When American Idol judge Nicki Minaj was asked by reporters on a conference call Monday afternoon who has the best chance to win this season, one thing was clear: It would not be a guy.
“No, absolutely not,” she said.
Minaj said the front-runners include Kree Harrison, Angie Miller and Candice Glover.
“Kree, Angie and Candice,” she said definitively. “I think that, outside of their voices, they've won people over already, which I think is evident in just what I see on Twitter with my fans. Those three seem to have really made an impact."
That isn’t to say that the male singers haven’t touched her heart. She said she would love to try a collaboration in the future with Burnell Taylor, whom she described as having a John Legend-style to his vocals. She also admitted she was “gutted” when Curtis Finch Jr. was given the boot so early in the competition.
“I felt like Curtis had the best male voice for the entire season, and he was exciting," she said. "Looking back now, I wish we had given him the save. I really do."
Minaj said she was “surprised” by how Idol viewers have reacted to her frankness on the show.
”It almost seems like people weren’t expecting artists to come up there as judges and be completely real. That’s the only thing that puzzled me,” she said. “I just thought ‘Hm. Isn’t that what we should be doing? Why is that so shocking to people?'”
As for whether the “Starships” singer will return next season, Minaj was coy.
"I think people would rather be surprised," she said. "I like to save the mystery and the drama. I never give that away."
More tidbits from the quotable and colorful judge:
What are her best and worst Idol moments?
I don’t have a worst Idol moment. I’ve been spectacular. Yes, I’m gonna toot my own horn. My best moment is every single moment. I’m gonna toot it again.
What nickname would she give herself?
Young Hov. I’m just gonna leave it at that. If you don’t get it, that’s even stranger.
Did she have a favorite gay contestant?
I definitely think Papa Peachez was probably the most dear to my heart, only because I felt that he was such a superstar. But I don’t think he really knew that yet. Whenever I meet someone where I feel like they don’t really know their own worth, it kind of bothers me. I thought he was so exciting. I wanted to see him perform his original music every week. Unfortunately, he got overshadowed by all the other big singers.
What are her thoughts on Amber Holcomb?
What I loved about her was that she got hardly any airtime prior to Vegas. I feel like America didn’t even know she existed until Vegas shows. She already had something going against her. When she sang “My Funny Valentine," it’s like she became a young Whitney Houston. I think everyone was just blown away. I think that it’s really exciting that we got to see her become a superstar, as opposed to already figuring out that she was one of the contenders that was already on everyone’s minds. She needs to come on stage and treat it like she’s fighting for her life, every single night. Last week, for whatever reason -- probably was resting on her laurels thinking, "everybody loves me now, I don’t have to have such a dynamic performance." And then she was in the bottom three. If she comes out there and keeps that sparkle in her eye every single week, and keeps on making it feel like it could be her possible last time on stage, I think that she’ll be fine. I think her voice is out of this world.
How does she feel about winning over new fans since appearing on Idol?
I think God is good. I feel like my entire career and life I've been judged by people who really did not know me. But I definitely think that they probably were right to assume what they had assumed about me, because there was so little to go on out there. If you've only seen videos, and me being crazy, and hearing little things here and there, then obviously you're not going to have any idea who I really am. I'm just happy that Idol producers gave me a shot on the show -- and to be able to show who I really was -- because I feel like I'm every single woman. I really really don't think outside of, maybe some pink wigs, that there's anything that separates me from every other woman in America. I'm just happy that I was given the opportunity.
On the other hand, how does it feel to be a polarizing figure on the show?
I am absolutely just being me. I didn’t know what to expect. I had a lot of anxiety. I felt like, "I know everybody is just going to hate me. Oh well." There were moments in the audition process that I would say to the producers, "I can’t do this anymore, because if everyone is going to give good critique, and I’m going to be the only being honest, then America is going to hate me. I’m going to be seen as mean." And the producers said, "Nicki. Trust me, America is going to appreciate the honesty." And that’s all I had to go on. I had Mike Darnell [Fox's president of alternative programming], and Trish [Kinane, president of entertainment programming at FremantleMedia], and Nigel [Lythgoe, executive producer] telling me to take their word. And that’s what I did. I took their word and I came in every day and I was myself. What people see me doing with the contestants is exactly what I do with my fans. I don’t critique my fans, but I definitely play with my fans and speak to my fans as if they are my friends. That’s why I started giving the contestants nicknames. When I’m laughing on the show, I’m genuinely laughing. I can’t come up there and pretend -- I just can’t do it. I can’t be someone I’m not. I can’t sit there with a phony smile on my face. I can’t do it. I’m happy that people are responding well to it. I definitely didn’t have a preconceived notion of who I was going to be on that panel.