In an age where artifice reigns supreme, on and off reality TV, Belcalis Almanzar, otherwise known as Cardi B, is the real deal. Born to working-class parents of Carribean decent from the Bronx, Cardi B is the embodiment the American dream we don’t often see when speaking of “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps.”
As the saying goes: “If you can make it in New York City, then you can make it anywhere.” That must go double if you’re from the hood with limited opportunities. And for Cardi B,, making a way from limited opportunities is how she came up from grocery store worker, to exotic dancer-turned-entertainer, to one of the breakout stars of 2016.
As one of the newest cast members on Love and Hip Hop: New York, Season 6, Cardi B provided the original Love and Hip Hop franchise with much needed humor and authenticity. But what makes this Bronx native stand out is her take-no-prisoners stance and unapologetic presentation of herself, warts and all. While “polite” society encourages people to hide all the things that are screwed up, or “socially unacceptable” about ourselves, Cardi B seems to wear every part of herself on her sleeve, proudly, like a badge.
As a black woman with certain socio-economic aspirations, I’m very aware of the ways in which black women have to present ourselves in society for survival and optimal success. Black people teach their young from a very early age to work twice as hard to get half of what white people get, and that means acting in ways that don’t support stereotypical images. However, not every black person cares to uphold respectability politics.
Although some critics derail Cardi B as poor role model, who glamorizes stripping and uses sex as a survival tactic, there's something refreshing about somebody who owns every part about themselves, the good and the bad. We have a habit of shaming sex workers, not realizing sex work IS work and that there’s very little glamorous about it. Cardi B went to college and held down a part-time job while living with an abusive boyfriend. What does that say about society when it's easier to be financially self-sufficient as a stripper than working a "respectable" job?
Cardi B is a triumphant “F-you” to those who uphold respectability politics at all costs. There is more than one way to win and just because someone achieves their dreams differently than you doesn't mean their way is wrong.
A stripper with "nappy hair and messed up teeth" caught the hearts of reality TV fans everywhere from the hood to the suburbs, dropped an acclaimed mixtape, and is on to bigger and better things - and it all started with a single Instagram post.
I don't care where you're from, seeing Cardi B become more successful while maintaining her warmth, strength, and humility is the best endorsement of 'when you're comfortable with yourself, others will be comfortable with you too.'
Whoever you are, whatever you've gone through; you're still here, Still fighting to see another day. Don't let your perceived imperfections stop you from having the life you've always dreamed of. Keep going. We need to hear your story.