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Cardi B Is Changing How Black Women Are Pregnant In Public

Music

She’s just a regular degular shmegular girl—who’s pregnant

When Cardi B ended months of tabloid speculation by revealing during her debut SNL performance that she was, as rumored, pregnant with her first child, she accomplished two things simultaneously: She deftly demonstrated what the pregnant body can do and—more significantly—she introduced a new paradigm through which we can view how celebrity women, and specifically black celebrity women, perform their pregnancies in public.

Pregnancy for black women has always meant contending with unwarranted levels of public scrutiny. Harmful stereotypes about black women’s fitness to raise their own children have led to policies that criminalize the common mistakes of new moms, regardless of race or income level, and justify removing children from their care. And then, for all celebrity women, pregnancy has increasingly required a very public performance of motherhood and nurturing. Any hint of dissatisfaction with the difficulties their bodies endure to bring new life into the world is often met with criticism and accusations of ungratefulness. 

It’s unsurprising then that when you combine the two, the invasive surveillance of black celebrity mothers’ choices reaches critical mass. Perhaps because of this, black celebrity women have recently started taking active control over how their pregnant bodies are seen in public by crafting specific narratives that center both their motherhood and their blackness. What makes Cardi B’s newly revealed pregnancy so notable is that she has intentionally deviated—and quite heavily at that—from the accepted and expected narratives of how black pregnant women should relate to their bodies in public spaces. 

In "Get Up 10," the opening track of her debut album Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B raps about how far her career has come in a few short years. In "Bickenhead," she opens with a proclamation that the track “goes for all my nasty hoes.” In "I Like It," she lists the fancy things that meet her taste, and in "I Do," she raps about being a bad bitch and being so good in bed that she says her own name during sex. Throughout the album, Cardi discusses her rise from financial struggle to becoming a millionaire and reminds listeners that being herself is what vaulted her to fame. Her lyrics make it clear she doesn’t regret her past in any way and that stripping gave her the freedom to earn the money she needed to support herself and her family. The album is, in a way, fairly standard fare for a wildly popular debut female rapper, but the lyrical content takes on a whole new dimension when you realize that Cardi must have recorded some or all of it while pregnant. 

Despite the fact that women are usually expected to become (or at least present as) more demure and understated as they begin to show, Cardi B has remained steadfast in her established public persona as an ex-stripper focused on “money moves” and all the best “thot wear” from Fashion Nova. She had continued to embody everything society has decided black women—but especially black mothers—shouldn’t be. By defiantly remaining exactly as she always has been, Cardi telegraphs one of her essential mission statements: “I make money moves.” A pregnancy shouldn’t get in the way of her hustle, and she doesn’t intend to let it. Whereas black women are usually told that their pregnant bodies and the babies they will soon have will prevent them from achieving greatness, Cardi has proven that her pregnancy is a motivation for success rather than a hindrance to it.

What’s perhaps most transgressive, though, is Cardi’s focus on her own sexual prowess. Braggadocio and sexual innuendo are hardly new territory for female rappers, but, by debuting this album in the middle of her pregnancy and performing the tracks in her signature provocative stagewear, Cardi forces her fans to consider her pregnant body as a site of active and ongoing sexuality, in stark contrast to the way pregnant women are aggressively desexualized in society.

In an excerpt from her book Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise And Reign of Unruly Women, author Anne Helen Petersen examined the contrast between pregnancy as an abstraction, notable for its cuteness, and the signified fecundity of a growing baby bump:

The pregnant body was also profoundly contradictory: as scholar Jane Ussher explains, pregnancy is, at its most essential, the most vivid proof of women’s sexuality — which is precisely why representations of mothers took on the opposite characteristics. The most significant mother of Christianity, for example, is the Virgin Mary: asexual, idealized, immaculate. Mary is rarely represented while actually pregnant, only afterwards, when the child is safely born, both mother and child clean and content. This beatific mother is contained, pure — the antidote to the abjectly pregnant mother.

