The untold truth of Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott is a singular force of nature. The rapper, writer, and producer has more than earned her famous iconic status, with a successful career that’s thriving, decades after it began in a big way. Now a recipient of the coveted MTV Video Vanguard Award, Elliott has secured a place for herself in the upper echelons of musical royalty.

Despite the fact that she’s undergone quite the stunning transformation, however, Elliott is still the same woman that’s she’s always been: extremely shy and very spiritual at the core. But that doesn’t mean she lives like a pauper or shuns the paychecks when they come in — far from it. Her car collection is the stuff of dreams, as is her real estate portfolio, her trophy cabinet, and her wardrobe.

But if you think you know everything about the “Get Your Freak On” rapper, you might be surprised that there are still quite a few things to discover. So without further ado, this is the untold truth of Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott.

Missy Elliott is a proud black woman

When Missy Elliott first burst onto the music scene, she made a huge splash. But that doesn’t mean she had it easy — quite the opposite, as she’s a woman of color who’s not obsessed with being skinny. So when she received the 2018 Essence Black Women in Music Visionary Award, she told her black female audience how valuable they truly are. “I want all of you women in here to know that you’re beautiful,” she implored in the speech. “You gotta believe in yourself. Because there are going to be times that people tell you [that] you can’t do it or you don’t look the part. But I am a walking testimony.”

Even though Elliott has struggled because of her race, she wouldn’t trade it for the world, as it’s shaped the woman she is today. “We are survivors, and once we know that, we are unstoppable,” she proclaimed in an interview with Elle. “I always said I wouldn’t be no other color, because if there’s one thing about us, we never really had, but we know how to — we know how to survive.” 

Missy Elliott may literally be a genius

According to an interview in Elle magazine, Missy Elliott was told by her high school that she has an IQ that renders her a literal genius. That was despite the fact that, at one point, Elliott was in danger of failing all of her classes — but it clearly was not because she lacked smarts.

That’s not the only time Elliott’s intelligence has been documented, as her lyrical genius has been apparent to the esteemed producer Timbaland for decades. “How did she know to pick those words to reverse?” he wondered in an interview with Tidal. “How did she know it would give it that rhythm? That cadence? That’s what is ingenious about it; that’s what caught me.”

Indeed, Elliott has always struck Timbaland as someone who’s ahead of the creative curve by leaps and bounds. “Missy was a person who pushed me, who watched what I did, and turned around to make a masterpiece,” he continued. “It’s unexplainable. Unorthodox, but light. She makes something that’s not the norm normal.”

Missy Elliott didn't realize just how innovative she was

When Missy Elliott gets absorbed in her career, it’s quite easy for her to forget to stop and smell the roses. She also didn’t realize for a long time just how creative she was, or what kind of impact she would have on other artists. “I was just going, going, going,” she recalled in an interview with Marie Claire. “It wasn’t resonating what was happening.” That includes both performing at the Super Bowl in 2015 and doing Carpool Karaoke with Michelle Obama in 2016 — neither of which are small potatoes! 

Fortunately Elliott was able to find time to reflect on all that she’s done, and she can see just how innovative she truly is. “Now that I’ve had a chance to slow down, I look back at stuff, and I look back at my ‘She’s a B***h’ video [1999], and at the time I didn’t even think about it,” she continued. “But I look at it now and I’m like, ‘This is still so many years ahead.'” It really is, Missy!

When Missy Elliott got famous, these three superstars called her in one month

If there’s one thing that Missy Elliott has always been confident about, it’s that she was born to be famous — something she knew as early as kindergarten. “The teacher would ask what everyone wanted to be and I said: ‘I’m going to be a superstar.’ And everyone in the class would laugh,” she revealed in a 2019 interview with The Guardian. “I wonder if those kids remember me to this day, because I remember everyone.” Who’s laughing now?

However, when Elliott proved that prognostication to be true years later, it was a lot that hit her all at once. In fact, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston each called her within a single month, showing just how suddenly everything went down. “It happened so fast that I’m just now getting a chance to sit back and re-evaluate everything,” she continued. “This year has allowed me to look back over my life and be like: ‘Wow.'” 

