Get To Know Big Freedia, The Queen Of Ass Shaking [Exclusive]
I’m not religious, but I swear there was magic in the air when I joined Big Freedia’s prayer circle in the basement of the Herald Square Urban Outfitters. Well, it was either magic, or shock over how flawless her pink shimmering eyeliner looked. I’d descended into the basement of the retailer to talk to the Queen of Bounce herself before she took the stage for the most lit performance I’d ever seen in an Urban Outfitters. Admittedly, it was the only performance I’d ever seen in a retail store, save for dramatic monologues from customers trying in vain to get refunds on four-month-old purchases.
But it made sense that Freedia brought down the house, given that she’s the undisputed queen of bounce music–the genre born out of the New Orleans hip-hop community, her hometown. In between booty bouncing, she’s busy starring in a reality show on Fuse called Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, releasing an autobiography called God Save The Queen Diva, and lending her voice to Beyonce’s Lemonade (that’s her on “Formation,” saying “I came to slay, bitch”). Oh, and Freedia set the Guinness World Record for twerking. Twice.
Freedia came to New York to celebrate the retail store’s #UOPride campaign in honor of Pride month. From the shores of Hawaii to the tense climate of North Carolina, Urban Outfitters has been giving a dose of pride to their stores at a time when the LGBTQ community needs it most. The horrifying events in Orlando may have happened nearly two weeks ago, but the shock was still being felt—especially by Freedia. After her and her dancers shook their asses with enough force to rival the San Andreas fault, she stopped the music to give a rousing speech to the crowd.
“It was such a tragedy. People lost their lives for nonsense and this has definitely brought the gay community closer together. We’re standing united as one [community]. It has made our government recognize some things that need to be in place that should’ve been in place. We want to take a moment of silence for all those people of Orlando. Thank y’all so much.”
From there, she went into a fiery remix of “I’ll Be Missing You,” using enough bass to restart the bounce. But before Freedia got the crowd hyped and set off a chain reaction of ass shaking that literally broke the stage, we talked about how Orlando has changed Pride, what Hurricane Katrina did to bounce music, her cookbook, and more.
Orlando is obviously still fresh in everyone’s mind, especially with Pride this weekend in New York. Where were you when it happened?
I was actually on my way to LA that morning and I saw it on the news at like 6 A.M. I looked in the hotel lobby and everybody was staring at the TV and my heart was pounding—I was very saddened. When I got to LA, I wound up checking in to the Orlando Hotel and it just blew my mind. It was a very touching weekend for me.
How do you think the shooting in Orlando will change Pride?
I think that our strength and presence will be stronger. Our love and compassion towards each other at that time will be stronger. Security will be enforced harder. The government will be behind us 100% more at the events, but it’s sad that the tragedy had to happen to make us recognizable, to put what we’ve been needing in this place.
“Everybody can shake no matter what size the butt is. Practice in the mirror, it perfects the ass.”
You grew up in New Orleans. How was the music scene affected in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?
The music scene has grown in so many areas and directions, because when we were displaced all over the world, our music was brought around the world. People were wanting to know, “What is that sound? Where did it come from? What type of music is this?” And of course, it was bounce music. It made it known to a lot of different people. I even had Mexicans in my apartment complex like, “What is that?” and I was like, “That’s bounce music!”
Do you have any booty bouncing tips for people that don’t have much of a booty?
Everybody can shake no matter what size the butt is. Practice in the mirror, it perfects the ass. When you see your body and the way you want it to move, you put that in your mind and make it work.
The fifth season of your show, The Queen of Bounce, just stared airing on Fuse. Are we going to see any sneak peeks of Beyoncé on the new season?
I don’t know, you’re going to have to tune in to watch. [Laughs]
How did you get involved in Beyoncé’s Lemonade project?
Well, her publicist called and said that Beyoncé wanted to speak to me. Moments later, the queen herself called me and I died at home and came back to life. Then I pulled my shit together and I started talking to her and they gave us a small snippet of the track. It was so small we couldn’t do nothing with it. We had to loop it to make it work and we started playing with it. I was spitting verses, coming up with all sorts of lines and hooks. When we sent it over, she called me back and was like, “Say some New Orleans type shit” or whatever. That’s when my final verse came out and that was it.
Did you scream at all when she called you?
No, I didn’t scream, I died. [Laughs]
Now that you’ve had your dream collab with Beyoncé, are there any other dream artists you’re looking to work with?
There’s tons of artists I still want to work with, but Beyoncé was at the top of the bucket list. The infamous Miss Patti LaBelle. Drake, Lil Wayne, Future, Kanye West, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, all of them. I want to work with all of them!
I’ve heard that you might make a cookbook. I talked to Kelis when she released her cookbook, but I want to know what’ll make yours the best cookbook around?
First of all, I’m from New Orleans and we have the best food in the world, so that closes the case right there.
Case closed. What’s your favorite recipe to cook?
I have quite a few. There’s no one particular thing that I really like to cook, because I can cook everything. It can be something simple like smothered potatoes, which we call booty poppin’ potatoes. And it’s a simple, 25-minute meal, and it be slammin.
Why do you call them booty poppin’ potatoes?
Because they make you wanna pop your booty when you eat them.
“We pray before we go on and we give thanks to God for all of our many blessings. That’s it. Oh, and we have a shot.”
What’s your pre-show ritual?
We pray before we go on and we give thanks to God for all of our many blessings. Oh, and we have a shot.
Obviously. Of what?
Ciroc. Peach, to be exact.
Because it’s fruitful, like me.
What’s your craziest stage experience been?
Oh God… A lady licking my boot. She crawled up on stage and was like “Oh my god, I love you” and licked my boot. She did a long lick, bitch. Like all the way up that bitch. I was like biiiiitch. It shook me, because I never had nothing like that done to me! She did it and she still shook. She was still up there shaking, dancing.
I guess people can do a lot of stuff while they shake. They can lick boots, eat potatoes. What’s your favorite activity to do while you’re booty shaking?
My favorite activity? Get the crowd hype.
What if you’re just at home, cooking?
Oh I’m not booty shaking.
Just on stage?
Only when I get paid.
Before you go up on stage, what other projects are you working on?
I’m working on a lot of things. The new album, the cookbook, and I have a few other things cooking in the pot. We just have to be patient and let things take their course. I also have an app that’s going to help you exercise and learn dance moves at the same time.
You’ve got the TV show, a new album, a cookbook, and this app? You never stop.
I try not to.
Stay tuned to Milk for more bounce.
Images shot exclusively for Milk by Charles Caesar.