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During turbulent times, unlikely heroes often arise from the chaos to offer wisdom. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has emerged as a symbol of stability, capturing hearts with his morning briefings. But the influence of another high-profile icon with a five-lettered “C” name has made her presence known. All hail Cardi B. On Thursday the Grammy winner announced her partnership with Fashion Nova to donate $1,000 hourly to families in need during the pandemic. It’s just the latest headline-making moment from Cardi in the last month. Since early March, when she shared her first thoughts on the pandemic with her 62 million followers, the rapper has felt like someone who really “gets” the current moment. She’s tweeted frankly about how the President is handling the coronavirus. She’s hosted an audience of 100,000+ on Instagram Live while discussing the wealth disparity in access to coronavirus tests. She’s even inspired the official anthem of social distancing. While Cardi has gotten political before, she’s never wielded her influence quite like this.At this point, it’s basically the will of the people:
Below, some of Cardi’s star-making political moments in the wake of the virus. She donated $1 million to struggling families in the pandemic.
On April 8, Cardi B released plans for her own stimulus package. The musician is partnering with Fashion Nova to donate $1 million to families impacted by the pandemic through May 20. She and the fashion brand will provide $1,000 every hour to those seeking relief. As unemployment rates soar and businesses shutter, Cardi urged her Instagram followers to share their stories through fashionnova.com/cares. From there, she and Fashion Nova will read submissions and select those they’ll aid. “Don’t be shy. Sometimes you gotta motherfucking ask for help,” she told her followers before singing “Lean on Me.” She provided meals to NYC healthcare workers.Last week, Cardi went to the emergency room for an illness unrelated to COVID-19. She’s recovering now and thanked medical officials for their help by donating 20,000 bottles of the vegan meal supplement drink OWYN. TMZ reported that Cardi wanted to ensure healthcare professionals in NYC, who may not have time to eat during their shifts, were taken care of. She called out elected officials for spreading misinformation.
On March 11, Cardi B addressed the government directly, asking a question that public officials had evaded for weeks: is the coronavirus going to last weeks or months? Clad in a white bathrobe, she told her followers, “I know shit is getting real. Once the stock market starts going low, that’s how I know shit is getting real. Because there ain’t nothing white corporate America hates the most than losing motherfucking money,” before applying a healthy dose of hand sanitizer. Later that month, Cardi tweeted about the lack of information regarding the pandemic’s timeline. While some local politicians said the virus could last far into the summer, other elected officials said churchgoers would be able to safely congregate on Easter. She spoke out about the privilege celebrities have when getting tested for the virus.Sporting a surgical mask with “NINETYNINEPERCENTERS” printed on it, Cardi B addressed confusion over coronavirus testing on Instagram, March 24. In the 4-minute video, she refers to Donald Trump as “45,” and his insistence that if you don’t have symptoms not to get tested. “But if a celebrity is saying, ‘Hey, listen. I don’t have no symptoms. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling healthy. I don’t feel like nothing, but I went and got tested and I’m positive for the coronavirus,’ that cause confusion,” she said.Cardi also noted that “the general public, people that work regular jobs, people that get regular paychecks, the middle class, the poor … they’re not getting treated like celebrities.” As for those who do test positive, the rapper mentioned that they’re being sent home to quarantine. But the average person doesn’t have a mansion to self-isolate in, which could mean further spread of the virus. She urged people to be counted in the 2020 census.
Cardi took a break from her pandemic PSAs to address the 2020 census. In partnership with New York’s NYC Census 2020 initiative, she told her followers not to be consumed by the virus and take 10 minutes to fill out the census. “Your community’s future is in your hands,” she explained. “Not just for the next four years, but for the next decade. The 2020 Census decides how much power, money and respect our city gets. In past census’ Black and brown communities have been undercounted and unseen. The census is for everyone regardless of immigration status,” she noted, addressing Trump’s addition of a citizenship question to this year’s census.She turned her Instagram Live into news conferences.
You’re not alone in thinking Cardi B’s Instagram Lives are beginning to feel like her own news conferences. Variety reported that five of the top 10 most-viewed videos on IG in March came courtesy of Cardi B. Each of her most popular videos focused on the pandemic, including her critique of the U.S. government’s response to the virus and her hilarious response to being featured in a Chinese TV newscast. In that video she coins the prescient catchphrase, “Spread the word, don’t spread the germs, bitch.” Cardi’s filter-free briefings are in stark contrast to the White House, whose Press Secretary has not held a formal press briefing in more than a year. She spoke to the confusing time we’re living through.
Part of a leader’s duty is to relate to the feelings of her constituents. Cardi B has done just that, voicing all of our frustration with quarantine boredom. On March 14, she tweeted, “I been sad all day for NO REASON AT ALL,” capturing our general feeling of anxiety.
And who among us hasn’t thought about running headfirst into a Jenga structure? She promised to start a GoFundMe for Tiger King’s Joe Exotic.
Cardi cemented her status as the People’s President when she devoted her life to the madness that is Tiger King. She began tweeting her thoughts on the series (she’d also like to know who burned down Joe’s studio) and even vowed to start a GoFundMe for Joe Exotic. Think this doesn’t count as a political act? Perhaps seconding Cardi’s motion, President Trump told reporters he’d “look into” pardoning the king of tigers. (Hourly reminder that none of this is normal.) She inspired a national anthem of sorts.
And, finally, what would a politician be without her own campaign song? It all started with Cardi B’s infamous March 10 Instagram Live. Wearing a chain-link dress, she admitted she was “a little scared” about the coronavirus, before questioning how the President was dealing with the situation. Cardi ended the video by crying, “Coronavirus! Coronavirus! I’m telling you, shit is real! Shit is gettin’ real!”
Soon, DJ iMarkkeyz had remixed her remarks for a song that went, well, viral. In March, The New York Times reported that the song hit the Top 10 of the U.S. iTunes chart. It even inspired the #CoronavirusChallenge on TikTok, where people dance to the song in face masks. Although Cardi B joked about getting royalties for the hit, Billboard reports that Cardi and iMarkkeyz plan to donate proceeds from the song to charity.
Savannah Walsh is an Editorial Fellow at ELLE.com.