‘Is Nicki Minaj possessed?’ asks Catholic League president

Chris Pizzello Associated Press Nicki Minaj, right, arrives at the 54th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 in … Continued

Chris Pizzello

Associated Press

Nicki Minaj, right, arrives at the 54th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 in Los Angeles.

Nicki Minaj was sending a religious message with her Catholic-themed “Roman Holiday” performance at Sunday night’s Grammy awards. But what was it?

First, the pop star arrived on the red carpet escorted by a man who appears to be playing the part of a pope or bishop.

Minaj’s performance contained it all: a Catholic confession scene, and apparent demonic possession, followed by a series of break dancing monks, chanting choir boys and one levitating songstress.

The Twittersphere was apparently unable to make spiritual heads or tails of her art, but in a statement, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League was sure that her Catholic collage of a performance was intended to insult Catholics.

Robyn Beck

AFP/Getty Images

Nicki Minaj performs at the Staples Center during the 54th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 12, 2012.

Minaj is far from the only pop queen to use controversial religious imagery in her performances. Lady Gaga played a sexy, sadomasochistic nun in her “Alejandro” video and took on the part of Mary Magdalene in her “Judas” video, using the story of Jesus Christ’s bretrayer as a metaphor for her own inner darkness. Britney Spears also ticked off the Catholic League when she appeared scantily clad in a confessional in her 2007 album’s art. And few artists have played the provocateur with Catholic imagery more than Madonna.

Could you decipher the religious message in Minaj’s performance art? Tell us what you saw in the comments below.


Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • CathyHotka

    It’s sad. This is the best the music industry has to offer?

  • SumnerGrant

    I saw the performance and thought it was artisticaly incoherent. But if it was offensive to Bill Donohue, then it can’t have been all bad!

  • LouisNevitt

    The best comment I can come up with is from another post on the subject ; “they started with a prayer and ended with an exorcism?” Really.

  • FatherofMilesX

    There’s a story Dustin Hoffman tells about Lawrence Olivier
    “What’s the reason we do what we do?” Hoffman asks Olivier. Acting, he means.
    And Olivier gets in his face and says: “Lookatmelookatmelookatmelookatmelookatmelookatmelookatmelookatmelookatme!”
    The only “message” Ms. Minaj intened to send, as Sir Lawrence said, is…..

  • LouisNevitt

    Adel was awesome and the McCartney pieces were great. I think there was music mixed in. However, when Jerry Garcia was asked why he did not think Rap was music, his response was something to the effect of; “Can you hum me a tune from your favorite rap song?”

    Since the culture wars seem to be centering around the Catholic church (my how the Know Nothings have progressed since the 1800s), I see the stunt/performance as a way to help define the lines of the culture wars. Performance Art for Art’s sake or blasphemy at every corner. Church or contraception; controlled though or free thinking; Liberty or Death. She brought up so many issues in her performance; left to our imaginations. Isn’t that supposed to be a major goal of an artist?

  • bigtom6156

    This “performance” was horrible. Bad music, bad singing, bad rap. And they put it on a program dedicated to music’s best. The producers should be flogged.

  • CAC2

    Although I have no love for the Catholic church, especially in light of their rather medieval stance on wanting to deny birth control to employees, I can’t agree with this.

    If Jewish or Muslim symbolism was used in such a manner, everyone would be outraged by it. But for some reason, Catholic symbolism is up for grabs. Can you imagine the outcry if she had used a Star of David in such a manner, and had come out with a man dressed a rabbi?

    I was raised in 12 years of Catholic schools, and I haven’t set foot in a Catholic church (except for family events like funerals or baptisms) since I’ve been old enough to make my decision on the matter. But I respect the fact that the symbolism is sacred to those who are Catholic, and that should have no less value than a Star of David or invoke less outrage than burning the Koran.

  • john1513

    A pathetic performance for pathetic attention. No art involved. Further proof that pop music “stars” are grossly out of touch with the country and the world they live in.

