One of the most famous rappers in the world, Cardi B blew up the music scene when she dropped her single “Bodak Yellow” in 2017. After that, she quickly became a household name, delighting fans with her unabashed personality, her bold and sexy style, her authentic candor, and her ability to drop quotable Cardi B wisdom seemingly every other sentence — lest we forget her epic and uncensored Instagram rants.
But Cardi B wasn’t always the powerful celeb that she is now. Rather, she actually had quite the rough start in life, and had to fight tooth and nail for literally everything she has. Plus, she faced multiple obstacles along the way, forcing her to take a route through life that wasn’t exactly ripe for opportunity. But Cardi B didn’t let the world knock her down. Instead, she managed to take it over. Read on to learn all about the stunning transformation of Cardi B, from rags to riches.
She was “a very fragile child”
Although the world knows her as Cardi B, the name she was given at birth in 1992 by her Dominican father and Trinidadian mother was Belcalis Almanzar, according to Fader magazine. She came of age in New York City and had a pretty strict upbringing, as her mother wouldn’t let her attend sleepovers for fear she’d become intimate too early, or fall prey to opportunistic and abusive men. Additionally, Cardi B described herself as “a very fragile child,” according to GQ.
The main reason Cardi B was so vulnerable was because of her health. “My mom used to cry a lot because she used to be scared that I would fall asleep and die of an asthma attack,” she revealed in an interview with the men’s magazine. Her asthma was so severe, in fact, that she would spend time in the hospital for weeks at a time because of it. “People used to tell my mom, ‘She’s not going to make it.'” she continued, showing just how dire the condition was. Fortunately for all of us, Cardi B is still here, and she’s stronger than ever.
“There’s no hood hooder than my hood”
New York City can be a pretty glamorous place, but the part of it where Cardi B is from — she moved from Washington Heights, where her grandmother’s house sits, to Highbridge in the Bronx in middle school — is not exactly a tourist trap. “There’s no hood hooder than my hood,” she proclaimed in an interview with i-D. “I had to toughen up when we moved to the Bronx in the sixth grade, because if you don’t then people will pick on you.” That’s a really intense experience for a child so young to learn — you’d think it would be more paramount to focus on things like band practice and math homework at that age, not basic survival.
Unfortunately for Cardi B, she stood out in her new school, and that attracted attention to her. “I was getting picked on for the way I dressed,” she continued. “I got jumped in the sixth grade real bad and after that, it changed me. It really, really did change me.” That’s nothing that any child should ever have to go through.
Here’s what she says were the positive takeaways from being in a gang
Growing up where Cardi B did, the pressure to join a gang was real — something she did when she was 16. But she wouldn’t advise doing the same because of one simple reason: it’s not profitable. “That’s why I don’t talk about it much,” she revealed in an interview with GQ magazine. “Because I wouldn’t want a young person, a young girl, to think it’s okay to join it.” That explains why she’s not more vocal about that aspect of her life.
She’s 100 percent sincere about that reasoning, too. “It’s not about violence,” she continued. “It’s just like — it doesn’t make you money.” And if you’re not making money, it’s going to be tough to pay the bills and put food on the table. You can’t argue with that logic!
That doesn’t mean Cardi B treats her gang affiliation with contempt, though. Rather, she actually says she took some positive things away from her time as an active gang member. “Then again, it’s a great experience,” she admitted in an interview with i-D. “I wouldn’t be able to rap about the things that I rap about now [without it].”
Work and school were hard to juggle
Despite the pressures that Cardi B dealt with growing up, she was interested in academics and enjoyed learning. She attended the Renaissance High School for Musical Theater and Technology, then enrolled in community college in Manhattan after graduation in 2010. There, she took courses in French, Western Civilization, and political science. “I thought I could be a history teacher one day, but what turned me off was when they told me what you get paid,” she recalled in an interview with i-D. “I didn’t like that.” Fair point!
Additionally, Cardi B had a lot going on during those years, so after a few semesters she ended up dropping out of school. At the time, she was also working full time at the Amish Market, a grocery store, which didn’t pay very well. “I was working all week [at the market] and I still was making only, like, 250 f***ing dollars,” she shared in an interview with Fader. Clearly, then, it was high time to find a more lucrative endeavor.
