Nicki Minaj was honored with the Game Changer Award at the Billboard Women in Music award ceremony on Thursday night (Dec. 12). Other honorary artists included Taylor Swift for Woman of the Decade, Billie Eilish for Woman of the Year, Rosalía for Rising Star, Alanis Morissette for the Icon Award, Brandi Carlile for the Trailblazer Award, Alicia Keys for the Impact Award and Megan Thee Stallion for the Powerhouse Award.
While accepting her award, Minaj made a touching speech that paid tribute to the life and impact of Juice WRLD. Minaj remembered touring with the late rapper and used her speech to advocate for mental health awareness.
“I recently had the pleasure of working and touring with Juice WRLD,” she began. “I had a great conversation with him one day and while we walked to the stage he held my hand and told me to stay calm and to pray... and in that moment with him, I actually did feel calm.”
Calling Juice a “kindred spirit,” she said that although she was receiving a great honor, she didn’t feel comfortable talking about herself when “someone so important to our culture just died.”
“Looking back now, I wish I did something differently or said something to help,” she continued. “He was honest and pure about what he felt and that inspired me.”
Minaj sent her condolences to Juice’s girlfriend, family and friends and reminded the audience to be forgiving and understanding.
“Drugs isn’t the problem; it’s the way we fix our problem,” she said. “It’s so important that we don’t pass judgement, so that people don’t feel ashamed to speak up and ask for help. It’s so important we talk about mental heath, ‘cause people are dying.”
She went on to describe how, as entertainers, artists feel an immense pressure to never share their struggles.
“We can’t have a bad day,” she said. “It’s abnormal to be ‘on’ all the time, but that’s what we singed up for. We’re not allowed to complain, we’re not allowed to be human, we’re not allowed to have a bad day because we’re so blessed.”
Addressing the women in the audience, she condemned this, saying, “We’re allowed to be human and not to beat yourself up for doing that.”
Minaj appeared on Future and Juice WRLD’s 2018 collaborated mixtape, WRLD On Drugs. The two toured through Europe together on the Nicki WRLD Tour earlier this year.
Juice passed away on Sunday (Dec. 8) after suffering a seizure at the Chicago Midway Airport. The young rapper had battled with a Percocet addiction and depression.
Watch Minaj’s full acceptance speech below.