Let's talk about Cardi B's body. Well, let’s talk about Cardi B’s profile in GQ, written by Caity Weaver, which has now become a conversation about Cardi B’s body.
We’re big fans of Caity Weaver at this site. Lainey has written extensively about Caity’s celebrity profiles and praised her ability to capture snapshots of stars at the perfect moment, right on the cusp of their potential, and offer insightful, sometimes unflattering, but always hilarious commentary in a genre known for puff. She’s done it with Justin Bieber. She did it with Tiffany Haddish. When a Caity Weaver feature drops, we get excited.
I was saving Caity Weaver's feature on Cardi B until I could properly digest it yesterday so before I read it, I came across some of the backlash. I read the tweets that accused Caity of objectifying Cardi by spending so much time dissecting her butt injections or referencing her breast implants. It’s true that a good chunk of the piece does focus on Cardi B’s body but I don’t think you can write about this artist, a proud stripper-turned-rapper who rhymes about her body extensively, without assessing the physical attributes that made her famous. It may be depressing to think that an MC with Cardi’s talent initially built her fame on her ass but it’s a fact. It’s how she became an Instagram celebrity. That’s a fact that Cardi B will tell you herself.
In fact, when I reviewed Invasion of Privacy, I noted that one of the standout lines from the album’s first track includes the lyrics “Real bitch, only thing fake is the boobs.” Cardi B talks about her body A LOT. On Invasion of Privacy, she’s telling us who she is and leaning in to the persona she created – for money. Cardi B enhanced her butt and her chest to be a more successful stripper. It was a business decision. It was a calculated choice for her brand. Cardi B isn’t ashamed to talk about her leaky illegal butt injections so why should anyone else be precious about them?
The first mentions of Cardi’s for-profit features come in Caity Weaver’s second paragraph where one line stood out to me the most.
America's sudden favorite rapper, Cardi B, has built her body for optimal viewing at medium-to-long-distance range.
“Cardi built her body for optimal viewing.” That’s a choice. For her audience. For her aesthetic. If we’re interpreting these mentions of Cardi’s body as objectification, we’re negating the ownership Cardi B has over her narrative. We’re ignoring the fact that Belcalis Almanzar is the CEO of her brand and actively created the Cardi B we see today. That’s not to say that she’s not still figuring out her sh-t.
When Lainey and I were texting back and forth about this piece, we both read it as a nonjudgmental assessment of Cardi B’s image. Lainey called Cardi’s physique an invention and a springboard for her brand. Part of Cardi’s appeal has always been her authenticity but it’s an authenticity which stems from her honesty about the parts of her that are fake. It’s fascinating. And it’s part of why the world is so fascinated by Cardi B.
However, the piece’s criticisms are not invalid considering how often female artists and actors are reduced to a collection of body parts in features like this – especially black women. If you aren’t thinking deeply about Cardi’s intent and her career strategy, it’s not hard to see the words “boobs” and “butt” and think objectification. The article’s detractors may also be hypersensitive to the fact that the gaze on Cardi B has become a bit unnerving. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why or when the response to Cardi B started to make me uncomfortable but I felt it deeply in the audience laughter on last night’s episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, which Cardi co-hosted.
Cardi B’s body wasn't directly the butt of any jokes on Fallon last night but many of the show’s awkward moments (there were MANY) came from Fallon’s nervous giggles in response to literally anything Cardi did. They also came from Fallon’s obsessive cooing over Cardi’s baby bump. To me, the way Fallon treats Cardi B like a child who needs a translator or a cartoon caricature who exists for us to laugh at, not with, is how people are reading this Caity Weaver piece.
Caity Weaver is biracial. She’s half black. She is not white. That is important to clarify because some commenters were calling her white and because I can understand the discomfort that could come from reading a white woman assess the body of a black woman through a long-form magazine feature. Caity’s ethnicity may be why I didn’t read her reveal of Cardi’s knowledge of FDR and U.S. political history as condescending but as a quirky personality anecdote. I don’t think Caity assumed that Cardi was dumb and included Cardi’s preference for political science under the assumption that someone who looks like Cardi B can’t also be intelligent. I truly believe that this anecdote would be in any other celebrity profile. Wouldn’t you be impressed if you were sitting across from someone who could rattle off details of every single one of the presidents?
The fact that Caity is black may also be why I was more struck by the parts of the piece that painted Cardi as vulnerable, anxious and indecisive, instead of the ones about her body. It’s more interesting to me that Cardi B can deliver the utter confidence and self-awareness it takes to destroy every track on Invasion of Privacy and be a savvy business woman but also come off as a scared 25-year-old kid who’s in over her head.
After this GQ piece, I look at Cardi B’s debut album as her entrance into the ring. It’s her walk-on song. She’s a rookie boxer swagging into the ring with her anthem blaring, with the certainty of Apollo Creed. Now she's centre ring, like Rocky, scrapping to stay afloat. To stay authentic. Still using her body to succeed, almost like an athlete. Maybe that’s a stretch. And maybe all this talk of Cardi B’s body is taking away from the recognition of her talent. Maybe it’s adding to the same antiquated notions that lead to the bullsh-t reaction to her pregnancy. It’s complicated. But I think the most interesting celebrities and the best celebrity profiles create complicated questions. If this week is proving anything, it’s that we’ll be talking about the complexity of Cardi B for a long time.
You can ready the rest of Cardi B’s profile in GQ here.
And if you didn’t catch her co-hosting Fallon, the best and only bit you need to watch is below.