Is Cardi B Too Risky for Fashion Brands?

Cardi B has never claimed to be a choir girl.

In fact, many would agree that the former stripper and reality television star — whose megasplash into the music industry came by way of her 2017 rap hit “Bodak Yellow,” in which she sang the praises of Christian Louboutin’s “red bottoms” (see “bloody shoes”) — can credit her no-holds-barred antics for her meteoric rise to fame.

Still, the rapper — who has dabbled in the fashion space via a Fashion Nova endorsement and a digital holiday campaign with Steve Madden last year — raised a few eyebrows this week when she turned herself in to authorities to be booked on charges of misdemeanor reckless endangerment and assault related to a strip club fight in August.

And in September, a video surfaced of an altercation between Cardi B and fellow rapper Nicki Minaj during the Harper’s Bazaar Icons party in New York (part of New York Fashion Week festivities) —  in which the former appeared to be the aggressor and was ultimately ejected from the event.

While she initially garnered attention through her Instagram page — where she offered comical and often brash commentary about her life and other controversial subjects — it seems many have just now woken up to the reality of Cardi B.

Is she too much?

For fashion brands, she might be.

According to Spotted, a research platform that analyzes millions of data points in the celebrity endorsement space, the rapper’s past, along with her recent string of legal hiccups, makes her a “very risky” partner for brands.

“For 9 out of 10 brands that come to us, they say that authenticity, trust and relatability are what they’re looking for, and in terms of these qualities, Cardi B ranks very low,” explained co-founder and CEO Janet Comenos, noting that for many brands, trust and reliability tend to trump variables such as social relevance and fame level or attributes like edginess or provocativeness, where she ranks higher.

Specifically for Spotted’s “authenticity” and “trust” ranks, Cardi B places in in the 12th and 13th percentiles, respectively. Additionally, her “likability” ranks in the 21st percentile, which alongside “her low authenticity and trust scores, creates a very low consumer approval overall, compared to other celebrities of her caliber,” the company said — citing previous incidents where Cardi B was accused of racist behavior. (A 3-year-old video in which Cardi B parodied civil rights figure Coretta Scott King surfaced this summer, leading to accusations of racism.)

Meanwhile, Spotted’s “CelebScore” metric ranks her in the 99th percentile based on current popularity and overall level of social presence and growth.

Is Cardi B’s sheer star power alone not worth something?

According to Comenos, it is, depending on the brand.

“For the right type of [label], she’s the right fit,” Comenos said. “Brands like Supreme, Steve Madden and Converse that go for an edgier approach and have been historically controversial are a better fit for Cardi.”

But most brands in the current climate — where a single tweet can be a company’s undoing — are looking to steer clear of controversies, she said.

Still, where less-than-cookie-cutter celebrities are concerned, there are some factors that can cancel out a few risks.

Polarizing ex-footballer Colin Kaepernick — who gained notoriety for his anthem-kneeling during football games to protest racial injustice — was ultimately a win for Nike when it cast him in an ad last month because he ranks high in an area that’s important for both brands and consumers: leadership.

At the same time, other risky celebrities like Cardi B will likely find value for themselves in the fashion space as brands continue to tweak their methods for choosing ambassadors.

“Brands are evolving and recognize that in order to be successful, they have to tap diverse talent to represent them,” Comenos noted.

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