Cardi B's Dramatic Transformation From 23 To 28 Years Old

Cardi B is one of the hottest rappers in the game today, but before she was raising eyebrows to the roof with her explicit lyrics and racy outfits, the "WAP" singer wore a few other rather colorful hats. Born Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar on Oct. 11, 1992, Cardi B grew up in the Bronx. She seemed destined for fame when she was given the nickname that would become her stage name. During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, she explained the origin of her moniker. "My sister's name is Hennessy, right? So everybody used to call me Bacardi," she said. She originally went by the name "Bacardi B" on Instagram, but shortened it to "Cardi B" when her account kept getting deleted.

Cardi B worked at a deli when she was 19, and she discovered that she was a born entertainer not long after she got fired for giving a coworker an unapproved discount. She told The Fader that the shop's manager pointed her in a much different direction by suggesting that she apply for work at a nearby business. "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."

Over the course of a few years, Cardi B's life would take a number of twists and turns before she became a chart-topping musical icon. Let's take a look at her dramatic transformation from age 23 to 28.

Cardi B went from being an Instagram sensation to a reality TV star

Cardi B's first taste of fame came on Instagram, where her wit and lack of a filter helped her amass a loyal following of over one million fans by 2015. This was also the year that she became a reality TV star by joining the cast of the VH1 series Love & Hip Hop: New York. She had quit stripping to focus on her music career just months before appearing in the season 6 trailer. 

During a 2015 interview with Complex, Cardi B revealed that she initially had some qualms about joining the show's cast, saying she was concerned that it could ruin her reputation. She also made it clear that she had no interest in appearing on reality TV long-term, even if her music career didn't pan out. "I'm not trying to be a reality star, at all. Like I said, I'm really focusing on my music," she said. "If my music don't work out, I'm just going to keep following the realistic goals that I always had — stack money, open a business, buy real estate." In late 2016, Cardi B (pictured above at age 23) announced that she was leaving the show after two seasons to pursue her music career (via Vibe).

Cardi B bought tons of Louboutins after 'Bodak Yellow' dropped

Focusing on her music turned out to be the right move. Cardi B (pictured above at age 24) released her second mixtape, Gangsta B**** Music, Vol. 2, in early 2017, and she signed with Atlantic Records soon afterwards. The mixtape featured "Lick," her collaboration with future husband Offset. However, her first bona fide hit was the single "Bodak Yellow" from her debut solo album, Invasion of Privacy. It shot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in September 2017.

In the banger, Cardi B dropped a few lines about her appearance, including her expensive taste in shoes. "These expensive, these is red bottoms, these is bloody shoes," she rapped. Her creative description referred to the iconic scarlet soles of Christian Louboutin's coveted designs. Her stylist, Kollin Carter, told Billboard that she was purchasing "a pair or two" of the stylish status symbols "every couple of weeks" at the height of the track's success.

Cardi B, who has always been candid about the work that she's had done, also referenced the money that she spent on her teeth. "Know you prolly heard of me, got a bag and fixed my teeth," she sang. While talking to TMZ, Dr. Catrise Austin, the dentist who gave Cardi her gleaming porcelain veneers, said that her business tripled after the rapper mentioned her dental work in "Bodak Yellow."

Cardi B experienced big changes after becoming a mom

Cardi B (pictured above at age 25) married Offset, whose real name is Kiari Cephus, in September 2017. Cardi B announced that she was divorcing the Migos rapper three years later before changing her mind. While fans probably have a tough time keeping up with whether the couple's tumultuous relationship is currently on or off, one thing is for certain: Their daughter Kulture is a doll.

Kulture Kiari Cephus made her big debut in July 2018. After experiencing childbirth for the first time, Cardi B did not hold back while discussing the aftermath on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. "She broke my vagina," she said of how her daughter's arrival affected her body. She also revealed that no one told her that she would have to be stitched up afterwards. She got real about her postpartum body again when she showed off the loose skin on her stomach on Instagram Live. She declared that she was going to get liposuction to tighten her tummy back up (via Page Six). 

All of the discomfort and changes were ultimately worth it, and Kulture even had her mommy switching up her signature nail shape for her benefit. "Ok so if you noticed i changed my nail shape from pointy to square so i won't hurt my baby," Cardi B tweeted on July 31, 2018. "I'm thinking about only changing my pinky nail shape back to pointy so i can take my babies little boogers out."

Cardi B makes history at the Grammys

In February 2019, Cardi B (pictured above at age 26) took home her first Grammy and made history in one fell swoop when she became the first solo female artist to win best rap album (via The Hollywood Reporter). During her acceptance speech, she thanked her baby girl for the role that she played in the completion of Invasion of Privacy. "It's because you know, when I found out I was pregnant my album was not complete. I had like three songs that I was for sure having," the singer said, per Marie Claire. According to Cardi B, being pregnant pushed her to complete the record so that she could start shooting music videos before she began "showing."

2019 was a big year for Cardi B. Her life came full circle when she appeared in the hit movie Hustlers, which featured Jennifer Lopez in the starring role. The film was centered on a group of strippers, but Cardi B was unable to show off her pole-dancing skills due to having recently undergone liposuction and breast augmentation surgery. She told ET, "So I was like, 'This is my moment to shine, and I can't shine because I can't climb!'"

Cardi B's stock just keeps going 'Up'

Cardi B's ambition and strong work ethic continue to pay dividends. In 2020, she earned some major bragging rights when she was named Billboard's 2020 Woman of the Year. She also scored another huge win when she released "Up" in February 2021. The tune debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart behind Olivia Rodrigo's "Driver's License." 

Cardi B (pictured above at age 28) and her "WAP" collaborator, Megan Thee Stallion, were announced as two of the 2021 Grammy Awards performers just days before "Bodak Yellow" was certified diamond, making Cardi B the first female rapper to achieve the certification (via EW). She wasn't up for any Grammys in 2021, but her team plans on submitting "WAP" for next year's award show. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the hope is that she'll have a highly anticipated second studio album to campaign for as well. There just seems to be no limit to how high the former pole-dancer can climb.