Belcalis Almanzar, aka Cardi B, is a rising star with an inspirational success story. The 25-year-old Bronx-born rapper is not only staking her claim in the music industry, she’s also beloved by her millions of social media followers for her “no filter” commentary, making her one of the most entertaining and relatable A-listers of the moment. The “Bodak Yellow” singer’s life is full of fun facts along with a fascinating career trajectory: she hustled her way from an Amish Market in Manhattan to a strip club before starring on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop and ending up at the throne of the Billboard Top 100. Ahead, a deep dive into her past with 30 facts you probably don’t know—but want to—about how Cardi B truly “makes money move.”
Although we know her as Cardi B, true fans know that the musician has a much longer moniker: Belcalis Almanzar. Both names are Spanish translations of Arabic words. Belcalis is thought to be a reference to the Queen of Sheba, while Almanzar—from the Arabic “al mandhar”— apparently translates to “lookout point” or “watchtower.”
The rapper’s mother and father come from Trinidad and the Dominican Republic, respectively. Being raised by two working parents in Highbridge, South Bronx—a predominantly Latino neighborhood—Cardi B grew up surrounded by multicultural influences.
Like many Bronx-born rappers, Cardi B is proud of her hood and credits her upbringing for her success as a rapper. “It’s a great experience,” she told AM New York of her life growing up in the South Bronx. “I wouldn’t be able to rap about the things that I rap about now [if I hadn’t grown up there].”
Although Cardi flaunted her new set of wheels on social media, she admitted she doesn’t have a license or know how to drive.
“I don’t even have a f*cking license,” the rapper said in an Instagram-live selfie after she bought herself a car. “How do you expect me to know how to drive when I’ve taken the train my whole life?” City kids can relate.
But the famed Cardi B stage name didn’t actually originate from the rapper’s birth name, Belcalis Almanzar. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Cardi B explained that her title is actually short for Bacardi (the rum).
“My sister’s name is Hennessy,” Cardi B explained to the talk show host. “So everyone used to call me Bacardi, and I started calling myself Bacardi,” which eventually was shorted to Cardi B.
Cardi B garnered the Bacardi nickname due to the fact that her parents named her sister Hennessy, like the brandy.
There’s not just one star in the family, Hennessy has built up her own social media following, garnering 2.6 million Instagram followers and an avid fan base.
One thing many people don’t know about Cardi B: as a teenager, she worked the cash register at an Amish Market in TriBeCa, on a salary of $250/week.
The rapper was fired from her position at the Manhattan deli when she was nineteen, and her manager suggested she try a different career path. “He was like, ‘You’re so pretty, you got a nice body,'” Cardi told Fader. “He told me to go across the street to New York Dolls, the strip club. That’s when I started stripping.”
In an interview with Khloé Kardashian in 2016, the rapper talked about how she lied to her mom and said she was babysitting to make money, when she was actually stripping.
“I said: ‘Mom, these white people are so rich, and they just want me to take care of their kids,” Cardi B recalled. “‘They’re like eight and nine and I help them with their homework, and they pay me like $100 a day.’ And she was like: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s amazing.'”
On why she started stripping, Cardi B said it was a way to get out of an abusive relationship. “I was living with my boyfriend who was beating my ass,” she explained in a 2016 interview with VLAD TV. “Stripping gave me my own money to leave him.”
Cardi B saved up the money she made as a stripper in hopes that she’d eventually save up enough to invest money in her music career and make her own mix tape.
On social media, Cardi B has spoken candidly about the hate she’s received for having cosmetic procedures done in the past. The rapper admitted that she had her first surgeries done in the hope that she would make more money as a nineteen-year-old dancer.
Cardi joined Love & Hip Hop’s New York cast for season 6. The rapper left the reality show after two seasons to focus all her attention on music. And within months of leaving the small screen, things took off for the musician: she released her second mixtape, signed a multimillion-dollar record deal, then released “Bodak Yellow.”
Arguably the most dramatic moment from her stint on Love & Hip Hop, Cardi B threw a Louboutin heel at a cast member during the 2017 reunion episode, which escalated into an all-out televised brawl.
Even before she made it musically or became a reality tv show star, Cardi B was climbing the ranks of social media celebrity. Because of her “humungous” personality and “stream-of-consciousness genius,” Cardi amassed thousands of followers on social media. But when asked how it makes her feel to have such a large community behind her (24 million people on Instagram alone), the rapper told W: “Like, I can’t believe they love…me? What’s so great about me?”
