updated 08/24/2010 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 08/30/2010 AT 9:30 AM ET
With Lil Wayne behind bars, someone’s got to keep his Young Money record label relevant. Wayne’s artist, Nicki Minaj, is doing just that.
On the mainstream scene for less than a year, Minaj has already won two BET Awards (for best female hip-hop artist and best new artist) and landed a No. 1 single with “Your Love” on the Billboard rap charts.
But the firecracker, 25, who spent the majority of her upbringing in Queens, N.Y., has a lot more to her than wild hair, a racy wardrobe and a foul mouth. Here are five things to know about Lil Wayne’s protégé, Nicki Minaj.
1. She had a rough upbringing
Her lyrics may be silly and carefree, but growing up was anything but lighthearted for Minaj. “[My dad] drank a lot and did drugs, and would get violent when he did,” she told Details in May. “He set fire to the house, [and] was attempting to kill my mother. She got out before it burned all the way down. I’ve always had this female-empowerment thing in the back of my mind I thought, ‘If I’m successful, I can change her life.’ “
2. She has a thing for Charlize Theron
When asked about her celebrity crush, Minaj told PEOPLE it would have to be the Monster star. “She’s a bad bitch,” Minaj said about the A-lister, whom she hopes to meet someday. “I think she’s really, really perky.”
3. Lil Kim is not her biggest fan
Girl rappers of a feather don’t necessarily flock together, as in the case of Minaj and Lil’ Kim, who took jabs at Minaj during concerts, saying she’s copying her style and needs “to pay homage” and show some respect. Fellow Young Money artist Drake stood up for his label-mate, saying the comments bothered him and he took them personally. “You don’t have to do that. You don’t have to get onstage and tell people to pay homage,” he said.
4. She loves interacting with fans via Twitter
Boasting a following of more than a million people on the social networking site (A higher number than active Tweeters Spencer Pratt, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Alba and Cory Monteith), @NickiMinaj is known to chat up her fans and fan groups. “It says a lot that someone took the time to dedicate a page to me,” Minaj told Details about her Twitter fans. “And it s useful. Anything I do, they post a link to it right away. I don’t need to Google myself.”
5. She Was a fan of The Hills
When a Minaj follower on Twitter asked the rapper if she watches the now-defunct MTV hit series, she responded, “Yes! I was SO mad wen (sic) Justin Bobby cut his hair!” No one was more shocked about Minaj’s taste in TV than the show’s former star Kristin Cavallari. “I was really surprised at first that she even knew who we were,” Cavallari tells PEOPLE. “But I think it’s awesome because I am a big fan of hers as well.”