More than a decade before the word “twerk” entered the global lexicon, Big Freedia had been proselytizing the dance and bounce music — an uptempo strain of hip-hop popularized in New Orleans in the early 1990s — throughout New Orleans and beyond. The rapper-singer earned national acclaim in recent years with Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, a reality show on Fuse detailing Freedia’s struggles and successes, both personally (Freedia’s mom had battled cancer for years before passing away in 2014) and professionally.
But the show could only scratch the surface of Freedia’s life. In the new autobiography, Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva!, written by Freedia and co-writer Nicole Balin, the musician details her tumultuous upbringing marked by domestic strife and the fear of coming out as gay to her friends and family in an environment where gay men were killed for being out.
But the book juxtaposes these scenes with earnest humor. On her show, Freedia comes off as affable and grateful — belying her diva persona — and these traits are only solidified and expanded in the book. In this exclusive excerpt, Freedia details the coming-out process, the power of bounce music and why the offer to give Miley Cyrus twerking lessons still stands.
I knew I was gay pretty much right from the start. I couldn’t explain why, but I just felt different. If my fascination with singing, baby dolls and my momma’s hair care products weren’t a dead giveaway, then the little flutter that surged through me when I saw cute boys — and not girls — was.
And from early on, I knew there was something very wrong with it. In my neighborhood, the message was loud and clear — faggots need not apply. The kids I know who came out to their parents got kicked the hell out of their houses.
There were whispers about homosexuals around the projects, like Sissy Gina, Sissy Shannon, Ronnie, Too Sweet, Mark Tavia (who became my gay mom when I was a teenager) and Sissy LeRoy. We all knew and called them sissies amongst other gays and they were very respected in the neighborhood. But you couldn’t walk around like today, talking smack about the guys who you want to suck off. Back then you’d be killed. I remember hearing people sneer about sissies and feeling that hole in my stomach because I knew that was me.
My mother had big plans for my 13th birthday party. Outside, in the backyard, she had decorated some foldout tables gold and black with carnation centerpieces. Tied to the backs of chairs and on our trees were black and gold ribbons and lots of matching balloons. When I came out of my room to help, Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight” was blasting out of the speakers. The whole family —Crystal, Adam, Aunt Betty, Aunt Debra, Uncle Percy, Aunt Dawn, Donald, his kids, my cousins Leonard and Junior, Addie and his momma — were invited.