Cardi B made a career off being outspoken, and she hasn’t stopped voicing her opinion since reaching next-level fame.
The 25-year-old rapper was born Belcalis Almanzar in the Bronx, to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic and Trinidad. Known for the record-breaking 2017 hit single “Bodak Yellow,” she first gained recognition for getting real with fans in hilarious videos she posted online.
Two Grammy nominations later, despite her busy schedule, Cardi B still finds the time to educate the public on the inequalities that low-income communities face. She’s also made female empowerment her mission from day one.
The former viral Vine star has always been transparent about her rocky path to mainstream success. Raw honesty is part of her appeal. Before landing on the VH1 reality show Love & Hip Hopand playing shows like JAY-Z’s Tidal x Charity sold-out concert for natural disaster relief, she danced in exotic clubs to pay for college and escape domestic abuse.
“America has the poor remaining poor. They give so many things to the poor so they can remain comfortable,” Cardi B said in April, during an Instagram Live on how she thinks the government unfairly “scams” poor people out of their money.
Her perspective on how the US government treats people living in poverty is a personal one. The superstar has opened up about growing up in a low-income household on many occasions.
Cardi B had reason to say the first thing she’d do if she became president would be to raise wages. When her mother asked her to move out of her house at the age of 18, she found herself living with an abusive boyfriend and she barely had enough money to eat. She’s detailed how discouraging finding work can be — employers insisted she was underqualified for work that she felt required minimal skills.
After eventually getting fired from a grocery store job, Cardi B’s former manager suggested she try exotic dancing, and she did.
Like many women in the US workforce, Cardi B picked up on how she was being judged for her physical appearance right away.
“Sometimes it makes you feel like damn, you’re not even good enough,” she said in a 2017 interview. “I used to see girls who had a nicer body than me, make more money than me and it used to make me crazy,” she remembered. Determined to earn as much as her colleagues, Cardi B said she ultimately underwent illegal and dangerous plastic surgery to fit in.
The rapper admitted recent fame has only added to the pressure she feels to look a certain way to be successful at her job. She continues shutting down anyone who criticizes her appearance and pointing out the double standards of body positivity, namely in the #FreeTheNipple movement, which she believes isn’t inclusive to women of all sizes.
Cardi B has discussed the workplace discrimination she experienced on multiple levels. Early in her career, she saw how the pay gap — which has been proven to be much larger for women of color, with black women being paid about 65% of what white men are paid, and Hispanic women less than 60% — was at play.
“I always loved my skin complexion, but I noticed the Russian and white girls were making more money than a girl like me and it started to make me wonder if I would make more money if I was light-skinned,” she said about the disparity in 2017.
The star doesn’t think women of color are the only group facing racial discrimination in the US.
“I feel like, you being a minority person, you get extremely discriminated [against] in this country. Per-i-od. Period,” she emphasized in that same Instagram live stream in April.
Cardi B is committed to standing up for marginalized people— even if it means asking for help understanding certain issues. In a video posted in June, she described why the treatment of migrant families separated at the US border made her “sick,” addressing the hypocrisy of citizens who benefit from immigrant labor but continue to discriminate against them.
The first to stand up for others, Cardi B doesn’t hold back when it comes to defending herself. Celebrity status hasn’t shielded the star from encountering racial prejudice, she says. In 2017, she took to social media to call out Albany security and police, whom she claimed were racist and wrongfully ejected her team from a hotel.
Don’t think for a second Cardi B is afraid of getting political either. Most recently, she urged New York residents to vote during the state’s 2018 primary election.
Cardi B may be making millions now, but the social security advocate isn’t done vocalizing her disappointment in government spending.
"I'm from New York and the streets is always dirty, we was voted the dirtiest city in America,” Cardi complained in March, questioning how taxpayer money is used to improve the day-to-day-lives of city dwellers. "There's still rats in the trains," she noted.
The Bronx native and former gang member, who’s warned her fans not to follow in her footsteps, still watches out for her neighborhood. She donated $8,000 to the family of a 15-year-old murder victim in the borough in 2018.
Above every other social justice issue, Cardi B consistently supports women. She frequently asks them to lift each other up and reminds young girls if she “made it,” they can, too.
The first female rapper to land three No. 1 hits on the Billboard 100 single chart list doesn’t think education, economic background, or ethnicity should complicate fighting for gender equality.
"They think feminism is great and only a woman that can speak properly, that has a degree, who is a boss, a businessperson … they think only Michelle Obama can be a feminist," Cardi B said to i-D in February, about people who can’t wrap their heads around feminism.
“Anything a man can do, I can do. I can finesse, I can hustle. We have the same freedom,” she assured anyone who’s doubted her abilities. “I do feel equal to a man.”
Cardi B’s ready and “excited” to hit the stage in her first solo performance since giving birth at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival In New York’s Central Park on Sept. 29 — and continue speaking out for change.
The 2018 Global Citizen Festival in New York will be presented for the very first time by Citi. MSNBC and Comcast NBCUniversal will air a live simulcast of the Festival on MSNBC and MSNBC.com. The Festival will also be livestreamed on YouTube and Twitter, presented by Johnson & Johnson. Proud partners of the 2018 Global Citizen Festival include Global Citizen’s global health partner and major partner Johnson & Johnson, and major partners P&G, CHIME FOR CHANGE Founded by Gucci, Verizon, House of Mandela, iHeartMedia, and NYC Parks. Associate partners include Microsoft, Great Big Story, and One Championship.