December 18, 2015


Meet Ariana Neal, the Young Nicki Minaj on ABC Family's 'Nicki'

Turns out Nicki Minaj didn't go with any of our suggestions to play her in her upcoming autobiographical ABC Family series, but that's alright, because the girl who got the gig seems absolutely awesome. 

Per today's casting announcement, the role of Nicki's Young Nicki has gone to Ariana Neal, who has appeared in Fruitvale Station, Get Hard, and, as the baby version of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, in VH1's CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story. The actress' chops are immediately evident from her résumé and a string of clips on both her website and YouTube account.

We'll dig in a little more in a moment, but first, watch above as Ariana Neal annihilates Sam Smith's "Lay Me Down" in a video posted in May 2015.

Ariana Neal also appeared on America's Got Talent's fifth season; her YouTube channel stretches all the way back to when she was a 4-year-old singing Michael Jackson's "Smile." Her 2015 clips include Tori Kelly's "Confetti" and Adele's "Hometown Glory."

Here's what Nicki had to say about Neal on Instagram, along with a pair of adorable photos:

"I literally cried watching her taped audition. I demanded to meet her! Sat in a room with her teaching her how to rap by doing a beat on the table & forcing her to stay on beat! Lol. Then pulled out all the attitude she had in her lil body. Haha! She's tough! And so sweet & cute. #ArianaNeal #LilNicki Welcome to the family lil lady bug!"

We'll play you out with a clip of Neal's role in Fruitvale Station, then her fantastic 2011 cover of Bruno Mars' "Grenade." You're gonna melt. Young Nicki's about to be as iconic as Grown Nicki.