If you turn on the radio, the television, or scroll on social media, you probably can’t go too far without seeing Cardi B. The outspoken, energetic, and confident social media star turned rapper, took over 2016 and has been on a rocket towards stardom ever since. With her hit Bodak Yellow recently taking the number one spot on Billboard Hot 100, it’s clear to see that her moment of fame is here for more than just 15 minutes.
But what is it really about Cardi B that has women of color rallying behind her? It’s more than just her music. It’s more than just her comedic personality. It’s more than just her eye catching fashion, or her sharp comebacks on Instagram. Cardi is loved because in any and everything she does, she is simply authentic.
I first encountered Belcalis “Cardi B” Almanzar on social media back in 2015. I didn’t know much about her, other than she was stripper who’s viral videos were turning her into a web sensation. Honestly at first I was a little put off asking myself…… who is this girl? But the more I paid attention to her, the more I fell in love with her blunt antics where she often prided herself in being a “strippa hoe,” using men for money, and retelling candid sex stories in 15 seconds. I myself didn’t always agree, yet it was quite empowering to watch a woman confidently stand in her truth, slamming notions that women had to choose between being respected or being sexual.
Soon Cardi spread her wings to a small stint on popular reality show Love and Hip-Hop, in which I first caught wind of her blossoming career as a rapper. Initially I had my doubts, thinking she would be just another wannabe superstar cast member, but I pressed play on her mixtape Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1 and was pleasantly surprised.
I found myself constantly playing tracks On Fleek and Foreva, finally happy to hear a female voice on a trap beat. She stepped into a genre of music that usually boasts hyper masculinity, and gave women a platform to be just as ruthless. At that point I was under her spell, and like many of my fellow sisters of color I had this intense need to want to see her win. Here’s why:
Cardi B introduced herself to the world the way she wanted to. It was unpolished, it was real, at times harsh, but it was 100% her. Before she started winning, we knew her. We were hooked. We all felt like Cardi was our sister from down the block, although many of us had never even seen her in person. Every step of the way she’s let us in, transforming from a ‘regular degular shmegular girl from the Bronx’ to a force to be reckoned with right before our very eyes.
It is the freedom Cardi represents that pulls at the hearts of women of color. Her successes, her fierce words, her style, her fearlessness to embrace parts of herself others condemn; it’s her beautifully rebellious spirit we connect with. We are often told we are too loud, we’re too arrogant, we’re too sexy, yet Cardi built her career off of being just that. Now she’s stealing the spotlight at the MTV Video Music Awards, shutting down New York Fashion Week, turning heads on red carpets, and celebrating her first number 1 hit.
Seeing a woman like Cardi make it, somehow means there’s room for us to do the same. So yes, our love for Cardi goes beyond her giving women a 2017 anthem. It is about the idea that the keys to success lie in being yourself and working your ass off. *presses plays Bodak Yellow for the 100th time*