When Missy Elliott was a child, she had imaginary conversations with these celebs

If you ask Missy Elliott just how her fame and fortune came to be, she wouldn’t say it’s something that’s happened to her. Rather she would instead explain that her success is something that she herself manifested. “It’s funny because I was just telling somebody that everything I spoke, I’ve done,” she revealed in an interview with Marie Claire. “And that’s how powerful the tongue is.”

Using words to make her dreams come true started early on for Elliott, who used to pretend to speak with her favorite entertainers in her girlhood bedroom. “I used to sit in the house and act like I was having conversations with Janet and Michael and Madonna and whoever,” she continued. “I then would go and say my thank yous for award shows that I hadn’t made it to yet. I had speeches, and I would be in the mirror thanking my mama.” Of course, Elliott doesn’t have to do that anymore, as she gets to do it for real on the reg.

This is the first thing Missy Elliott did when she got rich

According to info from Celebrity Net Worth, Missy Elliott probably isn’t worried about how she’s paying the rent: She’s reportedly worth $50 million, which is quite a bit of cash. However, long before she had those millions, she knew that she’d be rich one day and told her mother so when she was a child. “I told my mother, ‘I’m going to buy you a house, and I’m going to buy you an elevator in case your legs start hurting,” she shared in an interview with Marie Claire. “And she would laugh and be like, ‘All right, okay.'”

Little did her mother know that Elliott would make good on that promise one day, something that Elliott is extremely proud of. “When I got my first check, I didn’t even buy myself a house first,” she continued. “I bought my mother a house. Put a Bible in the soil and built it from the ground up.” Now that is a dream realized!

Before her Super Bowl performance in 2015, Missy Elliott was hospitalized

In 2015, Missy Elliott checked a big item off of her bucket list: She performed in the halftime show at the Super Bowl, one of the biggest stages out there. And though Elliott was extremely excited to join Katy Perry on stage, she was also incredibly nervous, to the point she had to seek medical care the night before. “I ended up in the hospital for having an anxiety attack,” she confessed in an interview with The Guardian. “I think any artist who has had a break such as that one would be anxious.” She added that Perry had encouraged her to perform new material, but she was unsure if the crowd would remember her old material, so she held back. As if we could forget!

Anxiety isn’t a foreign concept to Elliott, who often gets nervous when she’s about to put new music out. “I’m always anxious whenever I drop anything because you just never know if they’re going to get it,” she continued. “So I’m always biting my nails and pacing the floor.”

When Missy Elliott gets on stage, she blocks the world out

Missy Elliott isn’t shy about the fact that she’s, well, extremely shy, something she mentions often in interviews. But once you get her on the stage, she experiences a switch in her personality and becomes the version of herself that adores performing. “I was like that as a child,” she explained in an interview with The Guardian. “We would have family reunions and they always wanted me to get up on the table to perform. After an hour of them begging me, I would finally get on the table and become this other little kid.” She added that after that happened, it was near impossible to get her to stop.

That’s not so different from how Elliott operates today, as, once she’s in front of the audience, she goes to a whole different place. “Once I set foot on the stage, I block out everything,” she continued. “I can be in my own world.”

Missy Elliott has fond memories mentoring this major music icon

Believe it or not, Missy Elliott, along with Timbaland, wrote songs for Destiny’s Child when Beyoncé was only 16 years old. And as Elliott recalls the experience, Beyoncé stood out without making a lot of noise. “It wasn’t that Beyoncé came in and was loud or ‘Look at me, I’m gonna be the star,'” she recalled in an interview with The Guardian. “She was very sweet. But when she went in the booth, that’s when I knew.” One listen to those incredible pipes was all it took for not only Elliott, but the rest of us to figure it out, too.