By and large, it is this sexless depiction that celebrity mothers most often lean into. It is a frame for the story of their body, and it works. As Petersen notes in the same piece, “pregnancy and motherhood are one of the primary ways in which a female celebrity maintains attention.” For black women, this creates an additional complication: How do they participate in the performance of pregnancy while sidestepping all of the ugly racialized baggage that attaches itself to their protruding bellies? 

For some women, like Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, solving this equation means refusing to perform entirely. In 2016, Adichie casually revealed in an interview that she had recently given birth and withheld information about it from the public in order to evade any such performance. “I just feel like we live in an age when women are supposed to perform pregnancy. We don’t expect fathers to perform fatherhood.” 

For others, effusive depictions of tenderness become a way to shield against accusations of negligence or conceit. On February 1, 2017, Beyoncé posted an intricately staged photo of herself on Instagram announcing her pregnancy and forthcoming twins. Eleven days later, she performed on the Grammys stage in golden regalia that evoked naturalistic depictions of the Virgin Mother, a theme that carried throughout her pregnancy. Many criticized the iconography she chose to utilize, considering it blasphemous. But Beyoncé’s intentional self-deification can only be seen as a calculated response to the criticism and conspiracy theories she was subjected to during her first pregnancy with daughter Blue Ivy Carter. By centering her baby bump, she was reinforcing her right to occupy space in the realm of motherhood. 

For Serena Williams, the problem was twofold. As a muscular and dark-skinned athlete, her body has been the site of dehumanizing and de-feminizing discourse for a significant part of her career. After revealing her pregnancy to the public (and winning the Australian Open), she also opted to pose nude for the cover of Vanity Fair for which she was criticized in The Washington Post by fashion critic Robin Givhan. Calling it a “strange celebrity ritual” and a “complicated stew of personal indulgence” Givhan tried to make the case that, essentially, Serena’s pregnancy was not “meaningful in some uniquely grand and sweeping way.” But by posing nude on the cover of a magazine, Serena was able to reinforce not just her blackness and her pregnancy, but her femininity, something that had been denied to her for as long as she had been in the public eye. Where Beyoncé simply had to fight to make space for herself as a mother, Serena also had to fight to make space for herself as a woman. 

Like Serena, Cardi B debunks the myth of fragility that follows pregnant women by more or less continuing to go about her business. In the span of a week, Cardi has dropped her album, performed on Saturday Night Live, was profiled in GQ, co-hosted The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, appeared on TRL, and gave an interview on Hot 97's Ebro in the Morning that hit back at the sentiment that her baby would hold her back professionally. She has work to do and commitments to meet—including an upcoming headlining appearance at Coachella—and nothing about a baby bump prevents her from rapping. The very public concern trolling and speculation about her baby and her fiancé belies a misguided paternalism that black mothers are always subjected to, regardless of their levels of individual success and financial stability. But, as Cardi succinctly put it in her interview with Ebro, "I'm 25 years old. And I'mma say this in the most humblest way: I'm a millionaire.” The idea that a woman who has enjoyed a well-deserved meteoric rise in under a year on the strength of her own hustle would be anything less than perfectly fine is ludicrous. 

Through her music, her dress, and her words, Cardi rejects attempts to frame her pregnant body as less capable in any way, and instead uses her pregnancy to reaffirm her established persona as a “regular degular shmegular girl from the Bronx.” Her actions present an alternative path for black women who are pregnant in the public eye by showing that the white ideal of purity, innocence, and asexuality need not be the way they perceive or present their bodies. As Ira Madison III writes in GQ, “Try as you might to levy a gaze of respectability politics on her, Cardi B defies your gaze. The irony in titling her debut Invasion of Privacy is that she controls everything the eyes of prospective voyeurs might see.” 

As her well-executed promotional tour has demonstrated, Cardi is savvy about her career and more than capable of continuing to leverage her popularity into a long-lasting career. As the oft-referenced Beyoncé might say, she is “strong enough to bear the children/ Then get back to business.”

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Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

"In my head I thought, This is how it ends"

Kit Harington almost lost a lot more than the Iron Throne while filming the final season of Game of Thrones. According to an interview with NowThis News, the actor almost lost one of his balls while riding a mechanical dragon.

