How waitressing prepared Nicki Minaj, hip-hop's highest-earning woman, for success

Nicki Minaj is the latest celebrity to lend a hand to struggling college students.
Paras Griffin | Getty Images

As the highest paid woman in hip-hop, Nicki Minaj has found enormous success in a male-dominated industry, earning $16 million this year.

For T Magazine's The Greats issue, the rapper spoke with bestselling author Roxane Gay about her climb to the top and the factors that have set her apart from her competition.

Reminiscing about the early stages of her career — which included singing alongside rappers and working odd jobs — Minaj describes how she used her time as a waitress to find inspiration and practice songwriting.

"I would take people's order and then a rap might come to me just by what they're wearing or what they said or did," says Minaj, "and I would go in the kitchen and write it down, put it in the back of my little thing or my apron, and by the time I was done I would have all of these sheets of paper thrown around everywhere with raps."

Minaj isn't the only super-successful individual who's worked menial jobs on the way to the top.

Shark Tank investor Daymond John worked as a waiter at Red Lobster for five years while developing his FUBU clothing line. Self-made millionaire before becoming a successful entrepreneur, and billionaire Warren Buffett worked as a newspaper delivery boy for the Washington Post before becoming the successful investor he is today.

At the Iconic Tour in Los Angeles earlier this year, Robbins spoke about how his job as a janitor offered him the space to really consider what he wanted.

"If you can find a place where you can do something that gives you freedom and gives you a chance to really take control of your own time, it leads toward the idea of maybe owning your own business," he said.

Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook!

Don't miss: