Art Basel Miami Beach

Nicki Minaj Made Fun of a Homeless Woman in South Beach Yesterday

A note to all celebrities visiting Miami for A-list events like New Year's Eve, Ultra Music Festival, and Art Basel: Miami is a real place, with real problems, and you don't live here. That's typically still true for famous people who own Miami property: There's a clear distinction between people like Iggy Pop and DJ Khaled, who live here year-round and give back to the community, and guys like Drake, who own houses here but visit so infrequently they film whole music videos here without unwrapping their furniture.

Nicki Minaj, a New York City native, belongs in the latter group, which is why it's so upsetting to see her latest Instagram post, in which she treats the city's people like CGI characters from SimCity.

As Art Basel came to a close, she filmed herself making fun of a clearly mentally ill woman in South Beach. The woman is a regular on the streets of South Beach: She's often seen hanging out in high-traffic areas smoking cigarettes, and many believe her to be homeless.

But after getting into an altercation with the woman, Minaj tried to clown the woman on social media yesterday for some reason, posting a video of the fight to her 70 million Instagram followers, captioned with the "crying laughter" emoji:

A video posted by Nicki Minaj (@nickiminaj) on

The post, however, backfired in spectacular fashion: Gossip blogs such as TMZ and Perez Hilton picked up the video, and now Miami's chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has officially condemned her actions, stating that, in poking fun of a clearly ill woman, Minaj is contributing to the stigma surrounding mental illness in America.

"Mental illness is no laughing matter, but unfortunately attitudes like the one Nicki Minaj shows in the Instagram video are a consequence of the stigma and ignorance that mentally ill patients endure," NAMI Miami-Dade said in a statement.
Minaj hit a nerve: Miami is America's most mentally ill city, and homeless advocates are grappling with how to handle the city's mentally ill homeless population after an ill homeless man killed a retiree in September.

There's possibly a debate as to whether Minaj could clearly tell the woman was ill, but millions of her followers and a few mental illness professionals sure seem to think the distinction is clear. But regardless, there's almost no way Minaj could have not noticed the woman was, in some form, either homeless or suffering in some way. And her response was to "punch down," laugh at her, and try to get millions of people to join in online. Her plan has predictably not worked.

You don't get to make fun of a homeless person if you have a home; you don't get to make fun of a mentally ill person if your brain is functioning in a normal capacity. That's all exponentially truer if you're famous and worth millions. But in addition to exposing Minaj as a bit callous, this whole brouhaha illustrates a particularly "Miami" problem: the idea that wealthy people get to fly into town, parade around on red carpets, and treat the Magic City like a plastic castle full of Playmobil people.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.