Harington revealed that the incident took place when he was filming the scene where his character, Jon Snow, takes a ride on Rhaegal for the first time in the Season 8 premiere. Since dragons aren't real (sorry), Harington was filming the scene, where Jon almost falls off the dragon and then swings around to pick himself back up, on a mechanical contraption.

"My right ball got trapped, and I didn't have time to say, 'Stop,'" Harington said in an interview. "And I was being swung around. In my head I thought, This is how it ends. On this buck, swinging me around by my testicles, literally." We see shots of the fake dragon he's riding in front of a green screen, and it does look pretty terrifying.

Luckily, his testicles remained intact through the near-disastrous event, and he's survived with quite the story to tell to unsuspecting journalists.

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."

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Photo courtesy of Teva

Because of course

Teva, the most obvious lesbian footwear brand since Birkenstock, really knows its customer base. In time for Pride, the brand has teamed up with Tegan and Sara for a gay shoe to end all gay shoes. In other words, your Pride footwear is on lock.

The shoe isn't just your average Teva sandal. Tegan and Sara's design, the Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal, is a 2.5-inch platform shoe with a rainbow sole. Tegan and Sara noted in a press release that they have been Teva wearers for pretty much their whole lives. "We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16," they said. "This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation."

What's better, with each sandal sale, Teva will donate $15 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, up to $30,000. The funds donated will go toward scholarships which will give young members of the LGBTQ+ community the chance to go to summer camps which will "help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment." Tegan and Sara added, "Teva's generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth."

Available today at Teva's and Nordstrom's websites, the sandal retails for $80.

Photo courtesy of Teva

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Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design"

Prada Group has announced that Prada, as well as all of its brands, will now be fur-free. According to a press release from the Humane Society, Prada, Miu Miu, Church's, and Car Shoe will ban the use of fur beginning with the Spring/Summer 2020 collection (aka the Fashion Week coming up next). The list of fashion designers banning fur only continues to grow, with 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and more having stopped using the material in seasons past.

"The Prada Group is committed to innovation and social responsibility, and our fur-free policy—reached following a positive dialogue with the Fur Free Alliance, in particular with LAV and the Humane Society of the United States—is an extension of that engagement," Miuccia Prada told the Human Society. "Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products."

Following London Fashion Week designers forgoing the use of fur in September and the first-ever Vegan Fashion Week taking place in February, it's easy to imagine an entirely fur-free fashion future. It's especially easy, I presume, for the brands to consider a fur-free future, given that entire cities and states are taking a stance. New York is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles banning fur, with a bill proposed this March that would ban sales across New York State.

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Photo by Johnny Dufort

"Club leisure" is the new athleisure

Alexander Wang is recognizing clubbing as the workout that it truly is with his latest Adidas collaboration. In this fifth installment, he "changes gears," per a press release from the brand, taking the iconic sports brand to the dance floor.

For the new campaign, the collection comes to life in iconic choreographer Tanisha Scott's dance studio and stars dancers Noemi Janumala, Dakota Moore, Avi McClish, and Olivia Burgess. The dancers show just how far these clothes can go when you want to bust a move or stretch, but TBH, I'll leave these poses to the pros and just use my clothes for flexing on the 'gram.

The collection—which features six apparel items, three shoes, and six accessories—features, per a press release, "Wang's knack for pre-styling." Standouts from the mostly black-and-white items include a silver sneaker that was *made* for moonwalking, an airy windbreaker that has just the right dash of bright blue with the scattered Adidas trefoil design, and a towel hoodie that you won't feel bad sweating in.

Ahead of the May 25 collection drop online and in stores, peep the gorgeous campaign images below.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Joggers, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Towel Hoodie, $350, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Sock Leggings, $60, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Adilette Slides, $90, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Futureshell Shoes in Platinum Metallic, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Core White, $280, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Shorts in Core White, $120, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Bum Bag, $50, available staring May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Duffle Bag, $70, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.


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