  • SumnerGrant

    No, the best was Adele, and she was very, very good.

  • thelma150

    When performers do not have talent they typically resort to the shock factor as did Nicki Manaj last night at the Grammys. This was one of the best Grammy nights I have seen; however, was marred by this “performer “(I use the term loosely). I will never watch anything that has her songs or her on a show ever again. Her antics were ugly.

  • ex-Navy

    never heard the Garcia quote before, boy was he right!

  • ex-Navy

    No reason to be too upset, this flash in the pan “star” will fade away soon enough. Next year we will be reading about her “tragic” life from pop fame to the gutter. Maybe she will be on dancing with the stars or hawking some product on late night TV.


    let me say , who cares about catholic church ? they are one the forces behind Mardi gras among other things. Jesus Christ is the main focus not the so called church . i’m sure the Lord God isn’t pleased wit many happening of daily life .

  • heweeps

    Coming so soon after the Madonna led devil worship at the super bowl it makes me wonder. hat they are denying God is ovbvious but are these exhibitions meant to be an annoucement of some kind?

  • nanofishman

    As a white middle-aged man and a former Catholic who had never heard of Ms. Minaj before, I was at first taken aback by the performance. After hearing her speak about it later, I understand now how brilliant a performance it actually was. R.I.P. gangsta rappers. Welcome to post-modern rap.

    She isn’t singing about nines, drugs and booty anymore, she is singing about her own transformed soul. Ms. Minaj, most assuredly a former Catholic herself, is possessed by Roman Zolansky, the gay, angry male spirit that is being exorcised here. And gayness, as we know, is a principal target of the Church.

    Is it coincidence that the Church only recently minted new exorcists to combat what it sees as the demonic trend in the world? There were 75 Catholic exorcisms performed on eight people, mostly young girls, in the US. Most were unsuccessful, as it was in this performance.

    From what I heard her lately say, Ms. Minaj means to eschew the old hip-hop tropes that brought her to fame in favor of exposing an ontological inventory of her soul. Like Eminem, who showed us a fractured collage of personality consisting of Marshall, Slim Shady and the triumphant Eminem, Minaj has similarly refracted herself into alter-egos. In deconstructing herself she employs a visual vocabulary that borrows from the pop-parapsychology of the surreal.

    Can it continue, or will the studios and fans stop her? She is up against a lot of expectation. In some ways, Michael, Amy and Whitney’s drug deaths are what the industry has come to expect from pop stars. In many ways, because if breaks the expected conformity of what-stars-should-be-about, what Ms. Minaj is about is somehow more threatening to us than those tragic deaths.

    I can sum up Ms. Minaj’s transformation in one word: courage. You can hear it in her voice in this clip. She could have gone on shaking her money-maker and singing about the gangsta life, and you would have liked that, because that would have fit your prejudice, your expectation of certain

  • nanofishman

    The best music seldom gets to the Grammy’s. The show is more about the most commercially successful music, which is not the same as the best. If you think that 12-35 year-old women know more about good music than you do, then this is the award show for you. That’s who buys most of the music.

  • bewestbrook

    Fight for their rights? Obama caved in on birth control. Churches (and synagogues, etc.) do not pay taxes on property. They do not pay taxes on the money people throw at them. I should be so persecuted. This business of some kind of war on religion is a myth. It’s the other way around–the religious zealots are trying to force their practices on everyone else. Witness the recent bout of rantings against birth control.

  • savedbyfaithinchrist

    I did not watch the Grammy’s . But this video of a performance on prime time US television is shocking, and very sad. It is little wonder that the Muslim countries of the world call us the great Satan. What is wrong when this has become prime time entertainment on network television?

  • junkiwonteverread

    How dare she imply the Catholic Church is immoral. Just because an organization is responsible for 1000′s of cases of child rape and pedophilia and systematically covers it up doesn’t make it ok to criticize the church. I’m sure this performance was much more painful to faithful Catholics than finding out (despite the covered ears and eyes) that your clergy were systematic pedophiles.

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