Stripping empowered her
After getting fired from the Amish Market for giving a co-worker items under cost, one of Cardi B’s managers at the store suggested that she try stripping. “He was like, ‘You’re so pretty, you got a nice body.’ He told me to go across the street to New York Dolls, the strip club,” she shared in an interview with Fader. So at the age of 19, she started stripping — and for the first time in her life, making realmoney.
With that money came freedom for Cardi B, as at the time, she was broke and living with an abusive ex-boyfriend (and his two pit bulls) in a room in his mom’s house. “It really saved me from a lot of things,” she confessed in an interview with Vlad TV.
But even though stripping allowed Cardi B to get out of an abusive situation and become financially independent, she didn’t exactly love it, and her self-esteem took some hits as she wasn’t as confident about her body as she used to be. To that end, she made some body modifications to stay fiscally viable.
“I don’t really know what’s in my a** right now”
Cardi B is well-known for her stunning bod, with her ample bosom and shapely, round backside. And she’s candid on how that shape came to be, and absolutely happy to flaunt it. “Do you think I paid for my a** and my t****** for me not to show it?” she asked in an interview with Vibe magazine. “If I like my body and I want to show it off, I’m well within my right to do so.” Amen, Cardi!
The rapper’s behind came to be at age 22 in a basement apartment in Queens, where in an illegal procedure, a woman injected her backside with filler sans anesthesia. “It was the craziest pain ever,” she revealed in an interview with GQ. “I felt like I was gonna pass out.” That sounds awful, but she says the end result was worth it — though she wishes she could have gone about it in a safer manner. “I don’t really know what’s in my a** right now,” she shared in an interview with Vlad TV. Yikes!
As for her bust, she got that taken care of in the Dominican Republic.
Landing Love & Hip Hop
If you’ve ever dropped by Cardi B’s Instagram page, you know it’s an entertaining amalgam of gorgeous selfies, self-promotion, music snaps, the occasional meme, and of course her trademark epicrants. She’s been on the platform since 2013, throwing shade, dropping bombs, and always seemingly outdoing herself.
It was that candor and savvy on social media that helped Cardi B land a spot on Season 6 of Love & Hip Hop in 2016, the VH1reality show that follows notable people in the hip hop music industry. At first she was cast in a supporting role, as the producers didn’t think she was leading material — which they soon realized, she was. “It’s like, why would y’all doubt me? Like, I have seven hundred thousand bajillion followers,” she shared in an interview with Fader. “I’m telling them like, ‘Yo, I have a brand. I’m not even [an] artist and I fill out clubs.'” Obviously the rest was history, and Cardi B continued her ascent to superstar status.
Slamming into success
Cardi B’s biggest breakthrough happened not when someone gave her something, but when she seized the opportunity to send her art out into the world. In 2017, she dropped her single “Bodak Yellow,” which took the hip hop scene by storm. The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Charts later that year, rendering her the first female rapper to earn the honor in nearly 20 years. She also knocked Taylor Swift out of the top spot — talk about dropping a bomb right out of the gate!
At the time, Cardi B didn’t realize the significance of the song’s success. “When I got to number one, I didn’t even know that no woman has done that since 1998,” she revealed in an interview with i-D. “I didn’t know how important it was for the community or the minorities.” Indeed it was, and after that, millions of people were hanging on to her every word, eagerly waiting to see what she’d do next.
Her dental work inspired people
But before Cardi B birthed “Bodak Yellow” into existence, she embarked on yet another self-improvement project in 2016: she had her crooked smile fixed — or as she raps in the song, “Got a bag and fixed my teeth.” That explains why her smile is perfectly straight and perfectly white in the video. Take that, haters!
But “Bodak Yellow” had another impact on the world, other than blowing everyone’s minds — it brought a ton of new clients to Cardi B’s dentist. After the video was released, Dr. Catrise Austin’s business skyrocketed, according to a video TMZ posted in 2017. “Since the song ‘Bodak Yellow’ that just went number one this week went out, things have been incredible,” she gushed in the video. “My business has literally tripled, and I have seen so many different types of people… Cardi B has totally inspired a lot of people to improve their smiles.” This is so wonderfully wholesome!
