Hanging with Nicki Minaj is a sure sign you've finally made it ... Jeremy Meeks now knows the feeling.

Nicki and the "hot felon"-turned-model were hanging Thursday at the amfAR Gala at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cannes. They stopped for this pic ... along with fashion designer Philipp Plein.

But the real story here is a former really bad dude -- once barred from entering the UK because of his long ass rap sheet -- has risen from the ashes and now parties with one of the hottest female rappers in the game.

#OnlyInAmerica