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Cardi B’s Come-Up: How A “Regular, Degular” Girl Became The Queen Of 2017

From stripper to Grammy-nominated artist, here’s a timeline of Cardi B’s rise to stardom.

Cardi B’s Come-Up: How A “Regular, Degular” Girl Became The Queen Of 2017
[Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images]

Cardi B’s glow-up in 2017 is undeniable. She made history with her chart-topping single “Bodak Yellow.” She’s been nominated for two Grammys. And to end the year in style, she signed a deal to curate a line of shoes and sunglasses with Steve Madden. So how did a “regular, degular, shmegular” girl from the Bronx achieve such pop culture domination? Let’s start from the beginning:

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October 11, 1992

Belcalis Almanzar is born in the Bronx to a Dominican father and Trinidadian mother. Her sister’s real name, Hennessy, inspires the nickname “Cardi B,” a sobriquet of non-sobriety, if you will. As she explained on The Wendy Williams Show, “Everybody used to be, like, ‘Bacardi!’ to me. Then I shortened it to ‘Cardi B.’ The ‘B’ stands for whatever, depending on the day: beautiful or bully.”

May 5, 2010

While attending Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & Technology, a young Cardi shows an early interest in music, as evidenced by this talent show clip of her belting out “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. “I used to know how to sing, but, you know, I started smoking and sucking dick,” she says years later in a Twitter post.

After high school, Cardi studies at Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York City and works at the nearby deli Amish Market. She only completes three semesters and is fired from her job for giving friends too many discounts, which ultimately leads one of her managers to suggest her next career move: stripping. “He was like, ‘You’re so pretty, you got a nice body.’ He told me to go across the street to New York Dolls, the strip club. That’s when I started stripping,” she told The Fader.

October 11, 2015

At 19, Cardi begins her career as a stripper and soon becomes a local celebrity on New York City’s club circuit. As a way of self-promotion and self-expression, Cardi takes to social media to share her thoughts on stripping, relationships, sex, etc. With her slick delivery, cocky Bronx swag, and natural sense of humor, it doesn’t take long for her to gain a following.

When she reaches around 500,000 followers on Instagram, one of her current managers, Shaft, signs on with her and puts the bug in her ear to try rapping. On her 23rd birthday–October 11, 2015–Cardi quits stripping.

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November 26, 2015

Cardi makes her musical debut on a remix of Shaggy’s “Boom Boom.”

December 14, 2015

Season 6 of VH1’s hit reality franchise Love & Hip Hop premieres with Cardi joining the New York cast. She instantly becomes the break-out star.

February 15, 2016

Cardi releases “Stripper Hoe,” her first single as a lead artist, through her management group KSR Group.

March 7, 2016

Cardi’s first mixtape Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1 drops, featuring the viral hit “Foreva.”

December 29, 2016

Despite becoming one of the most popular cast members of Love & Hip Hop, Cardi announces on Instagram live that she is leaving the show after season 7 to focus on her music.

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January 20, 2017

Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 2 is released with the lead single “Lick,” featuring Offset, who’s now her fiancé.

January 31, 2017

Cardi tries her hand at acting (the non-reality-TV kind) with a cameo on BET’s Being Mary Jane.

February 28, 2017

Through a cryptic Instagram video and an appearance on The Angie Martinez Show the next day, Cardi neither confirms nor denies that she has signed a lucrative deal with Atlantic Records. Spoiler alert: She signed a lucrative deal with Atlantic Records.

June 16, 2017

“Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)” is released as Cardi’s first single on a major label. The song is a nod to rapper Kodak Black’s “No Flockin,” with Cardi mimicking Kodak’s flow.

July 22, 2017

“Bodak Yellow” debuts on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart at number 85.

September 25, 2017

“Bodak Yellow” moves to the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100, unseating Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” and making Cardi the first solo female rapper since Lauryn Hill 19 years ago to top the charts without another featured artist.

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October 6, 2017

Cardi wins five of the nine categories she is nominated for at the BET Hip Hop Awards, including Single of the Year and Best New Hip-Hop Artist.

November 28, 2017

Cardi snags two Grammy nominations for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance.

December 13, 2017

Shoe retailer Steve Madden announces a partnership with Cardi for a line of shoes and sunglasses curated by the rapper.

December 22, 2017

Cardi drops “Bartier Cardi,” her follow-up single to “Bodak Yellow” as the lead artist.

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America" where he was the social media producer.

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