Draped in an elegant white gown and backed by melodious vocals and a live band, Cardi B confirmed her pregnancy to the world during a heartfelt rendering of “Be Careful” on Saturday Night Live. She wore a perfectly polished updo and glamorous makeup while she rapped into a vintage microphone. But if that performance gave any hint to the world that she was planning on watering down her sex appeal in the name of motherhood, her Coachella set proved otherwise.
Before thousands of festival goers and millions of livestream viewers, she playfully flaunted her sex appeal and baby bump during an energetic performance of her banger “She Bad” off Invasion of Privacy. Paying homage to her come-up, she decorated the stage with stripper poles and dancers who also showed off their assets, sexiness and athleticism all throughout her set. She yet again charmed us in the infectiously magnetic way that she always does. “Fuck ‘em, then I got a baby,” she rapped as she seamlessly married lyrics about her pregnancy to her original songs.
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Through her Coachella performance, Cardi B modeled what defining pregnancy and motherhood on your own terms looks like. Already, our favorite “regular, degular, shmegular girl from the Bronx” is shattering society’s ideas about what motherhood and pregnancy means for women, particularly for women of color.
Since rumors started circulating a few months back, Cardi B has become the target of endless criticism about the supposed untimeliness of her pregnancy. Supporters and trolls alike have clung to the notion that motherhood marks the end of everything else — that pregnant women and mothers must choose between a thriving professional life and being a good mother, that they must decide between having sex appeal and being worthy of respect. According to dissenters, her gestation signifies the beginning of the end of her burgeoning success and sex appeal.
Meanwhile, Cardi B is at the apex of her career. She has the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, only the fifth female rapper to reach this achievement. She officially set the record for the most simultaneous titles on the Billboard Hot 100 with 13 entries, even passing Queen Bey’s record after dropping Lemonade. Last week, Apple announced that Invasion of Privacy had broken the record for the most-streamed album in one week by a female artist, shattering Taylor Swift’s Reputation with more than double the numbers. And this year alone, she has performed on SNL and at Coachella, co-hosted Jimmy Fallon and announced an upcoming fashion line with Fashion Nova, one of the fastest-growing women’s apparel companies. 2018 undeniably belongs to Cardi B.
People’s baseless criticism about her pregnancy is representative of the ways that, all throughout their lives, women of color carry the burden of having to prove themselves despite having nothing left to prove. Also in the midst of a tremendously successful career, Kylie Jenner had her first child this year. While people criticized Jenner for having a baby at a young age, 20, her transition into motherhood was never imagined as the demise of her successful career. Comparing the public response to both of their pregnancies highlights the disparate ways that women of color experience success. Even when they enter spaces that normally translate into assured reverence, women of color’s positions are constantly called into question and unrelentingly scrutinized. They’re forced to walk on tightropes dictated by respectability politics while onlookers eagerly await the undoing they predicted (and hoped for) all along.
“I have to prove [to] people that it’s like, the baby won’t stop me. Nothing has stopped me before. People didn’t think that I was going to get here. So how you gonna tell me when it’s gonna finish,” the Dominican-Trinidadian rapper said in a recent interview when discussing the antagonism surrounding her pregnancy.
The criticism directed at Cardi B assumes that she doesn’t have the capacity to grasp the magnitude of being pregnant and the responsibilities that come with motherhood — that she has not accurately assessed her situation. It’s patronizing and condescending. And while balancing motherhood and a professional life is normally extremely difficult for poor women in our society, Cardi B reminds us that her economic status means that isn’t a problem for her.
“Why do I have to choose a baby or a career, a family or a career. Why do I have to be like, in my mid-30’s to have a baby? What am I doing wrong? I’m a grown woman. I’m not sixteen, seventeen years old. I’m 25 years old. And I’m going to say this in the most humblest way. I’m a millionaire. I’m established. You know what I’m saying,” she said.
As if being a woman of color with hypervisibility isn’t taxing enough, Cardi B has crossed over into a space that society didn’t authorize. She was supposed to abide by the stamped and approved version of rebellious, provocative stripper-turned-rapper that we all boxed her in as. We wanted her to remain sexual, funny and authentically carefree. And because this doesn’t harmonize with our narrow definition of what motherhood should embody, we throw tantrums and curse a moment that she is clearly basking in.
In an Instagram caption congratulating Cardi B for her pregnancy, her sister wrote, “A baby is truly a blessing from god I know how much you always wanted to be a mom!”
Cardi B is pregnant, and she’s living her best life.
She’s successfully carving a space for herself in a male-dominated industry that readily discards women and is simultaneously fulfilling her dream of becoming a mother. She’s also sexy, funny and carefree as ever. In a world where women of color are not given space to be complex individuals, Cardi B’s refusal to abide by society’s rigid standards is both transgressive and inspiring.
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