Nicki Minaj has taken her image as Queen Barb quite literally over the past few years, often dolled up in over-the-top wigs accentuated with layers of makeup and false lashes, but for her new Elle magazine cover, the YMCMB rapper stripped down to the bare essentials.

Nicki appears in Elle's April issue with her platinum-blond tresses, but it's immediately obvious that she's wearing considerably less makeup than she usually does. The transformation seemed to be a bit of a shock even for her.

"When I saw myself with barely any makeup at all, it was such a ... like, I'm so, so attached to my pink lipstick, it's hard," she said. "I feel that it's become a part of me. To go in front of the camera, without pink lips or big ol' crazy lashes — you know, nothing — I felt naked. It was scary! So this photo shoot was a real accomplishment in my eyes."

Nicki's toned-down cover comes just a couple of months after news broke that she'd parted ways with hairstylist Terrence Davidson, who was responsible for hooking her up with those wild wigs. Some sources speculated that Nicki made the move as she plans to revamp her image, while Davidson cited "creative differences" for the breakup.

Read more about Nicki's Elle makeunder over at MTV Style.

In addition to stripping away the layers of makeup for Elle, Minaj, who has earned a reputation for her tough-as-nails demeanor, also opened up about some of the childhood struggles that shaped her life. "I went through a lot of bullying early on," she revealed. "Girls made my life a living hell. We had come to America from a different country. My brother and I had accents. It was very tough. So I've always put up this wall — it was a self-defense mechanism growing up — because I was almost expecting people to attack me. And I still have it. It's sad."

She even dropped a bit of advice for women everywhere, emphasizing the need for self-respect. "Even if you're doing a 9-to-5 job, treat yourself like a boss," she said. "Not arrogant, but be sure of what you want — and don't allow people to run anything for you without your knowledge. You want everyone to know, 'OK, I can't play games with her. I have to do right by this woman.' That's what it's all about."

Nicki Minaj is currently a judge on "American Idol," but she plans to start recording new music for her third album soon.