EXCLUSIVE: How Big Freedia Became a 'Better, Improved Freedia' After Felony Charge
By Chris Azzopardi
“You do a song with Beyoncé -- how do you top that moment?”
That moment Big Freedia, the New Orleans-based bounce rapper, is referring to is when she appeared on Beyoncé’s “Formation,” the lead single from Lemonade.
“I came to slay, b***h,” Freedia proclaims on the 2016 record. “I like cornbreads and collard greens, b***h.”
To honor that touchstone in Freedia’s life, the 39-year-old rapper-turned-reality TV star didn’t just thank the singer -- she named her new pup after Queen Bey.
During the opening episode of Big Freedia Bounces Back, premiering Sept. 12 on Fuse, viewers will meet Yoncé, her dog, which is named after Mrs. Carter’s sultry alter ego.
“I love Beyoncé. So I thought to name her Yoncé, to always remind me of what Beyoncé did for me, putting me on 'Formation,'" Freedia tells ET. “I was very grateful, and when I see my dog every day and have to call her name, it reminds me of how grateful Beyoncé was to take my career to the next level.”
Freedia’s post-“Formation” achievements, including a very likely major record deal she teases during our interview, will be featured in season six of Big Freedia Bounces Back.
Conquering new goals wasn't without setbacks, however.
In March 2016, just after gaining mainstream momentum, Freedia faced a federal theft charge for misrepresenting her 2010-2014 earnings. According to CBS News, the rapper pleaded guilty to fraudulently collecting housing voucher assistance to get government-subsidized housing and was sentenced to three years' probation and a $35,000 fine. Freedia was required by law to perform 100 hours of community service, some of which she serves in the opening episode.
“I made a mistake in my life and got into some legal issues,” she says, “and I’m just happy that I owned up to my mistake and let my fans know that, you know, that no matter what you’re going through in your life, you can bounce back from it. I won’t let them down moving forward.”
Freedia readily admits that it was “challenging” to work through her hardships, including substance abuse, while the cameras were rolling for her reality show. In June, according to several news reports, Freedia tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamine use ahead of her sentencing for theft of federal housing money.
“I’m in a better place than I was last year,” she says, crediting her family and friends, the support she received from her hometown of New Orleans and also the power of prayer. “I was going through a lot of trying times last year and adversity was coming at me all kinds of ways, but I definitely grew into a better place in my life and in my career. I’m sober, I have a clearer mind and I’m on the path to more happiness.”
It's a new beginning providing bountiful opportunities, as Freedia expects to release two albums in 2018, including a solo release and a full collaborative album with rapper Mannie Fresh. (The two recently released the song “Dive,” which came about after the rapper appeared on Freedia’s show, previously called Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce. “I wanted two distinct New Orleans rap sounds to come together and that's what 'Dive’ is,” she said in a statement.) Though the star also hopes to collaborate with Pink, Lady Gaga and Drake in the near future, she’s branching out beyond music too.
Taking Bey's "hot sauce in her bag" lyric to heart, she's actually created her own hot sauce. And coming in 2018? A Big Freedia cookbook. Meanwhile, the bounce queen’s rosé, described by her as a wine that will “have that a** bouncing,” will soon be stocked at Walmart, Walgreens and local wineries.
Basically, the rapper is very busy these days -- but it’s all part of her mission to be a “better, improved Freedia.”
“My mind is more focused,” she says. “I’m making some power moves and some bold decisions of some things I needed to change around me to keep me moving forward and to keep me in a positive state. So, old Freedia is there, but with a little twist.”