So it’s no wonder she was chosen to narrate VICE News’ one-hour documentary special, Out Loud. In partnership with Absolut’s global initiative Absolut Ally, VICE’s on-screen report shines a light on the role LGBTQIA+ venues, such as bars and restaurants, have played in shaping three groundbreaking LGBTQIA+ artists and providing a haven for queer culture as a whole.
“I’ve partnered with Absolut in the past, and this is another instance to help amplify the stories about musicians and artists like myself,” says the New Orleans legend. “I always want to help the next person, especially because, when I was growing up, there weren't many people that were aware of the queer space and the community here in New Orleans until I started performing constantly, week after week, night after night. This allows me to open another door and knock down another barrier for people like myself.”
Below, Big Freedia talks about breaking barriers in the club scene, the importance of allyship, and why she’s finally dropping her most authentic album after nine years.
On Putting The Queer In Bounce
"As a queer artist, I found pride and a sense of self on the club scene when I was coming up in New Orleans. Many clubs like Club Sam's, Club Focus, Streamline, Mr. B’s, Bus Stop, and Club Unlimited allowed me to come in and be myself. Each night of the week, I was at a club, and sometimes on the weekend. I would do five and six clubs on a Friday or Saturday night, running through, giving everybody 15 or 20-minute performances. It was a grind, and it was my hustle back then to keep building my name and my brand. Plus, I had to survive, so I was just working but also doing something that I loved, which was the music.
There’s a misconception that Bounce music is more accepting of queer artists and our community, but there are way more straight artists than gay artists in the space. When we came on the scene, it was a shock to everybody, and it's still a shock to a lot of people. But when we got in the game, we started to own the space. We started to take control of the space for ourselves. And just being a queer artist gave us a lot of buzz. When we first started, a lot of people didn't accept it, but the girls and women were the ones to carry us because they loved us. They loved the sound. They were our allies here in New Orleans, going out there fighting for us and telling people, 'That's my queen!'
They were the ones who were supporting us and made it so people couldn’t deny the music. Because wherever the girls went, the boys followed.
It’s a community effort to create those safe spaces. I put in hard work, but it was also the fierceness of people being bold, standing up for me, and requesting for me to be in those different spaces. It takes club owners, club promoters, and fans to allow queer artists to get into those spaces and be able to express themselves. They are the ones that gave us that connection between the club and the music. They had to want to allow me to take up their space and be myself and be creative each week. I was coming out with different themes and parties back then. If I said I was throwing an all-black party or a high-shorts-on-with-ass-cheeks-out party, they came out. I was just putting my flair on everything and just open and creative.
The three artists in the Out Loud documentary also had to build relationships with club owners, promoters, and brands in many different ways. Everybody's story is a little different and everybody's spaces are a little different. We all have different styles and our own personalities. But it’s that flair that we all bring to all those spaces and the love of the music that connects us."
On Progress Through Allyship
"There’s still a need to create even more spaces for queer artists and to be allies to them. With all of this shit happening around the world right now with these legislators and all of the drama about the queer community, it’s important now for allies to step up and fight for us and be there, even just tune in to understand the story and the struggle of these three different artists.
Recent moments of allyship like Beyoncé’s Renaissance album also help people to have an open mind and be understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community. It highlighted queer slang and melodies and had many queens and queer artists that were recognized for their music or their sound or their voice. Our allies need to keep on representing. It gives us a chance to give the community attention. And it also lets people know that queer artists make great music because it all goes back to the music.
One piece of advice I’d give any queer artist is to be humble and remain who you are. Through it all, don't lose yourself while stepping into your full potential. That's the main thing for me. I never change who I am. You adjust as you go along the rollercoaster ride because it's all a learning process. But just remain humble, be kind to people, and be open-minded. That can take you a long way when you're in the music game. And when you’re a queer artist, you have to be mindful of the things you say and do and how you carry yourself. That is very important because your image is everything, and the way that you put yourself out there is the way that people are going to see you."
On Stepping Into Her Season
"I've been putting out lots of great music, lots of different collaborations, and after nine years, it’s time for me to give my fans a full, authentic, Big Freedia album. I go on what my soul tells me and what my soul feeds me, and it’s just God's timing.
My new album Central City will drop on June 23. It's my journey from Big Freddie to Big Freedia and growing up here in New Orleans on Josephine Street, which is in Central City. I’m taking fans back through my childhood and my teenage years up until now. It's a mixture of sounds, vibes, and just great music. My third single 'Bigfoot' came out at the top of the month, which followed up '$100 Bills' featuring Ciara, and 'Central City Freestyle.' The next single will be coming out with me and Lil Wayne.
Each time I went in to record, I came out so proud of the body of work that I’ve made. It’s such a blessing, and I'm so excited for the world to hear. I'm just in my bag and in my season."