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Big Freedia on Beyonce, gyrating laws & gritty small shows ahead of 10/15 Strange Matter performance

Tyler Hammel | October 12, 2016

It’s been a bit since The Queen Diva (you best believe her) Big Freedia has been to Richmond, but the Queen of Bounce has been anything but quiet.

From releasing a memoir, to performing on stage with Beyonce Freedia, AKA Freddie Ross, has had the biggest three years of her career, but still remains humble and true to her roots.

Freedia, who identifies as a gay man but uses female pronouns, has been playing on the concept of gender and trying bring the New Orleans-style of bounce music, often considered the birth of the ‘twerk’ and other booty shaking moves, to the mainstream for over two decades. In that time Freedia has seen the scene change multiple times, growing and moving with the times.

“I’ve been with bounce since the beginning, and now, thanks to the Queen Diva, it’s broader than it’s ever been before,” said Freedia. “I’ve taken it to a national level and to an international level. The world is learning more about it and opening up and accepting it, and New Orleans thanks me for taking it to this place.”

One of the perks to being an international superstar is getting to work with other stars, and Freedia got the opportunity to collaborate with Beyonce herself earlier this year on ‘Formation’. An unabashed fangirl herself, Freedia had nothing but phrase for the Queen Bee, who had Freedia open for her last month in New Orleans.

“She’s such a sweetheart, she’s so real and down to earth. Excuse my French, but that’s my bitch,” said Freedia. “She loves me, I love her, we are really on the same page. She’s Beyonce, but she’s so real.”

Even with all of Freedia’s success she said still faces discrimination, such as when her show in Hattiesburg, Mississippi was cancelled due to an archaic State Alcohol Beverage Control law that forbid “gyrating.” Not one to take a hit lying down, Freedia fought against the decision.

“It was the same thing they did to Elvis Presley back in the day, and they tried to do it to me but I wasn’t having it,” said Freedia. “It was right around the time ‘Formation’ came out and I don’t know if that’s why but they came after me for gyrating and I wasn’t accepting that.”

With the support of her family and her lawyers Freedia fought the law and won, rescheduling the performance about a month after the original date.

Freedia suspected her involvement with ‘Formation’ and its support of the Black Lives Matter movement may have played a role in her Mississippi show being cancelled initially but hasn’t let that phase her stance.

“So much is going on in the world and we need to pay attention to it,” said Freedia. “I support the movement going on and I try and use my voice to address that more than my music.”

Though a BLM supporter, Freedia keeps her music more general and less political, opting to try and create positive energy to affect change.

“I just try and keep my music on a positive happy page and help people enjoy life,” said Freedia. “We need to keep surrounding ourselves with positive people and depart ourselves from harmful people and situations.”

Freedia’s music and positive message have taken her all around the globe, and opportunity the performer never thought she’d get.

“I didn’t see the vision until five-six years ago, that I wanted to take this worldwide and it’s been amazing,” said Freedia. “To go way overseas and have people know who you are walking up the street, it’s such an amazing feeling.”

Despite international fame and the opportunities to play at larger and larger venues, Freedia stays true to her roots and performs at smaller venues as well, such as Richmond’s own Strange Matter.

“The smaller places get a little more gritty, you’re more intimate with the fans. They just feel different than the larger spaces,” said Freedia. “I know how to connect to my fans, and sometimes you need those larger spaces to keep perfecting your craft. But I still love performing in smaller spaces.”

As Freedia has gotten more popular, she has also grown as an artist, something she hopes to show on her forthcoming album which will expand her sound outside of bounce. Not content to just stick to music Freedia also has a cookbook filled with NOLA recipes coming out soon and tried her hand at acting as well, all while staying remarkably humble.

“God has blessed me with many talents and I will try and expand them through the sky as far as I can reach,” said Freedia.

Big Freedia will perform Saturday, October 15th at Strange Matter. Unfortunately the show has already sold out but if you can get your hands on some tickets it’ll definitely be worth your time.