“It doesn’t feel comfortable for me to talk about me when someone so important to our culture just died.”
Accepting the Game Changer Award at the Billboard’s 2019 Women In Music event on Thursday night, rapper Nicki Minaj took the focus off herself to pay tribute to the late Juice WRLD.
Juice WRLD died earlier this week at the age of 21 — on Minaj’s birthday — after suffering a medical emergency upon landing at Chicago Midway International. According to TMZ, he sallowed several Percocet pills when he learned federal agents were going to search the plane.
Speaking at last night’s event, Minaj spoke out about the stigma against mental health and said she wished she had been able to help the fellow rapper when he was alive.
Explaining that she was "honored" to be in the presence of all the women be celebrated last night, Minaj said it didn’t "feel comfortable for me to talk about me when someone so important to our culture just died." Nicki and Juice WRLD toured together earlier this year.
"I recently had the pleasure of working and touring with Juice Wrld. I had a great conversation with him and while we walked to the stage, he held my hand and told me to stay calm and to pray," she recalled during her speech. "He said that 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?’"
"I felt like he was a kindred spirit and looking back now, I wish I did something differently or said something to help," she continued.
Nicki said he talked to her "in detail" about the love he had for his girlfriend and music and marveled at how quickly he put together songs in the studio. "He was honest and pure about what he felt and that inspired me," she said.
"I want to honor him tonight and send my condolences to him and his family and his girlfriend and his friends and everybody. And I want to tell everyone that drugs isn’t the problem… it’s so important that we don’t pass judgment, so that people don’t feel ashamed to speak up and ask for help," she passionately continued.
"It’s so important that we talk about mental health. It is. Because people are dying because they don’t want to express how miserable they are and how much they’re suffering," Minaj went on, "so they’d rather medicate themselves. 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."
After giving a "shoutout to all the women" in the room, she said that they "don’t always feel sexy" or cute, but are pressured into always being "on" all the time.
"That’s abnormal," she continued, "But that’s what we signed up for. We’re not allowed to complain, we’re not allowed to be human, we’re not allowed to have a bad day. Because we’re so ‘blessed.’"
"But that makes absolutely no f–king sense. We’re human," she said near the end of her speech. "All of you in here are human. And you are allowed to be human. And not beat yourself up for doing that. So, in closing, I just wanted to encourage everyone to talk about whatever it is that you need to talk about and to be honest and open, and get help."
In a statement to TMZ, Juice WRLD’s family confirmed he "battled with prescription drug dependency." They added, "Addiction knows no boundaries and its impact goes way beyond the person fighting it. Jarad was a son, brother, grandson, friend and so much more to so many people who wanted more than anything to see him defeat addiction."
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