Big Freedia On Working With Beyoncé & The New Season Of Big Freedia Bounces Back

Photo: Mike Ruiz/Fuse.
“I did not come to play with you hoes. I came to slay, bitch.” Those are the words that have been typed into Instagram captions all over the world after they were said in the video for Beyoncé’s “Formation,” the first single from her album Lemonade. But the line didn’t come from Queen Bey, it came from Big Freedia, the queen of bounce music. The New Orleans native has dominated the hip-hop subgenre that requires a lot of twerking (called “shaking” in this context), for nearly 20 years.
But for the past four years, Freedia has dominated Fuse network with her reality series Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce. The show has chronicled Freedia’s rise to mainstream success, documenting the highs — getting engaged and that call from Beyoncé — and the lows — losing her mother and being forced to pay $70,000 for housing fraud. Now, to show Freedia’s fresh outlook on life, it has been rebranded as Big Freedia Bounces Back and you can catch the premiere on Fuse Tuesday night at 10 p.m..
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But for now, here’s what Freedia told me about her career, the new season of her show, and giving up weed as one of the terms of her probation.
Refinery29: How do you balance the new demands of your mainstream success with the authenticity of bounce culture and music?
Big Freedia: "The most important thing is to remain myself while I'm still trying grow my brand and my music career; and get the culture to the next level that I think it deserves. I want to be performing at award shows, get bounce music on charts. I want it to have its own lane like it already has, but I want it on a bigger level. [T]hat takes being professional, stepping up to the next level, and just giving it my all; but at the same time remaining humble and remaining myself."
Do you think bounce has already crossed over?
"Absolutely. I'm already in the spotlight of every genre of music. Everybody wants a little taste of bounce music in their life. So it's already on that path. I'm already mainstream. But when I say truly mainstream I mean getting its own category… And I got something in the works for them."
Do you ever worry about bounce being appropriated?
"Yes, and when that happens I just bring it back to the culture and let them know: you have to be from New Orleans. You have to represent. You have to breathe New Orleans. You have to wake up in New Orleans."
What was it like working on Beyoncé’s Lemonade?
"Oh my god... It was a blessing. I was so honored and so humbled to be a part of that whole project, that whole process. And I just thank Beyoncé and her team for reaching out. I thank New Orleans for supporting me and backing me up and really going crazy over the song. I will forever be grateful to Beyoncé for that project."
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What is it like being a genderfluid artist in the Trump era?
"I try to use my platform to speak on different issues with that, and to keep inspiring people to be themselves and be real with themselves. We can't let any government — or politics — govern us into who we want to be and how we choose to be. You just have to keep pushing forward. There are going to be some assholes in this world and you have to be able to see over them assholes and through them assholes and around them assholes and continue to live life freely."
How has life been without weed?
"It was a struggle. It was a hard... girl. You hear what I'm telling you? Honey. That was one of the hardest times in my life because I've been so free, and I didn't have to be regulated by the government. Once I got over that hump, though, I can truly say that my vision is more clear. I'm focused more on me and my business. My health feels better. My energy is on a different level. And I see things so much clearer now. I wake up and I want to handle my business now. When I was on the weed, I was a little bit sluggish. I was like ‘fuck it. I'll do that tomorrow. I'll do that the next day.’ Now there's just a whole new aspect to me. You make one wrong move on my stage now and I can feel it. Before they were getting over on me and I was just accepting anything when I was high. Now it's like, ‘No that shit ain't flying now, sweetheart. You gone get it together or get away from me.’"
How do you sit through really bad shake auditions?
"Baby, it inspires because if you can get up there and try for me, you inspire me to keep on pushing. It makes me want to keep making great music because everybody's not going to get it. Everybody doesn't have a big butt. Everybody doesn’t have the moves, but it inspires me to know that putting your effort forward is great. It makes me feel good when the worst person is trying to shake to my music. It makes me feel good that I'm still inspiring some of the worst of the worst and the best of the best to empower themselves on the dance floor through dance music."
What is one thing that people are going to learn about Freedia this season?
"That I’m a boss queen, and that no matter what adversities come at me in life, I know how to take them. I know how to own up to my mistakes and overcome them. I'm still empowering people and encouraging them to take their L’s and turn them into P’s. Take that loss and turn it into something positive. You can flip every situation around. I went through some hardships. But along with the hardships comes the good stuff, and along with the good stuff comes the bad stuff. You have to learn how to balance."
Do you have preferred gender pronouns?
"No. I tell people all the time, I know who I am so if you call me he or she it doesn't matter. I'm comfortable in my own skin with who I am."
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