Freddie Ross, popularly known as Big Freedia, is a New Orleans legend and Bounce music icon. Also known by the moniker Queen Diva, she has cemented her place in the popular subgenre of Hip Hop. Big Freedia is known for her high-octane live performances, energetic songs, and music videos. Her reality TV show and multiple business ventures have also gained many fans.
Big Freedia has also collaborated with numerous artists, including Drake, Lizzo, Boyz II Men, Kesha, and more. By far, her most notable collabs have been with Beyoncé, who sampled her voice on two Grammy-winning hits — “Formation” and “Break My Soul.” Her collabs have also served to make Bounce music more mainstream. The legend has raised the landscape of the signature New Orleans sound. Her advocacy and unapologetic self-expression have secured a host of fans who have stood by the icon through it all.
Big Freedia’s Early Days & Rise To Fame
Big Freedia grew up on gospel music and frequently sang in her neighborhood church choir. Her mother’s influence introduced her to secular music, particularly disco. Big Freedia’s introduction to Bounce music came in the late ’90s, and she would soon begin to dance and sing backup for Katey Red, one of the earliest queer Bounce performers.
From 1999 to 2009, Big Freedia was one of the most hardworking Bounce artists in New Orleans. She brought exposure to the genre after Hurricane Katrina hit by performing in Texas, where she settled for months. With the resurgence of the club scene after the hurricane, Big Freedia became a local icon, performing multiple times a week to massive crowds and revitalizing the city.
In 2010, Big Freedia released the album Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1, which featured previously performed songs. The single “Azz Everywhere” became a hit and is one of her most popular songs. Throughout the 2010s, Big Freedia enjoyed great fame and headlined several concerts, including the annual Anniversary of Bounce in its fourth and fifth years.
Big Freedia was famously sampled on Beyoncé’s hit song “Formation” in 2016, and her voice was used to open the Formation World Tour. During the New Orleans show, Beyoncé brought her out on stage to introduce the show.
Big Freedia: Queen Of Bounce
It wasn’t long before Big Freedia’s energetic songs and videos, and larger than life personality, became reality TV gold. The Big Freedia Bounces Back series premiered on Fuse in October 2013. It ran for six seasons and 47 episodes until 2017 and followed the artist’s personal and professional life. The show also featured a Guinness World Record feat of 406 people twerking simultaneously at her show in New York.
While Big Freedia Bounces Back mostly featured tons of coverage about her stardom, songs, and music videos, the show didn’t shy away from the emotional. Big Freedia’s mother, Vera, died of cancer, and the artist sent her off in a beautiful street-wide funeral.
Personal Life & LGBTQ Advocacy
Big Freedia has never been shy about expressing herself through her videos, makeup, wigs, and dance performances. Though born male, the artist has stated that she is gender non-conforming and nonbinary. On the use of pronouns, she has been vocally indifferent on numerous occasions. She expressed this once again in a conversation with The Root in 2020.
“How do I identify? I do not mind if you call me ‘he’ or ‘she.’ Both are right!” she said. “I was born male and remain male—physically, hormonally, and mentally. But I am a gay male…I’m gender non-conforming, fluid, and nonbinary. If I had known the ‘queen’ in Queen Diva would cause so much confusion, I might have called myself the king!” she continued.
On the subject of her voice being used by several notable artists, she once shared that it all opens doors for others in the LGBTQ community. Big Freedia is widely regarded as a queer icon and an unapologetic hero. Her fan base is largely women and members of the LGBTQ community, and she has always been vocal on the topic of gender identity being on a spectrum.
As an author, Big Freedia released the acclaimed memoir Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva! The 2015 book covers many important moments in the artist’s life, including her epic rise to fame. Big Freedia is also vocal about gun control. She starred in the documentary Freedia Got a Gun, which focuses on gun violence and its repercussions. The inspiration for the film came after she lost her brother Adam Ross to gun violence in 2018. Freedia Got a Gun won the Award for Freedom at the Outfest Film Festival, which promotes LGBTQ films.
On June 7, 2023, the artist will return to reality TV with the new series Big Freedia Means Business. The show, also airing on Fuse, will focus on all the many new and exciting chapters in her life. The Bounce music icon will cover her new hotel ventures, a cannabis line, an eyewear and makeup line, and a record label.
From her incredible success in showcasing Bounce music to the rest of the world to becoming a revered icon in her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, Big Freedia’s career is packed with several significant moments. The Queen Diva has shown no signs of slowing down and is expressing herself through several more means in the 2020s decade.