The story of Cardi’s name is a fascinating one. While Cardi is known to the world of music as Cardi B, to her family she is known by one name, and to her friends another. Growing up in the Bronx, and spending a significant amount of time in Washington Heights as well, Cardi was consistently surrounded by family from her Latin and Caribbean sides. Loved by her fans, critiqued by her haters, and misunderstood by many, Cardi B has been described as tough, hilarious and even relatable.
Whether she’s getting attention as a result of her flashy fashion, her political commentary, or her feud with fellow female musicians, Cardi is an artist that many desire to know more about. So, who exactly is this Bronx beauty? And more importantly, how does the story of her many names give us a window into her past?
Cardi Gets Her Name
The story of Cardi’s name is a fascinating one. Known to fans of Hip Hop culture and popular culture at large as Cardi B, this rapper, actress and fashion icon had a much longer name as a child. Born in the world renowned Hip Hop borough of the Bronx, New York City, Cardi B was known to her intimate family members as Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar.
According to reports and her own admissions, Cardi B’s parents gave her a name that was a Spanish translation of Arabic words. Cardi B claims that her first name, Belcalis, means Queen of Sheba. Her last name on the other hand – Almanza – means watchtower or lookout point.
While this is the name that her family knew her by, she would also gain a number of other names as she grew up. Cardi’s sister, named after the hard liquor Hennessy, is likely the reason why Cardi B was given additional nicknames.
Cardi’s younger sister Hennessy has a name that Cardi claims her father gave her sister, is also becoming famous and has shared the screen with Cardi while she was a cast member on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop New York.
Along with their daughter Hennessey, Cardi’s parents started calling Cardi “Bacardi” – which is also the name of a famous alcoholic product – in order to match Cardi’s name to her sister’s. Sometimes, her name would also get shortened to “Cardi” – especially among her friends.
And as you might imagine, the name caught on and became the primary name by which Cardi B was addressed. Eventually, “Cardi” would be the name she was exclusively known as a celebrity.
Growing up as a young person in the Bronx, Cardi B was consistently surrounded by family. While some might mistake Cardi as being exclusively Latina, her ethnic identity is much more complex. Cardi was raised in a multinational family with parents who separated when she was ten years old. Cardi’s father is of Afro-Dominican origin, and her mother is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. While Cardi’s dad worked as a taxi driver to make a living, her mother worked as a supermarket cashier. Living a working class life, Cardi’s family struggled income-wise, but in terms of family, Cardi had a tremendous source of wealth.
Cardi claims that as a child, her parents were very protective of her – especially because they did not necessarily live in a safe neighborhood. In an interview with Dazed, Cardi claimed that she had very strict parents as a child who wouldn’t let her go outside or to friends’ parties. She would have to leave class early to do what she wanted. She stated:
“Even now, I can’t just go and hang out where I used to live like it’s nothing. My neighborhood isn’t a good-ass neighborhood. But people show me love. It’s all love.”
While Cardi B speaks quite often about her parents, and describes them always in a positive light, it is unclear what their names are. What the public does know about her parents is that she loves them very much, and that while they had working class jobs and were not at all rich, she credits them for helping her pave the way to her success. To date, it is unclear why Cardi has not shared the name of her parents.
Some pop culture critics believe that it is because she is trying to protect them from the spotlight – and more importantly, the paparazzi who never seem to leave her alone. One such example was in 2019 when Cardi lashed out at a Univision reporter. The reporter, who seemed to be approaching Cardi’s father in a New York street and was attempting to interview him, had not asked for permission to make advances towards Cardi and her entourage.
In the midst of the incident, Cardi told the reporter:
“Don’t out my father on TV because my dad don’t walk around with security and you don’t know people that’s gonna harm my dad. Don’t come to me with cameras without me knowing, that’s disrespectful.”
Not too long after the incident, Cardi decided that it was time to address the matter on Instagram Live. Along with explaining what had happened, Cardi was also willing to apologize for what had happened. She admitted that she got really upset and yelled at the reporter. She knew that the best approach would be to apologize because:
“I get that there’s a lot of Hispanic channels—well there’s actually like two Hispanic channels and I never did an interview with the Hispanic community. I have a lot of fans and they always supported me and everything so it’s like, I know that they want to interview me so bad and I know that they get overly excited when they see me.”
Along with her parents, Cardi B spent a lot of time with her paternal grandmother at her house in Washington Heights – and as a result, she is also deeply protective of her grandmother. One of the things that she credits her grandmother for? Her strong and thick accent – which she claims she developed as a result of frequently visiting Washington Heights. Cardi claims that as a result of spending so much time with her grandmother, she is one of the people in her family who she feels the closest to.
The other family member that Cardi B has a close bond with is her sister Hennessey. Cardi’s sister, Hennessy Carolina Almanzar, was born in 1995 – three years after Cardi. Hennessy is fairly well-known to Cardi’s fans and the broader public because she has often attended a number of prominent events with her older sister.
Hennessey began receiving public attention when she was featured in Love & Hip Hop scenes alongside her older sister. She gained so much attention, that she is now a celebrity in and of her own right – having amassed 6.8 million followers on Instagram. Along with her influence via Instagram, Hennessey also sets trends through her connection with brands like Fashion Nova.
Aside from Hennessey, Cardi B also has a number of other half-siblings as a result of her father’s other relationships and marriages. Following her parent’s separation when she was ten years old, Cardi would also gain six half-siblings, some of whom are named Maciel, Nicauly, and Fernando.