A star was born the minute Cardi B downloaded the Vine app. Born Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar Cephus, it was her quick one-liners and easy, cackling laugh that first grew her social media audience, all drawn to her legitimately mesmerizing charisma. Her career is one often described as an “overnight success” but longtime fans know that’s hardly true — she starred on reality shows, made mixtapes, and did tons of in-person promotion before her big breakthrough with the viral hit “Bodak Yellow.” As her fame grew, so did her taste for aesthetics. Cardi B’s beauty evolution developed right alongside her fashion taste, and they did so rapidly. In just a few short years, she went from local legend to global superstar, with the hair, makeup, wardrobe, and million-dollar manicures to match.
These days, Cardi B is one of the most delightfully experimental stars in her milieu, consistently drawn to more over-the-top trends and the avant-garde in general, but she grounds it all in a classically glamorous base. In fact, that ability to layer of-the-moment trends over traditional Old Hollywood motifs might be one of her most well-developed skills — who else would think to line their eyebrows with ruby rhinestones, for example?
Ahead, take a look at Cardi B’s complete beauty evolution, from savvy social media star to the A-list titan she is today.
Fresh-Faced In 2016
This event was one of Cardi’s first ever, but she quickly set the tone for all subsequent appearances with her futuristic latex look and matching baby-pink lipstick. Her signature smoky eyes are an excellent contrast to the demure lip color, and her manicure is a spangly silver.
Starting To Experiment In 2017
It’s hard to believe that just one year later, Cardi was a red carpet regular experimenting with all sorts of bold looks to keep her rapidly-growing fanbase guessing. She’d revisit gray hair again a few times — including at the 2023 Met Gala — but these long silver curls were her first go-round with the color.
A Return To Form Later In 2017
By the end of 2017, Cardi reached star status, an official household name. Accordingly, she pulled an aesthetic 180 at the MTV VMAs and went for a soft, barely there lip color and minimal eye makeup, with a sultry, wavy bob that lets her natural beauty shine.
Gilded Drama In 2018
Cardi’s naturally curly hair is always a treat to see, especially when it’s part of such an exciting overall look. At the 2018 Harper’s Bazaar ICONS party, she kept the curls low but voluminous, and matched her gold eyeshadow to her tangles of jewelry.
Ethereal Updos In 2019
And just like that, Cardi pivots back to a soft, shimmery hair-makeup-gown combination that would look at home in any era. While she opted for some shell-pink eyeshadow and a glossy lip finish, her beloved cat-eye liner and major lashes are both in still place.
At-Home Two-Tone In 2020
2020 put a pin in Cardi’s red carpet outings, but she kept the fun going from home. The “WAP” rapper frequently shared in-house photoshoots with different hair colors and styles, and continued recording music the whole time. This two-tone blonde-brunette layering is especially cool and feels so Cardi — only she could combine two totally straightforward shades into something that feels so daring.
Ruby-Studded Everything In 2021
Paris Fashion Week is always a multi-day gift for Cardi B fans, and this ruby-encrusted look shows why. For the Mugler show, she donned a vintage-style blonde wig and even lined her eyebrows with glimmering rhinestones.
Even More Retro In 2021
Later that week, she channeled other retro influenced with a ‘60-style teased bob, complete with flipped ends and a thick, vintage headband. As usual, though, she kept her makeup thoroughly modern and so trendy with lip liner topped by rose-toned gloss.
Back With A Bang In 2022
A personal favorite moment from the superstar, Cardi B’s wispy bangs at the 2022 Met Gala feel both classic and current — so many of her fellow A-listers are trying the versatile cut out right now. Take a closer look at her gold nails, though. Each one is encrusted with miniature versions of the gilded Versace chains wrapped about her gown.
Curls On Curls In 2023
Fans know Cardi has been loving her curls lately — albeit extremely super-sized. An homage to the ‘70s and ‘80s, her glossy curls keep getting bigger and bigger as fall progesses. Here, for a Watch What Happens Live taping, she made sure her bangs were full of ringlets, too.