Several years later, Elliott asked Beyoncé to appear on her track “Nothing Out There for Me,” and Beyoncé obliged. “I said: ‘Hey, I want you to rap a little bit.’ And she was like: ‘Miss, if I sound crazy, don’t put this out,” she continued. “And I said: ‘Trust me, B, I’m not gonna allow you to sound crazy.’ She went in there and now she’s rapping better than me!” What a great story!

You probably don't know just how many songs Missy Elliott has produced

While Missy Elliott has a super successful solo career, there were long stretches when she didn’t put out any new, original work of her own. But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t doing anything at all — far from it. Rather, she was writing and producing for a host of artists, something that sometimes is overlooked. “A lot of people don’t know a lot of records that I’ve written or produced, so that’s a highlight for me as a woman,” she shared in an interview with the Associated Press (via Billboard). “I always said if a man would have done half the records that I’ve done we would know about it. But we don’t know all the records I’ve done for other artists.”

So just how many projects has Elliott been involved with? According to Elle, Elliott has written over 500 songs for everyone from Ciara to Janet Jackson to Mariah Carey. She’s also won an impressive amount of accolades and earned the admiration of everyone from Björk to Thom Yorke.

This is what Missy Elliott wants to do in the future

If you’re hoping for more new music from Missy Elliott in the future, chances are she has some material that hasn’t been released yet, as she’s known for being a perfectionist. “I most definitely got some heaters,” she teased in an interview with the Associated Press (via Billboard). “I’m not going to say when they’re coming because, you know, I always think that’s the setup when you say it’s coming and you give a date and you don’t drop on that date — oh man! It’s like those fans out there will stone you.” We’ll just have to wait and see when she’ll dispense with some of her gems, then.

Additionally, Elliott would like to do more than just work on music in the future, as she wants to branch out into another area. “I want to dip my foot in some acting,” she continued. “And most definitely want to mentor upcoming artists and give them the wisdom that was given to me.”

Pharrell Williams said that Missy Elliott "defied" physics

In addition to working closely with Timbaland for many years, Missy Elliott has also worked with the talented Pharrell Williams on a number of different projects. But when they were just starting out, they faced a number of limitations and were conditioned to expect to be denied over and over again. “We came up in a time where we were always told no,” he revealed in an interview with Elle. “Where we were always placed in a box.”

But Elliott wasn’t having any of that, according to Williams. Instead, she chose to break down any doors that stood in her way, thanks to her incredibly gifted mind and brilliantly trained ear. “And she defied it. Over and over again,” he continued. “She defied the physics that were dictated to us. She ignored the gravity of standards and prejudices and stereotypes. She ignored that gravity.” What a compliment, especially coming from Williams!

Missy Elliott has to be alone when she records

Despite the fact that Missy Elliott has worked side by side with fellow greats like Timbaland and Pharrell Williams for decades, when she goes into the studio to record her own material, she goes solo — every time. “I’m private about recording, because it allows me to be myself and not have to worry,” she confessed in an interview with Elle. “The energy has to be right for me. If I’m in that booth and somebody’s energy is off and not really, like, moving their head or something, it may make me start to doubt what I’m doing.” 

Indeed Elliott is extremely cautious about how she uses her time in the studio, as it’s something that requires her to be vulnerable. “You gotta be careful in the energies that you let come in the room,” she continued. “Because it will begin to make you doubt and fear and not want to take that risk.” Fair enough, Missy!

Though extremely shy, Missy Elliott loves to be provocative

One of Missy Elliott’s most famous looks is the giant, inflatable black costume that she wore in the video for “The Rain” and wore again at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards. Well, it turns out that the getup had a real purpose besides just looking cool. “To me the outfit was a way to mask my shyness behind all the chaos of the look,” she explained in an interview with Elle. “Although I am shy, I was never afraid to be a provocative woman.” 

Elliott also drew strength from the outfit, which set her apart. “The outfit was a symbol of power. I loved the idea of feeling like a hip-hop Michelin woman,” she continued. “I knew I could have on a blow-up suit and still have people talking. It was bold and different.” She added that she’s always been creative and innovative in her own way, which is unparalleled by anyone else. No lies detected!

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