|Birth name||Freddie Ross Jr.|
|Born|| (1978-01-28) January 28, 1978|
New Orleans 15, Louisiana, U.S.
Freddie Ross Jr. (born January 28, 1978), better known by her stage name Big Freedia (/ˈfriːdə/ FREE-də), is an American rapper known for her work in the New Orleans genre of hip hop called bounce music. Freedia has been credited with helping popularize the genre, which had been largely underground since developing in the early 1990s. Though Freedia identifies as a gay man she is ambivalent her about pronouns, using she/her pronouns.
Freedia started singing in the choir of the neighborhood Baptist church, Pressing Onward M.B.C., and started a professional performance career around 1999. 2003 saw the release of Freedia's debut studio album Queen Diva. She first gained mainstream exposure in 2009, and her 2010 album Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1 was re-released on Scion A/V in March 2011, as well as a number of music videos.
In 2011, she was named Best Emerging Artist and Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist in January's "Best of the Beat Awards," and was nominated for the 2011 22nd GLAAD Media Awards. In 2013, she got her own reality show on the Fuse Channel, which chronicles her life on tour and at home. On July 7, 2015, she released her autobiography God Save the Queen Diva!.
In 2016, Beyonce released a surprise single, "Formation", sampling Freedia's voice. At the end of 2016, Freedia was featured in a local New Orleans television ad for Juan LaFonta Law Office, in which she is shown rapping with bounce music and dancers. In 2018, she released the EP Third Ward Bounce.
In April 2020, Freedia collaborated with New Kids on the Block, Jordin Sparks, Naughty by Nature and Boyz II Men on the song "House Party", a song written during social distancing during COVID-19. The video for "House Party" was shot on cell phones.
Freedia also provided additional vocals for Drake's 2018 number-one hit "Nice for What", though she is not credited as a featured artist. In the late 2010s, she befriended Kesha with the two collaborating on each others' projects. Freedia was scheduled to go on tour with Kesha in 2020, but it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Freddie Ross was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a child, she took piano lessons and sang in the choir, and has said that music was always a part of her life. Freddie's mother exposed her to artists such as Patti LaBelle, and she was also influenced by disco singer Sylvester, Michael Jackson, and Salt-N-Pepa.
Ross attended Walter L. Cohen High School, where she continued to perform in choir and also became the choir director. This experience made her realize she could write and produce. According to Freedia, she initially suffered from stage-fright, and had to coax herself onto stage until she became comfortable performing.
In 1998, a young drag queen by the name of Katey Red performed bounce music at a club near the Melpomene Projects where Ross grew up. Ross, who had grown up four blocks away from Katey Red, began performing as a backup dancer and singer in Red's shows. In 1999, Katey Red released Melpomene Block Party on the city's leading bounce label, Take Fo Records. Freedia adopted her stage name after a friend dubbed her "Freedia" (pronounced "Freeda"). According to Ross, "I wanted a catchy name that rhymed, and my mother had a club called Diva that I worked for. I called myself the queen of diva—so I coined it: Big Freedia Queen Diva."
In 1999, Freedia released her first single, "An Ha, Oh Yeah", and began performing frequently in clubs and other venues in New Orleans. Other local hits included "Rock Around the Clock" and "Gin 'N My System", which was later quoted by local rapper Lil Wayne on a mixtape. She released her first studio album, Queen Diva, in 2003.
Freedia was often described as an artist within the "sissy bounce" subgenre, though she had stated "there's no such thing as separating it into straight bounce and sissy bounce. It's all bounce music." About her popularity with women at live shows, music journalist Alison Fensterstock wrote, "When Freedia or Sissy Nobby's singing superaggressive, sexual lyrics about bad boyfriends or whatever, there's something about being able to be the 'I' in the sentence... it's tough to sing along about bitches and hoes when you're a girl. When you identify with Freedia, you're the agent of all this aggressive sexuality instead of its object."
Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, and Freedia, along with other bounce artists such as Katey Red and Freedia's protege Sissy Nobby, were forced to vacate the city. Freedia settled for several months in Texas, where she began performing bounce shows for the locals, helping spread awareness of the genre like other displaced bounce artists. She moved back to New Orleans at the first opportunity. According to Freedia, "The first club that reopened in New Orleans was Caesar's, and they called me immediately and said let's do a regular night with you here. So we started FEMA Fridays. It was the only club open in the city, and a lot of people had a lot of money from Katrina, the checks and stuff, so the joy inside that club—I don't think that'll ever come back."
She played six to ten shows a week at block parties, nightclubs, strip clubs, and other venues while the city recuperated. According to Fensterstock, "Freedia was one of the first artists to come back after the storm and start working, and she worked really, really hard. If you lived here, it became impossible not to know who she was."
Freedia began to gain national exposure after a 2009 fest-closing gig with Katey Red and Sissy Nobby at the Bingo Parlour Tent and the 2009 Voodoo Experience. On January 18, 2010, she self-released the album Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1 on Big Freedia Records. The album was a collection of previously performed singles from 1999 to 2010.
In March 2010, she was booked for a showcase of New Orleans bounce music at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, but cancelled after an injury. She signed to the Windish Agency afterwards, and booked a summer tour. Along with Katey Red, Cheeky Blakk, and Sissy Nobby, she was a guest on the May 2010 album Ya-ka-may by funk band Galactic. She joined the band for several gigs, and the album peaked at #161 on the US Billboard Chart.
In May 2010, Freedia began touring with DJ Rusty Lazer and a team of "bootydancers", along with pop band Matt and Kim. She performed at Hoodstock in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in May 2010, and afterwards was written up in the Village Voice. She performed for contemporary art mogul Jeffrey Deitch at Basel Miami and at New York's MoMa art museum. Upon returning to New Orleans, she was pursued by a New York journalist and was featured in The New York Times on July 22, 2010. She continued to tour throughout the United States, and in Fall 2010 had her first national television appearance on the Last Call with Carson Daly. In October 2010, the New Orleans Times-Picayune called her an "overnight sensation".
In 2011, Freedia was named Best Emerging Artist and Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist in January's "Best of the Beat Awards." Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1 was nominated by the 22nd GLAAD Media Awards in 2011. The album was re-released on Scion A/V in March 2011, along with a number of music videos. She also won an MTV 0 Award in 2012 for "Too Much Ass for TV."
She appeared on HBO's Treme, a drama following residents of New Orleans as they try to rebuild after Katrina. She performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on January 25, 2012. Her performance at South by Southwest (SXSW) in 2012 was reviewed by Rolling Stone as "Probably this writer's favorite SXSW set."
In 2013, music television channel Fuse aired the first season of Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, a reality show chronicling Freedia's growing mainstream attention and life back in New Orleans. During publicity for the show, Freedia led a crowd of hundreds in New York City to set the Guinness World Record for twerking. The second season of the show aired in 2014 and followed her mother Vera Ross's battle with cancer, which she lost on April 1, 2014, while Freedia was away doing a show. Freedia immediately flew back to New Orleans and planned a jazz funeral through the streets of the city, which the show aired. The show has been airing for six seasons, was expanded from 30 minutes to an hour, and is now called Big Freedia Bounces Back.
The book, Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva!, written by the "gay, self-proclaimed mama's boy who exploded onto the formerly underground Bounce music scene" along with Nicole Balin, was released July 2015.
On February 6, 2016, Beyoncé released a surprise single, "Formation", and an accompanying music video, filmed in New Orleans, which sampled speech from Messy Mya and Big Freedia. Freedia is heard saying, "I did not come to play with you hoes, haha. I came to slay, bitch! I like cornbread and collard greens, bitch! Oh yas, you besta believe it," in the music video.
Beyoncé also uses Freedia's voice to open her 2016 "Formation" World Tour. Freedia says, "Oh Miss Bey, I know you came to slay! Give them hoes what they came to see. Baby, when I tell you, I'm back by popular demand. I did not come to play with you hoes. I came to slay, bitch! Oh yes, you best believe it, I always slay. You know I don't play!"
