The rapper opened up about how her mom inspired her career in a new interview with Tyra Banks to promote her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover

By Hanna Flanagan
July 20, 2021 07:51 AM
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Megan Thee Stallion SI Swim
Credit: James Macari/ Sports Illustrated

Megan Thee Stallion grew up watching her mom, the late rapper Holly "Holly-Wood" Thomas, in the recording studio — but the Grammy winner waited until she was 18 to prove she had the skills to follow in her footsteps.

Speaking with Tyra Banks about becoming the first rapper to ever land a coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover, Megan opened up about launching her career and recalled her mom's hilarious reaction.

"My mom was a rapper. She didn't know I wanted to be a rapper, but I would literally watch her in the studio all day. I'm like, 'This lady is everything,'" the "Body" rapper told the former supermodel. "I didn't want to tell her that I could rap until I was 18. I wanted to be perfect to her."

"Finally, I went to college. I was like, 'Okay, I've probably held this secret in long enough,'" Megan says. "I started going to the studio by myself...I didn't want her to shut me down. I didn't want her to say, 'You're not serious about this. You don't know.'"

Megan continued, "I finally came to her — I might have been 20 — and I was like, 'I can rap.' She was like, 'No you can't...let me hear.' I was like, 'Okay, Mama. Don't whoop me, but I'm about to curse, okay?' So, I started going off and I'm cursing."

The "Hot Girl Summer" hitmaker reenacted Thomas' shocked facial expression: "She's like, 'Where did you learn all those words?!'"

During the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit interview, Megan (who's currently pursuing a degree in health administration from Texas Southern University) also explained why she's still chasing her collegiate dreams even after finding success in the music industry: "My grandmother was a teacher. She was like, 'Megan, I don't care what you do but you need to get that education.'"

She told Banks one of her "multiple dreams" is to open her own assisted living facilities and hire her college classmates to run them, explaining, "I want to create an environment where the elderly can go...but still be treated like family."

The rapper, whose father died when she was a teenager, lost Thomas to brain cancer in 2019 and then lost her grandmother shortly after her mother died.

Last year, Megan told PEOPLE she wants to get her degree to honor her matriarchs. "I'm doing it for me, but I'm also doing it for the women in my family who made me who I am today."

Listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Megan Thee Stallion's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover and the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.