March 27, 2013 4:00 PM | By Sean Plummer

Nicki Minaj defends “honest” approach to American Idol judging

However, the Idol judge hesitant to say whether she'll be back for another season.

Nicki Minaj (© Broadimage; Rex Features)

It came as little surprise that my conference call with American Idol judge Nicki Minaj began half an hour past its scheduled start time. After all, the “Super Bass” rapper turned up fifteen minutes late to the March 13 live show (she was apparently stuck in traffic), and has reportedly turned up tardy to other Idol tapings, even as far back as during auditions for the current twelfth season. So why not keep the media waiting?

Not that Minaj’s tardiness mattered to the reporters sharing the call, one of whom prefaces his question by saying he is a “huge fan” of everything she does; for another, it is “an honour” to speak with her; while another is “so freaking nervous right now.” In fact, keeping Minaj placated with compliments and deprecation was one sure way of keeping her from shutting down your question, which she did to one journalist when her query did not meet with the Harajuku Barbie’s approval.

But the controversial performer, who is allegedly getting paid $12 million for her hosting duties this season, has certainly brought a lot of attention to the increasingly ratings-challenged Idol. Besides her ongoing and widely publicized feud with fellow judge Mariah Carey, Minaj has been criticized by the tabloid media for allegedly being rude to both contestants and their families, refusing to take pictures with contestants, and, most recently, for ignoring contestant Paul Jolley after his elimination on the results show last Thursday. (“She didn’t come up and speak to me. I don’t know why,” he told US Weekly. “But I still love her.”)

Not that those criticisms have had any effect on Minaj, who refuses to acknowledge any negativity. Asked to run down her best and worst Idol moments, Minaj says: “I don’t have a worst Idol moment. I’ve been spectacular. Yes, I’m going to toot my own horn. And then, my best moment is every single moment. I’ll toot it again.”

One thing to be said for Minaj is that she does seem to speak from the heart. Asked about her polarizing influence on the show, she says that she is “absolutely” just being herself.

“I didn’t know what to expect going into the show. I was so nervous. I had a lot of anxiety. I felt like, ‘Okay. I know everybody’s just going to hate me. Oh well.’  There were moments in the audition process that I would say to the producers, ‘I can’t do this anymore because if everyone is going to give good criticism and I’m going to be the only one being honest then America is going to hate me. I’m going to be seen as mean.’ And the producers said, ‘Nicki, trust me, America is going to appreciate the honesty,’ and that’s all I had to go on.”

As to this season’s potential winners, Minaj is firmly on the women’s side, naming Kree Harrison, Angie Miller, and Candice Glover as her frontrunners.

“I think that outside of their voices they’ve just sort of won people over already, which I think is evident in just what I see on Twitter with my fans. You know, those three singers have really, really made an impact, not only with just a great voice that sounds like it should already be making albums, but for some reason their personality seems to [have connected with] a lot of fans.”

Will Minaj return for a second season of Idol? That remains to be seen. For her part, Minaj is reluctant to give a definitive answer.

“Well, I’d rather not speak about that at this time,” she told MSN Canada. “I would rather not even give any insight because I kind of feel like it’s exciting for people to not know who the next season’s judges will be.”

Hmm, okay. Then how has your experience of being a judge on American Idol compared to how you thought it might be?

“Okay, well, I definitely did not have an idea of what it would be because I had never done anything close to American Idol,” she says. “I’ve never had to sit in front of, you know, 15 million to 18 million people every week and speak so I did not have an idea of what it would be. I think one of the things that I probably was shocked about was how interested the world is in American Idol and how people, you know, writers, they write about Idol all the time. I guess I didn’t expect that; maybe that was the only thing. But, for the most part, I just didn’t have any idea on what to expect.”

Whether or not she returns for another season, Minaj says she is happy that Idol producers gave her a chance to show America who she really is.

“I feel like I’m every single woman. I really, really don’t think outside of maybe some pink wigs that there’s anything that separates me from every other women in America, so I’m just happy that I was given the opportunity. Some people don’t get an opportunity to show the world who they really are. Some people come out and put an album out and people just never talk about them again, but I was given an opportunity to show who I was as a human being, and I really appreciate that.”

American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m., ET, on CTV and Fox.

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