Artists, such as Beyoncé and Drake, promoting Big Freedia have been criticized for using Big Freedia's voice but leaving her completely visually absent from their videos. However, in a 2018 interview with Wendy Williams, Freedia said she was out of the country doing a show and therefore she could not be in the "Formation" video with Beyoncé. Big Freedia has performed onstage with Beyoncé in at least one location of her Formation Tour. In 2021, she collaborated a song "Goin' Looney" for the Space Jam: A New Legacy soundtrack.
In August 2016, The Fader premiered the "big room banger", "Marie Antoinette feat. Big Freedia", a song by New Orleans-based artist Boyfriend. In December 2016, Big Freedia released A Very Big Freedia Christmazz, which she also collaborated on with Boyfriend, who co-produced and co-wrote 4 songs on the EP.
On September 2017, Big Freedia released the single, "Dive" which featured rapper Mannie Fresh, who is also from New Orleans. They decided to work together after Fresh appeared on her show, Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce. The song was originally going to be included on a joint mixtape called The Bounce Back, but the album was scrapped for unknown reasons.
After signing her first major record deal with Asylum Records, Freedia released the first single from her June 1 EP, Third Ward Bounce. The song, titled "Rent", was also available as a music video.
On October 24, 2019, Freedia was featured on Kesha's "Raising Hell", the lead single for her fourth studio album High Road. They promoted the song together at the 2019 AMA's and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
In 2020, Freedia released a documentary film about her New Orleans upbringing and the issues of gun violence. The film, Freedia Got a Gun, is a response to her brother's 2018 murder and explores Freedia's experience with gun violence in the community and tries to uncover the root causes of the issue.
Freedia appeared as a guest judge on RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars season 6 episode 2 in June 2021.
On September 15, 2021, She appeared as a guest judge in episode 3 of the sixth season of Nailed It!.
In April 2022, Freedia was named Artist Ambassador for US Independent Venue Week.
In 2016, Freedia was indicted on charges of theft of government funds after she failed to report her income earnings between 2010 and 2014 while still claiming Section 8 housing benefits. Later that year, she pled guilty to all charges. She was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to pay $35,000 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service in lieu of a jail sentence. In addition, she was ordered to live in a halfway house prior to sentencing after testing positive for marijuana and methamphetamine and was ordered to undergo drug testing as a condition of her probation. In 2018, Big Freedia revealed in an Instagram video that the judge in the case had granted her request to end her probation one year early for good behavior.
In 2021, Big Freedia endorsed Democratic candidate Gary Chambers in the 2021 Louisiana's 2nd congressional district special election, recording a song and filming a music video in support of Chambers and his campaign.
Gender and pronouns
Freedia has stated "I am not transgendered [sic]; I am just a gay male... I wear women's hair and carry a purse, but I am a man. I answer to either "he" or "she"." In a 2013 interview with Out Freedia expressed a preference for "she", saying "I have fans who say 'he' all the time; I have fans who say 'she' all the time. I'm confident in who I am, and I know what I stand for. When they say either/or, I'm not affected by either/or because, like I said, I know who I am. [...] A lot of people just can't accept the fact of calling a man 'she.' I totally understand that, and it's never offensive to me, because I was born a man, my preferred pronoun is she—but it's not a big thing to me". In a 2015 interview, Freedia stated, "...I’m a straight-UP gay man. I love my feminine side. She is the diva in me. I think gender identity is on a spectrum and that means there’s lots of grey area!"