“Anything a man can do, I can do”
It might be surprising for some people to learn that Cardi B is a feminist, something that’s not always readily apparent in some of her lyrics. But the rapper is indeed a member of the sisterhood, and of course, she does it in a way all her own. “Being a feminist is such a great thing and some people feel like someone like me can’t be as great as that,” she explained in a 2018 interview with i-D. “But then some people are smart but they don’t have no common sense.” No lies detected.
For Cardi B, feminism isn’t a complicated concept, either; it’s something she breaks down easily. “But being a feminist is real simple; it’s that a woman can do things the same as a man,” she continued. “Anything a man can do, I can do. I can finesse, I can hustle. We have the same freedom.” And with everything the rapper has accomplished so far in her life, it’s so very easy to see how true that is.
On again, off again with Offset
If you’re a hardcore fan of Cardi B, you no doubt have been following all of the spicy details about her super sexy romance with Migos rapper Offset. Nothing about their relationship has been boring, from Offset’s super public 2017 on-stage proposal (that turned out to be staged), to the news of their secret wedding one month before that verypublic proposal.
And all along the way, the pair have broken up and gotten back together multiple times, taking all of their fans on a roller coaster ride. For one, just days before Offset dropped down on one knee in front of ecstatic fans, Cardi B posted a picture of herself on a now-deleted Instagram post, along with the text “single.” She amended that one day later in another now-deleted post, and all was well again.
Then the pair were reported to have split again in 2018, according to TMZ, after leaked text messages showed that Offset was seeking an intimate partner that was not, in fact, his wife. But by early 2019, the couple appeared to be together again, according to People magazine. Whiplash, anyone?
Her career and her child come first
On July 10, 2018, Cardi B gave birth to her first child, Kulture Kiari Cephus, according to a post on her Instagram page. Congrats, Cardi and Offset, on your bundle of joy! She’s perfect!
Cardi B has also shared some tender baby moments on social media to the delight of her fans, such as the emotional momentKulture said “mama” for the first time — and Cardi B promptly melted. “After a week of only saying papa! She saying mama! Happy 7 months Kulture! We love you,” she wrote in the caption. Awww!
Having a child has tempered Cardi B, who says that becoming a mom has changed her priorities. “Before, I cared about everything — relationship, gossip. Now I don’t feel like I have the time to please people,” she revealed in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar. “I don’t care about anything anymore — just my career and my kid.” Nothing wrong with that, Cardi.
“Of course the success of people like me scares people”
There are a lot of things that Cardi B is proud of about herself, and rightfully so, as she’s proven time and time again to be a true original. In particular, one of the things that she’s certain of is that people of color like herself are a force to be reckoned with, and an example that people look up to. Plus, it’s not lost on her that she knows it can make some more conservative people uncomfortable. “Of course the success of people like me scares people, that’s why they belittle us,” she proclaimed in an interview with i-D. “We always influence.” So whether it’s music, fashion, or sports, Cardi B knows the world is watching.
True to form, Cardi B pays no mind to the haters, no matter how powerful they may be. “People like Donald Trump, they’re always going to make us feel like we’re less. But it’s okay, because a b**** like me knows the truth,” she continued. “It don’t matter if the government and the Republicans try to make us feel like we’re not, cos we is. I know the truth.” Thus spake Cardi.
A momentous first
In 2019, Cardi B historically broke a glass ceiling on her own terms when she was awarded Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammy Awards — the first woman ever to win the honor. With Offset by her side, Cardi B ascended the steps to the stage, and sealed her spot in music history as a rap goddess. And even though she was visibly nervous on stage, she accepted the award humbly and authentically. Congrats, Cardi!
In true Cardi B fashion, the rapper took to Instagram after the ceremony to give another round of thanks to those who supported her along the way. “I wanna keep on saying thank you, thank you, thank you so much everybody,” she gushed in the video. “Every award to me is special to me, from Grammys, AMAs, Billboards, VMAs, Soul Train, Nickelodeon, every award… goes to my mother’s house, and every award to her is just as special.” It’s amazing to see her rewarded for all of the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears that she poured into her music.