Nicki Minaj stepped out for the first time in over a month at the Billboard Women in Music event in Los Angeles on Thursday.
The rap queen was honored with the Game-Changer award, but the night wasn’t about her. After accepting her award from Normani, she paid tribute to Juice WRLD, who died on Sunday after suffering a seizure at the age of 21.
Nicki, who toured with Juice throughout Europe earlier this year, recalled a “great conversation” they had one time before a show. “While we walked to the stage, he held my hand and told me to stay calm and to pray,” said Nicki while reading off her iPhone. “He said he had been trying to do just that. I was so shocked to hear him of all people tell me that, but right there in that moment with him telling me that, I actually did feel calm and I felt like, ‘Hmm, what am I actually worried about?'”
She paused before continuing her heartfelt tribute. “I felt like he was a kindred spirit and looking back now, I wish I did something differently or said something to help. He spoke to me in detail about how in love he was with his girlfriend and how passionate he was about music. When he was in the studio with me, he did so many songs so quickly. He was honest and pure about what he felt and that inspired me.”
She acknowledged the other women being honored including Alanis Morissette, but couldn’t ignore Juice WRLD’s death. “I know this is a Women in Music night, and I’m honored to be in the presence of all these women,” she added. “So I know it’s about that, but it doesn’t feel comfortable to talk about me when someone so important to our culture just died.”
During her powerful speech, she sent her condolences to his family and friends and also brought up drugs and mental health. “Drugs isn’t the problem, it’s the way we fix our problem,” said Nicki. “So it’s so important that we don’t pass judgement so that people don’t feel ashamed to speak up and ask for help. It’s so important we talk about mental health. People are dying because they don’t want to express how miserable they are and how much they’re suffering, so they’d rather medicate themselves.”
In closing, she asked people to be more forgiving and show more compassion towards others, especially those in the spotlight. “I just came here tonight to ask people to be a little bit more forgiving and understanding, especially with entertainers. We can’t have a bad day,” she said. “I just wanted to encourage everyone to talk about whatever it is that they need to talk about, and be honest and open and get help.”
Before wrapping her five-and-a-half-minute speech, she thanked Lil Wayne, Birdman, her husband Kenneth Petty, and her fans. “I always am gonna keep surprises for you, even when you don’t see me on the internet,” she told her Barbz. “I am still thinking about you and I’m still working on ways to impress you guys and make you happy.”