In her first season as an American Idol judge, Nicki Minaj has already stolen the spotlight – from her feud with fellow judge Mariah Carey to showing up late for a live episode to her off-the-cuff remarks and antics. During a conference call this afternoon, Rolling Stone learned how she feels about being the show's most polarizing figure this season, who she thinks has the best shot of winning and whether she'll return next season.
What have been your best and worst moments on American Idol?
I don't have a worst Idol moment. I've been spectacular. Yes, I'm gonna toot my own horn. And my best moment is every single moment. I'll toot it again.
Before joining the show, people maybe didn't know who you were, or had a preconceived idea about you, but now you have a chance to win them over. What's your take on that?
I feel like my entire life and career I've been judged by people who really didn't know me. I definitely think they probably were right to assume what they had assumed about me, because there was such little to go on. If you only see videos and me being crazy and hearing little things here and there, then obviously you're not gonna have an idea of who I really am. I'm just happy Idol producers gave me a shot on the show, to show who I really am. I really don't think – outside of maybe some pink wigs – that there's anything that separates me from every other woman in America.
How do you feel about being the most polarizing person on the show?
I am absolutely just being me. I didn't know what to expect going into the show. I had a lot of anxiety. I was like, 'Everybody's gonna hate me.' There were moments in the audition process where I would say to the producers, 'I can't do this anymore because if everyone's gonna give a good critique and I'm gonna be the only one being honest, then America's gonna hate me because I'm gonna be seen as mean.' And the producer said, 'Trust me, America is gonna appreciate the honesty.' So I came in every day and I was myself. I can't go up there and pretend. I can't be someone I'm not. I can't sit there with a phony smile. If I'm polarizing, I'm polarizing. But I definitely didn't have a preconceived notion of who I was gonna be on that panel.
If you were asked to return next season, would you?
I think people would rather be surprised. I like to save mystery and drama, so I'd never give it away. But I have to say, from the bottom of my heart, the people behind the scenes on Idol have been a dream to work with. I'm just super-grateful to be given the opportunity.
You often comment on contestants' look – their clothing, right down to their lipstick. Do you feel image is just as important as performance?
I think so. Ultimately, I don't think it'll have anything to do with them winning, because I don't feel like Idol viewers are biased about the look. But when you go out into the real world as an artist, there's nothing wrong with thinking about how you want to present yourself to the world. I also think they need to hear criticism about their look on the show because that's what they're going to be criticized on in the real world. They're gonna see themselves on worst dressed lists, or hear people saying they look fat, so they need to start getting an idea of the real world.
Out of the contestants on the show, who would you want to collaborate with and why?
Probably Burnell Taylor, because he has a John Legend thing.
Is it hard for you when someone's eliminated?
I was gutted when Curtis Finch Jr. left, because I feel he had the best male voice, and he was exciting. I couldn't wait to see him perform. I wish we had given him the save.
Who do you see as this season's frontrunners?
Kree Harrison, Angie Miller and Candice Glover. Outside of their voices, they've just sort of won people over already.
Is there even a chance a guy will win this season?
No, absolutely not.