Big Freedia is like soul food, meaning that she is a whole mood. The Queen of Bounce is hours away from performing at Red Bull's Dance Your Style New Orleans qualifier when she sits down with me. The freestyle dance battle in her native city is a match made in heaven for the rapper, who has made her name by being herself. Standing tall at 6-foot-3 with her crimped ombre tresses coming to her shoulders, Freedia is wearing a black T-shirt that appropriately says “This Queen,” as well as black skinny jeans and customized Dr. Martens that feature her name and catchphrase “You Already Know.” In her twenty-year career, she has given us a rump-shaking catalog that makes you want to lift ya leg up, jump, and go crazy. While Ariana Grande acted as a civil servant by revealing that God was in fact a woman. Freedia did so by letting us know that Santa, thank Heavens, is a gay man.
In 2013, Big Freedia invited the world to see the inner workings of her life on her hit Fuse reality show, Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce. But while she has gotten attention for her catchphrase, the singer was quick to let everyone know about her other side hustle. “Something that people don’t know about me that I’d like them to know is before I was rapping, I was an interior designer and decorator. I did weddings, parties, and funerals. I went to the flower school,” she explains enthusiastically. “A lot of times, people don’t know that that’s still my world. I still have my business that does all of this. I’ve done the mayor's office. All of his events: many parties all around the city, many weddings, birthday parties. You name it, I do it. I’m multitalented and have my hands in a lot of different things. People may not know, but I’m a hustler.”
A hustler is an understatement to describe Freedia. The bodacious bounce star started her career as a backup dancer and singer for friend and trans bounce artist Katey Red. And if you’ve watched the show, you have seen their NOLA Lucy-and-Ethel dynamic relationship play out. Since debuting her first solo project, An Ha Oh Yeah, 20 years ago in 1999, Freedia has often received credit for helping to bring bounce to a national and global scale that has allowed her to collaborate with industry heavyweights like RuPaul (on “Peanut Butter”). Bounce icon and pioneer Mia X has also referred to Freedia as the queen in the past, adding to her already impressive reputation.
Freedia's energy is not only electric but also magnetic. Ask any native New Orleanian about her and their face lights up. Whether it was the person sitting next to me on the plane, my Uber driver, or anyone else I encountered, just mentioning her name instantly lightened the mood. And they are also quick to point out how she continues to rep for their city.
“I stay positive because of the energy and people I have around me," the "Duffy" singer says of keeping a positive aura. "If you keep negative people around you, you just feed off of it. I’m just like everybody else. I have good days, and I have bad days and days that negative people that come into my circle. You have to learn how to push those people out. I ask God every day to push those snakes out of my circle.”
It was three years ago that The Queen of Bounce collaborated with the other queen, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter, to feature on her single “Formation,” which garnered significant acclaim with its unapologetic celebration of black womanhood. “I did not come to play with you hoes, I came to slay bitch,” Freedia testifies on the song. In 2018, she followed this with a feature on Drake’s "Nice for What," though her lack of presence in the video sparked online debate regarding the erasure of LGBT visibility in hip hop music. In true queen form, the bounce pioneer is quick to uplift and mention other members in her community, sharing who she believes are the heavyweights the world should watch: “Oh, there’s so many. HA-SIZZLE, GameovaReedy, SUPAH BADD, Sissy Nobby, Katey Red, Vockah Redu. Ooh, there’s so many, chile.”
Today, media is rightfully starting to increase LGBTQ visibility, but that was not the norm when Freedia was growing up. But who was it that she was looking to as a source for inspiration? "Prince, Sylvester, Rupaul," she says. "Some of my icons who I was into. Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick. I was old-school, so all of those people. Luther Vandross. All of those people were great entertainers. I loved their music and looked up to them and wanted to be like them.”
Though Freedia has some of the biggest collaborations underneath her belt, she certainly has not closed the door to more. Of whom she would like to collaborate with next, the singer’s list could go on for days. “Fantasea, Kelly Price, Patti Labelle. Nicki Minaj, Cardi B. The list is long, chile," she says, adding excitedly, "Meg, too!” A Hot Girl-Bounce bop would truly shake the table and the wall.
Big Freedia currently has two tours on the horizon. First is Big Freedia's Summer Shakeup, and then Azz Across America Tour. While you wait for the tour to kick off, stream her latest collaboration with The Soul Rebels called “Good Times” here.