community, suicide is usually dismissed by the Black people for various reasons.

The audiences reaction to Nicki Minaj's self disclosure is evidence that Black people have a common rationale about suicide.

Most Blacks seem to feel suicide is “Alien to the black experience”. And, that it is laughable topic, which runs directly counter to all it means to be a "Strong Black Woman”.

Yet suicide within the Black community is a daunting reality. Socioeconomic status can be a determinant in whether or not Black women choose to commit “real” suicide (unthinkable acts of self injury) or “slow” suicide (drug or alcohol abuse).

Adequate support systems tend to be a great deterrents that helps Black women cope with suicidal thoughts and loneliness.

Churches/religion provide another great resource to help Black women cope and strengthen their faith/spirituality while facing adversity.

In closing, you should always take someone seriously if they express to you suicidal thoughts.

The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:

  • Do you have a suicide plan? (PLAN)
  • Do you have what you need to carry out your plan (pills, gun, etc.)? (MEANS)
  • Do you know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
  • Do you intend to commit suicide? (INTENTION)

If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potentially lethal objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.

© 2014 Crystal Gordon


Clovis from Texas on April 14, 2019:

This was very interesting and informative!

Crystal Gordon (author) from Pasadena, CA on January 17, 2015:

I don't remember generalizing in this article but I will clarify after I write this comment. If so, I have no problems recanting a broad statement about Black folks because you've made a valid point and it was never my intention to offend anyone. Also, I am aware that we are not monolithic. Nevertheless, I thought the audience, at that particular venue, during that particular show had the wrong reaction to her very intense disclosure. Regardless of personal differences (e.g., beliefs, goals), laughing at anytime during or after statement was insensitive because it was at her expense (e.g., MINAJ NEVER LAUGHED); furthermore, the media coverage on the "beef" between her and Iggy rather than her disclosure was unacceptable to me. And, my opinion stemmed mainly from my research, which concluded that most Black folks mistrust the helping professions; therefore, they lack general understanding about the severity of mental health problems in our community. And, idk what else you know of that is more evident & representative of Americanized Africans than an audience at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards. Perhaps, Centric...maybe TV One (e.g., reruns of 90s sitcoms & Hollywood Divas)...or does VH1 & Bravo have better representations of our community for you? (e.g., Love & Hip Hop, Atlanta Housewives, R&B Divas) Or, is the polar opposite in "shondaland" is more representative (e.g., Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Grey's Anatomy). However, I believe it's somewhat safe to say that an annual celebration of Black folks and other minorities in music, acting, sports, and other fields of entertainment, which is broadcasted, live, on basic cable, with countless Black folks on stage & in the audience is a fairly accurate representation of the year to date within our community.

Jen on December 19, 2014:

The article's focus on bringing attention to mental health was very informative, great job! However, the audience at the BET awards was not laughing at Minaj because she had attempted suicide--they were laughing at Minaj implying her call to 911 would've been posted on the website TMZ. I think it is dangerous to generalize the entire black community, especially when the audience of the BET awards isn't an accurate representation.

Hezekiah from Japan on July 20, 2014:

Interesting article. Well, at least image wise she is looking at more natural these days.

Alka Narula from INDIA on July 20, 2014:

One must take immediate note if someone mentions that he or she feels like committing #suicide and not take it lightly as it's only the people with suicidal tendencies who mention such words ...interesting read

Cecilia Karanja from Nairobi on July 20, 2014:

This is a very interesting article. I have learned so much I did not know about suicide. My auntie hanged herself this January. She had been saying she'll do it for so long and people thought she was joking. :-(

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