Cardi B is a rapper, songwriter and business owner who has made headlines for her bold lyrics and unapologetic attitude. But before she rose to fame, Cardi B had a history in sex work, which she has openly discussed and incorporates into her public persona.
Born Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar in 1992 in the Bronx, New York, Cardi B grew up in a low-income neighborhood and turned to stripping to make ends meet after being fired from a grocery store. In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Cardi B talked about her experience as a stripper, saying, “When I started stripping I went back to school. I didn’t want to rely on stripping to make me money. I wanted to make enough money so that when I quit dancing I wouldn’t have to go back to it.”
Cardi B’s career in music began with her social media presence, where she shared candid and often humorous videos with her followers. Her popularity online eventually led to a spot on the reality show “Love & Hip Hop: New York.” While on the show, she released her first single “Bodak Yellow,” which quickly became a hit and catapulted her to mainstream success.
Since then, Cardi B has continued to push boundaries with her music and her public persona. She has faced criticism and controversy for her lyrics and brand, but has remained unapologetic.
Crediting her time in sex work with helping her develop the skills and confidence necessary to pursue a career in music, Cardi B told GQ that, “People say, ‘Why do you always got to say that you used to be a stripper? We get it.’ Because y’all don’t respect me because of it, and y’all going to respect these strippers from now on.”
Cardi B’s experience as a sex worker has also informed her advocacy for the rights of strippers and other sex workers. In a tweet from 2018, she wrote, “Strip clubs matter…Just because society doesn’t respect us doesn’t mean we don’t respect ourselves. I feel like people who don’t know the job, look down on it and shame it.” She has also spoken out against the stigma and discrimination faced by sex workers, particularly those who are undocumented or otherwise marginalized.
Cardi B’s history in sex work has played a significant role in shaping her life and career. While it was a means of survival at a difficult time in her life, she has embraced her past and used it as a source of strength and empowerment. Her success as a musician and her advocacy for the rights of sex workers have made her a powerful voice in pop culture and an inspiration to many.