As a kid growing up in the Bronx, New York, Cardi B had a childhood that was, by her own account, “regular degular shmegular.” However, she knew from an early age that she wanted a different life. Her goal was to retire from exotic dancing by age 25 and build her wealth through real estate. Her plans may have changed—just a tad— but thanks to her bold personality, unapologetic ambition and solid work ethic, Cardi B’s career is truly a master class in leveling up.

1. SHE CAPITALIZED ON HER INSTA-FAME

Cardi B created a name, and brand, for herself by utilizing Vine and Instagram. Her following enjoyed her funny one-liners and money advice. When she reached 500,000 followers, she hired a manager to help her monetize her talent, starting with hosting club events.

2. SHE STARTED YOUNG

Stripping was a stepping-stone for Cardi. Her plan was to save enough to buy a home, rent it out and buy another one. By 22, she says, she had saved $35,000 in singles.

3. SHE DOESN’T LIMIT HERSELF

She’s a hitmaker, but Cardi is diversifying her checks. She recently appeared as a judge on Netflix’s Rhythm + Flow. And despite 16-hour days filming the box office smash Hustlers, she signed up to star in the upcoming Fast & Furious movie.

4. SHE VALUES FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE

She credits her determination to become independently wealthy with saving her life, because it gave her the fiscal power to move away from an abusive partner. She intends to remain on top of her finances as a way to protect her daughter’s future.

5. SHE’S SETTING MAJOR RECORDS

Her debut album was not yet out when she became the second female rap artist to reach number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. This milestone came 19 years after Lauryn Hill did it in 1998.

6. SHE LIVES WITHIN HER MEANS

Instead of paying top dollar for a high-rise apartment in Manhattan, Cardi reportedly spends $3,000 a month for a condo in nearby Edgewater, New Jersey.

7. SHE REFUSED TO LET MOTHERHOOD HALT HER CAREER

She announced her pregnancy during her Saturday Night Live debut, then continued to perform and tour for as long as she was able. Although she had to cancel appearances as she neared her due date, she twerked her way through her anticipated spot at Coachella, pregnant belly and all.

8. SHE’S WINNING THE ENDORSEMENT GAME

In addition to her reported multimillion-dollar Atlantic Records deal, she has brand partnerships to keep her money stacked. She has worked with Pepsi and Amazon’s Alexa, and she signed deals with Reebok and Fashion Nova. She says the latter offered her $20,000 a month. Her debut line with the clothing company sold out; her second collection made $1 million in sales in just one day.

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