In 2018 and 2020, Freedia expressed a preference for "fluid" pronouns, and a lack of preference for any one pronoun in particular. Responding to the question, "Do you feel like you’ve been pressured to gender yourself?" Freedia responded,
Yeah, definitely. But they can’t put me in a box, child. I don’t let ‘em. I get this question every interview: “What is your preferred pronoun?” and all of that. I’m me. That’s my preferred pronoun. I tell people all the time, it don’t matter if you call me “he,” “she,” “it,” whatever. I know who I am and that’s all that matters.
|2010||Last Call with Carson Daly||Herself|
|Prince Paul's Adventurous Musical Journey|
|2012||Jimmy Kimmel Live!|
|2013–2017||Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce|
|2013||Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen|
|Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell||2 episodes|
|Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood|
|2017||When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story||Tam|
|2018||The Untitled Action Bronson Show||Herself|
|2020||Freedia Got a Gun||Herself||documentary film|
|The Eric Andre Show|
|2021||The Real Housewives of Atlanta||Herself||Season 13|
|RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars||Herself (guest judge)||Season 6, episode 2: "The Blue Ball"|
|Nailed It!||Season 6, episode 2: "C'est Jacques"|
- Just Be Free (2014)
Awards and nominations
|Queerty Awards||2013||Herself||Twerker of the Year||Nominated|||
- MacCash, Doug (May 2, 2015). "Big Freedia, the 'Dangerous' diva of New Orleans Jazz Fest 2015". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
- Hinson, Mark (March 22, 2018). "Big Freedia bounces back into town, so be prepared". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
- Hutt, John (September 10, 2013). "Big Freedia on Miley Cyrus and 'Transforming One Twerker at a Time'". Out. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
- Douze, Khalila (March 13, 2020). "Big Freedia is Blessed". ssense. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
- Fensterstock, Alison (October 30, 2018). "Big Freedia is the 21st Century's Ambassador of Freedom". npr. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
- "Must List: Big Freedia, Indie Chefs Week and 'An Iliad'". Houston Chronicle. January 3, 2018. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
- Zeichner, Naomi (March 23, 2011). Video: Big Freedia, "Y'all Get Back Now. The FADER
- "Best Of The Beat 2010 Music Award Winners". Offbeat Magazine. January 29, 2011. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
- Sullivan, Michael (January 20, 2011). GLAAD names media noms. Variety
- Anna Sale (August 19, 2015). "in New Orleans: Big Freedia Bounces Back". Wnyc.org (Podcast). Retrieved August 21, 2015.
- "Biig Freedia Interview – The Queen Diva of NOLA Bounce". Play Jones. January 17, 2012. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
- Dee, Jonathan (July 22, 2010). New Orleans’s Gender-Bending Rap. The New York Times
- Fensterstock, Allison (October 7, 2010). Rapper Big Freedia an 'overnight' sensation. New Orleans Times-Picayune
- Dodero, Camille (May 25, 2010). Hoodstock Takes Bed-Stuy with Big Freedia and Ninjasonik, Leaves People Bruised Like Crack Whores. Village Voice
- Cadogan, Garnet (August 2007). Bounce Back. Vibe, p. 94.
- Flaherty, Jordan; Goodman, Amy (2010). Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, p. 25. Haymarket Books, ISBN 978-1-60846-065-6
- Galactica Position on Billboard, Billboard.com
- Benjamin, Jeff (June 29, 2012). "MTV O Music Awards: Recapping 23 Awards In 24 Hours As The Flaming Lips Break A World Record". Billboard 2. Archived from the original on May 19, 2018. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Eddy, Chuck (March 20, 2011). "The Bands You Didn't, But Maybe Should Have, at SXSW 2011". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on March 23, 2011. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
- E&E. "Tour". Big Freedia. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
- "FIRST LOOK: 'BIG FREEDIA: QUEEN OF BOUNCE' SEASON 2, EPISODE 6". fuse.tv. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Spera, Keith (September 13, 2017). "New Orleans bounce star Big Freedia kicks off new season of reality TV drama with Ace Hotel premiere party". The Advocate. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- "BOUNCE 5 YEAR ANNIVERSARY ft Big Freedia & DJ Jubilee". Ticketfly.com.
