When Big Freedia sat down at the microphone at the Allison Minor Music Heritage Stage last weekend at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, her fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The Queen of Bounce had canceled a set at the “Jazz in the Park” series a few days before, and fans were worried she might not be able to appear for the interview and a show later in the day.
“I’m not feeling well and Doctors orders to rest. Love you all!” she had tweeted. But at Jazz Fest, Big Freedia was suited up in a metallic snakeskin print outfit and ready for everything that interviewer Peggy Scott Laborde threw her way.
With June dates set for the second season premiere of her Fuse TV reality show, “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce,” and the debut of her new CD, “Just Be Free,” the one-time gospel singer is riding a wave of national popularity that she worked her “Azz” off to earn.
Although “bounce” is drily defined by Wikipedia as “an energetic form of New Orleans hip-hop music,” anyone who has ever seen Big Freedia perform or watched her set with DJ Juane Jordan on the Congo Square Stage later in the day would find the adjective a little anemic.
The interview (think Barbara Walters interviewing Miley Cyrus about “Wrecking Ball” but much, much more lively) covered a lot of territory and revealed some unexpected dimensions of Big Freedia.
On her musical roots:
I was in the choir at Cohen (High School), in the church choir, wound up as the choir director. I sang with the Gospel Soul Children, as well. I did that for a very long time. It’s my history.
On her relationship with bounce artist Katey Red:
Katey inspired me to do bounce music. When Katey came out, she was the first transsexual man to come out with bounce music. She needed support.
On sissy bounce:
I don’t separate straight or sissy bounce. It’s just bounce. It’s for anybody and everybody.
On tailoring her performances to various audiences:
I just still be me. They gotta adapt to me, adjust to me. Some of the world is ready for me and some isn’t.
On SXSW (the South by Southwest festival):
It was an education on so many levels. I represented for New Orleans and bounce in my own way.
On performing in Connecticut:
It was the first show I had to curse back at the fans.
On the terms “divarish” and “girl down” that she and Red use:
Katey and me, we’re the queen divas so we do “divarish” things. “Girl down” can be used for anything and everything. “I am hungry. Girl down!” “He cute. Girl down!”
On the interior design of her home:
My bedroom is very divarish.
I’m over twerking. We shake, wiggle, bend over, bust out. It’s just one term.
On Miley Cyrus:
Miley’s still trying to twerk. We had a dance exchange with her and her dancers when she was in town.
They got from us, but we didn’t get from them.
On getting a call from RuPaul about collaborating on music video “Peanut Butter”:
That day was a shock. It was a phone call and I like to drop dead right then and there. He asked me to do a track and then he called back and asked me to do the video.
On why her songs are not filled with four-letter words:
I make happy music. It’s how I feel. Usually I’m not feeling like four-letter words.
On why she always thanks God during her performances:
It’s only the man up above who is keeping me in good health as I push to elevate to the next level.
People wonder why this black gay guy always thanks God. It’s because no matter who you are, there’s a being up above who helps you through it all.
On Hurricane Katrina:
I’m glad God let me go through it to let me know how it is for so many people. It humbled me. Sleeping on a bridge, sleeping at the convention center.
I had money, and money had no meaning. When I returned and when I saw my mom, it was the most joyful feeling. I cried.
On performers she’d like to work with:
Missy Elliott, Fantasia, Lady Gaga. I’d like to perform at Madison Square Garden.
On her stage name, pronounced FREE-duh:
Freddie Ross is my given name. My friend said, “Girl, we gotta get you something a little more jazzy. We gonna call you Big Freedia.”
On performing for children:
I always tell them, get your education. You can always have fun and party.
Contact R. Stephanie Bruno at email@example.com