Which celebrity would you want your kids to look up to? A woman who came from nothing and made her own fortune, fashioned a career by playing men at their own game in a tough industry to break, and now tours the world sharing her work with thousand of fans every night - or a woman who married into money, is celebrated for her beauty and has no particular job to speak of?
The results of a recent poll reported in the Guardian may surprise you. Of around 2,300 parents of young children quizzed, 54% considered Nicki Minaj (she's the self-made success story, FYI) to be the worst role model for their kids, whilst Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, was considered the best.
Everybody and their cat (not a pun) has seen Anaconda by now. Nicki's most famous video is a four-minute, unashamed twerk-fest which cemented her place in the halls of popstars whom parents are convinced will turn their sweet, naive children into demonic strippers.
But truthfully, the idea that shaking your ass in a music video makes you the enemy of feminism is kind of crazy. Is it anti-feminist to enjoy male attention? Shouldn't women be free to dance however they like? Are those who vilify Nicki not just projecting other, thornier issues onto her? If Miley at the VMAs taught us anything by grinding on a giant teddy bear, it's that twerking is more about having fun than being sexy.
Still, Nicki's negative press doesn't seem to be going anywhere fast, which got me thinking about another pop diva who was in Minaj's shoes at this stage in her own career. You know who I'm talking about...
Yup, the one and only Jennifer Lopez, aka Miss "J-to-tha-Lo!" herself. For about five minutes back in '02, J-Lo was in the world's most talked about relationship with Ben Affleck, every song featured a rent-a-rapper, she was infamous for wearing that Versace gown split to the belly button at the Grammy's - and she was still notorious for having been partying with previous beau Diddy in a nightclub when an innocent bystander was shot in the face...
It's fair to say that she was the pop scene's resident bad girl, at least for a few years. So what happened? How did Jennifer turn public opinion around, and what lessons could Nicki learn from her in shaking off her bad gal image?
1. Don't start covering up
This might sound ridiculous, but wear with me. Certain people may not respect Nicki for writhing around in her thong in a neon jungle, but if there's one thing nobody respects, it's somebody who caves to public opinion. In 2003, Madonna released a controversial video for American Life which featured visuals of bombs exploding at a fashion show, clearly designed to generate controversy - but when MTV refused to play the video, she pulled it, fearing the damage it would do.
As it turned out, pretty much nobody bought the album anyway. Madonna, like Nicki today, had always been the girl who didn't give any craps what anybody thought of her, and suddenly she appeared weak. Nicki knows what she's about, and she should stay true to herself - eventually, the world will come around.
2. Step outside of her comfort zone
These days, to be a popstar is to be a media personality. To sell perfumes. To appear in commercials for designer attire so overpriced that only Sheikhs can afford to whip out the Black AMEX. Jennifer has done all of the above, but she's also taken necessary steps outside of her comfort zone now and then, as her latest project Shades of Blue demonstrates.
Shades is a police procedural which tells the story of a female cop involved in the cover up of the murder of an unarmed black man. It's timely, it's topical, and it's about as far away from rom-coms and Monster-in-Law as it's possible to get, unless you're starring in a Lars von Trier movie with unsimulated sex (not a career move I would recommend for Nicki).
Basically, she just needs to do something unexpected that will allow people to peel back previously hidden layers.
3. Release a truly killer pop song
This one sounds simple - Nicki is a rapper put through a pop blender, after all - but sometimes the best way to get people on side is simply to throw them a bone, or in this case an irresistible melody.
Even when she was receiving less than flattering media attention, J-Lo always understood the value of a killer pop song. There was Jenny From the Block in 2002; three years later, the brasstastic (yup, that's a word) Get Right; and in 2011, Jenny orchestrated the mother of all comebacks by teaming up with Pitbull for On the Floor - a song so successful that its music video held the record of the most watched on youtube for the next two years.
Two years on from that, she was duetting with squeaky-clean pop princess Taylor Swift, and suddenly moms and dads all across America had ruled that it was OK to like J-Lo again - she played the game and she emerged victorious.
So there we have it: three simple steps which will help Nicki Minaj shake off her bad gal rep, all without surrendering her own identity.