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Minaj was born Onika Tanya Maraj in Trinidad, in 1984, and is of Indian, African and Trinidadian descent. She lived in Trinidad with her grandmother until age 5 when she moved to the Queens, New York. According to Minaj, her father drank alcohol, took drugs, and once tried to kill her mother by setting the house on fire. She has stated that life was difficult growing up, but that "music helped her through it". She attended Elizabeth Blackwell Middle School 210 and graduated from LaGuardia High School. At LaGuardia, a school specializing in music and the visual and performing arts, Minaj participated in the drama program. She once worked at a Red Lobster restaurant in the Bronx.

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