Birth name: Freddie Ross
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana
January 28, 1978 – Present
Active: 1999 – Present
While Freddie Ross is a self-described gay Black man with fluid gender pronouns, his alter ego Big Freedia’s pronouns are she/her. Born Freddie Ross, Big Freedia began developing vocal chops as a singer in the choir of Pressing Onward Missionary Baptist Church in her hometown of New Orleans. Freedia came out at age 13, first to her mother and then to peers. Arguably the recording artist who brought the New Orleans style of hip hop music known as Bounce to a mainstream audience, Big Freedia began her performance career dancing and singing backgrounds for her best friend Katey Red’s stage show. In the late 1990s, the pair performed as a duo under the name Big Freddie K Reddy. Big Freedia credits Katey Red as the first transgender artist to come out of New Orleans.
Bounce music is bass-heavy electronic dance music characterized by rapid-fire call-and-response lyrics, a flow that listeners familiar with the most commercially successful New Orleans emcees, Li’l Wayne, Mystikal, Juvenile and Master P, would recognize. Big Freedia’s first single, “An Ha, Oh Yeah,” was released in 1999, followed by her Queen Diva album in 2003. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, displacing over a million residents of the Gulf region, Freedia’s home was destroyed and she found herself amongst those New Orleanians relocated to Texas. Ultimately, in the aftermath of the storm when many New Orleanians, both recording artists and fans of bounce, found themselves displaced in the adjacent state, their presence helped to popularize the bounce sound in Texas.
Freedia is a sought-after authority on Bounce music and and the dance most associated with the style, the “twerk.” Her insight into Bounce culture was illustrated in a thoughtful and scathing critique Freedia wrote in response to Miley Cyrus’ twerking during the 2013 Video Music Awards. In 2014, Freedia released Just Be Free, a studio LP aimed at the mainstream Electronic Dance Music audience which was well received by critics in outlets like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. The Guinness World Record for Most People Twerking Simultaneously was set by a group led by Big Freedia, Queen of Bounce. Answering Freedia’s call, 358 dancers, ranging in age from 8 to 80, gathered in New York’s Herald Square, to twerk for two minutes straight in October 2013.
Big Freedia Bounces Back is a long-running documentary reality tv show, which debuted on Fuse TV in 2013. In 2014, the show won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Program beating out Project Runway which had twice won the award in that category in previous years. Big Freedia counts Prince, Sylvester, Rupaul, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Patti Labelle and Luther Vandross amongst her inspirations and influences. Her memoir, Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva, co-authored with Nicole Balin, was published by Simon and Schuster in 2015.
Big Freedia’s place in popular culture was solidified when her iconic voice appeared on “Formation,” in a collaboration with Beyoncé, that would appear on Billboard’s Hot 100 and R&B charts in 2016. Big Freedia was a featured guest on Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour that year. Big Freedia’s EP Third Ward Bounce was released in 2018. Freedia’s was the first voice heard on “Nice For What,” the Drake single that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2018 and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap performance of 2019.