- "BOUNCE 4 YR ANNIVERSARY with Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby, DJ Jubilee". Ticketfly.com 2. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Freedia, Big; Balin, Nicole (July 7, 2015). Big Freedia God Save the Queen Diva!. Simonandschuster.com. ISBN 9781501101250. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Sackllah, David (September 25, 2015). "New Books: Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva! and Let There Be Gwar". Pitchfork. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- "The Complete Guide to Beyoncé's 'Formation'". Vulture.com. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
- "Not Even a Lightning Storm Could Stop Beyoncé's Formation Tour Slayage in Raleigh, North Carolina". Gossip On This. May 6, 2016. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
- Sundermann, Eric; Johnson, Myles E.; Burney, Lawrence (April 19, 2018). "The Ghost of Big Freedia". Noisey.vice.com. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
- "Big Freedia Talks Beyonce, Coming Out to His Mom With Wendy Williams: Watch". Billboard. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
- Posner, Nina (August 16, 2016). "Boyfriend And Big Freedia Reimagine The Big-Room Banger With "Marie Antoinette"". The Fader. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
- Rawls, Alex (December 16, 2016). "7 New Orleans musicians rattle off their favorite Christmas tunes". Times-Picayune. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
- Blistein, Jon (September 5, 2017). "Hear Big Freedia, Mannie Fresh's Bone-Rattling 'Dive'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Sanfiorenzo, Dimas. "Bounce Icon Big Freedia Links With Mannie Fresh To Drop Their New Single "Dive"". OkayPlayer. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
- "Over 40 Songs Make up the Full Just Dance 2018 Tracklist". Playstationlifestyle.net. October 23, 2017. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Spanos, Brittany (December 22, 2016). "Watch Big Freedia Host Office Twerk Party in 'Make It Jingle' Video". Rolling Stone 3. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Daw, Stephen (April 10, 2018). "Big Freedia Talks Being Included in Drake's New Bounce Track: 'The Credits Are Important'". Billboard 3. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Street, Mikelle (March 30, 2018). "Big Freedia Drops 'Rent' Music Video & Talks Upcoming 'Third Ward Bounce' EP". Billboard. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Kesha – Raising Hell (Official Video) ft. Big Freedia, retrieved October 25, 2019
- Turner, Kyle (October 15, 2020). "'Freedia Got a Gun' Review: A Musician Makes a Call to Action". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
- "FREEDIA GOT A GUN". AFI DOCS. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
- Mims, Taylor (May 3, 2022). "Big Freedia Named Artist Ambassador for US Independent Venue Week". Billboard. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
- Matt Sledge. "Feds charge Big Freedia with felony theft, reportedly say he lied about income for Section 8 housing". The Advocate. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
- "Big Freedia Sentenced for Section 8 Fraud". Justice.gov. August 25, 2016. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
- "Big Freedia gets probation, $35,000 fine for Section 8 theft". Nola.com. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
- "Big Freedia must live in halfway house, judge rules". Nola.com. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
- "Bounce star Big Freedia is off probation, one year early". Nola.com. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
- Big Freedia - Gary Chambers for Congress. March 6, 2021.
- Welch, Michael Patrick (July 1, 2011). "Big Freedia: Do Azz I Say". Offbeat. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
- Hoff, Victor (July 9, 2015). "BIG FREEDIA: The 'undisputed ambassador' of the energetic, New Orleans-based Bounce movement comes to Pride". LGBT Weekly. Archived from the original on September 15, 2015. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
- "heart baby! cast – Google Search". Google.com. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- "'Freedia Got a Gun': Film Review | Hollywood Reporter". Hollywoodreporter.com. June 29, 2020. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
- "Here's How Big Freedia Feels After That Dinner with the RHOA Ladies". Bravotv.com. April 5, 2021.
- Gatz, Scott. "2013 Queerties Winners Revealed". Queerty.com. Retrieved June 3, 2022.
- Gatz, Scott. "Welcome To The 2014 Queerties". Queerty.com. Retrieved June 3, 2022.
- Official website
- Big Freedia at IMDb