“Bodak Yellow,” the rapper’s breakout major label debut single, was an instant success, soaring to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The hit was also historic, because the success made Cardi the first solo female rapper to have a number one hit since Lauryn Hill’s 1998 single “Doo Wop (That Thing),” and the fifth female rapper in history to have an album top the charts.
After the chart-topping success of “Bodak Yellow,” Cardi B received a huge bouquet of flowers from Taylor Swift, which the rapper posted on her Instagram, admitting she’s a big T Swift fan.
Like most of us, Cardi B is clearly a huge Beyoncé admirer. And though she gives many female artists shout-outs in the album (Tina Turner, TLC, Rihanna), Beyoncé received four references throughout the 13-track album, which Bustle noted, calculates to a Bey mention every twelve minutes.
Obviously a member of the Bey Hive, Cardi B actually strays further from her genre when it comes to her favorite musician: Madonna. “I met my real life IDOL Madonna,” the rapper wrote in an Instagram post. “I can’t even believe I performed at her event and it was the most meaningful performance ever,” she gushed.
“I grew up with my mom listening to Madonna for hours,” Cardi continued. “I performed ‘Material Girl’ freshman year in high school, listen to her on all my photo shoots to have super confidence and always mentioned her in my interviews. The best part about it is she was everything i thought she would be a liberal kickass feminist bitch. I’m so happy.”
A timeline of Cardi B’s music career shows that the first song the rapper released was a Reggae remix of Shaggy’s “Boom Boom,” featuring Popcaan, which dropped in 2015.
Later that year, Cardi B debuted her first music video for her single “Cheap Ass Weave.” The video featured the rapper getting her nails and hair done at a salon.
Back when Khloé Kardashian had her TV show, Kocktails with Khloé, Cardi B was asked to guest star, entertaining the live studio audience with a super-candid interview.
The rapper has openly admitted to having her teeth fixed, both in interviews and in her lyrics. TMZ reported that after Cardi’s dental shout-out in “Bodak Yellow,” rapping, “Got a bag and fixed my teeth,” had her dentist’s phone ringing off the hook. “People actually wonder: ‘Who is Cardi B’s dentist?'” the doctor explained, adding that business tripled following the release of the single.
On her Instagram, Cardi B posted a video documenting her love for McDonald’s and her pure excitement after receiving a gift card to the golden arches fast food joint. “Imma buy a hunned chicken nuggets, bro,” the rapper told her fans.
The rapper’s recent killer collaboration with Bruno Mars on the “Finesse” remix actually was not at all planned in advance. The two musicians met after one of the “24k Magic” singer’s shows, when they decided to work together and began recording that same night. Mars even shared a photo of the pair on his Instagram with the caption: “I met Cardi B at 3 am after my show in LA backstage where we recorded her verse for Finesse. She walked in the room and she was everything I’d hope she’d be. Never change Cardi!”
Deemed the “Queen of Bling,” manicurist Jenny Bui gives Cardi B her infamous talon nails. Best known as Cardi’s go-to gal, Bui has been doing nails for more than 20 years, building a huge Instagram following and loyal customers at her Bronx and Harlem spa locations. Not for the faint of heart, WWD reports that Cardi’s bedazzled nails take about three hours to perfect.
In a recent interview with GQ, Cardi B admitted she enjoys studying the structure of the American government. “I love political science,” the rapper told the magazine. “I love government. I’m obsessed with presidents. I’m obsessed to know how the system works.”
Getting fired up about the legacy of the late president Franklin D. Rosevelt, Cardi continued: “he helped us get over the Depression, all while he was in a wheelchair. Like, this man was suffering from polio at the time of his presidency, and yet all he was worried about was trying to make America great—make America great again for real. He’s the real ‘Make America Great Again,’ because if it wasn’t for him, old people wouldn’t even get Social Security.”
“When I was doing my album these past couple of months, my privacy has been invaded the most,” Cardi told Sway on his Sirius XM radio show. “I feel like I give people a lot and people still want more,” she explained. “When it comes to my pregnancy, I had people harassing me, stalking me. If it’s not something about me, it’s something about my man.”
Of her upcoming wedding with Offset of Migos, Cardi B told New York Magazine’s The Cut: “The world is not ready for it. Everybody got to be wearing red. And my bridesmaids are gonna be wearing suits, what’s good?” Given Cardi’s incredible style and the all-red color scheme, that’s one wedding dress we can’t wait to see.
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