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God Save Queen Freedia

Read an excerpt from New Orleans’ bounce queen Big Freedia’s memoir, out in paperback today.

Big Freedia was supposed to be on tour with Kesha, but since that was canceled due to COVID-19, she’s found plenty of other projects to keep her busy. Freedia has released her latest EP “Louder,” a #StayAtHome music video with Icona Pop and The Soul Rebels, the pandemic anthem “Rona Rona” and her documentary, “Freedia Got A Gun.” And she has a holiday album “Smokin’ Santa Christmas” coming out December 11!

Her career has skyrocketed in the past five years since the release of her book Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva!. She’s collaborated with Beyonce, Drake and Lizzo—and has also become a powerful voice for the Black Lives Matter movement, as she continues to inspire activists and LGBTQ+ fans searching for acceptance.

God Save the Queen Diva is not out in paperback just in time for the holiday season. Read an excerpt below and consider gifting this book to those on your list who may need a dose of Queen Freedia’s wisdom and courage.

“Now, more than ever, I’m looking forward to sharing my story with the next generation—from activists to LGBTQ+ youth to any ally,” she says. “I truly believe my story can have a unifying effect.”

My momma used to joke that I came out of the womb “lookin’ like a monkey.” I was born January 28, 1978, at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. I’m told I was covered with hair and had breasts when I arrived. Everyone laughed when my mom would tell (and retell) that story at family gatherings. But I always knew she loved me, and I absolutely adored her since my very first memory.  

She was a thing of beauty, with a round face and naturally curved eyebrows framing her striking brown eyes. Her dresses hugged her long, lean physique like they were custom-made. As a very young boy, I’d watch her swirl rouge onto the apples of her cheekbones. If she caught me gawking, she’d dab the brush on my nose. “This is girl stuff, baby,” she’d say. “Not for you!” But even then, it looked like an awful lot of fun.

Anyone who knows anything about me knows my momma was my heart. I don’t know if it was because I was gay, so she took extra care with me, but we were tight from the get-go. My best friend, the transgendered Bounce artist Katey Red, once said I was like a baby kangaroo who never left her mom’s pouch. Momma was the original Queen Diva.

Momma styled hair at Candy’s Beauty & Barber Salon on Broad Street. She could handle old-school styles, weaves, updos, and fingerwaves, but nobody this side of the Mississippi did wraps and Jheri curls like my momma.

From nine in the morning to seven at night, she was at her station. She tried to instill beliefs in me: education, hard work, and never, ever letting people tell you who you are. Little did she know that later, when I became a teenager, that ethic would be put to the test.

Although she didn’t share too much about her childhood, I know she was a force to be reckoned with. Born to Clarence Mason Sr. and Hazel Mason in 1960, she was one of six kids in Kenner, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. Maybe when you have five brothers and sisters, you have to be loud or you won’t be heard. My mom’s brother, Uncle Clarence, who we call “Piece of Meat” (as a kid, he was always scrounging for scraps of meat), said that from the start she was the fiercest of them all. “Vera would say what’s on her mind, whether you want to hear or not.”

He said she got that fire from her mother, Hazel. One night, she stole her parents’ car to go party in town. When she got home, Grandma Hazel was waiting for her with a switch.

Didn’t stop my mom. She swiped that car the very next week- end, and after that, every chance she got. That also didn’t stop Grandma Hazel from whuppin’ her ass.

My momma was the center of our family. She was always doing everyone’s hair and hosting throwdowns and cookouts. When it comes to delicious food in New Orleans, we don’t mess around. Couldn’t nobody touch her way with seasoning—crawfish, fried chicken, gumbo, étouffée. I lived for our family gatherings. “Go to your rooms,” Momma would say to me and my sister and brother, and we’d obey. I’d hear howling laughter all night long coming from the kitchen. I’d find out later that she was getting high on herb with my aunts and uncles. That’s how I grew up, surrounded by church, family, music, and food. And violence.

So many close friends and loved ones were murdered by gun- fire. Like so many poor people in New Orleans, we struggled and fought on a daily basis and my family was no exception. Even though there was always a lot of love, sometimes Ms. V’s love could be brutal. Her Southern Baptist beliefs did not include a tolerance for homosexuality. When those lips would purse, what came out of her mouth could be cruel, ya heard me? I’ll just leave it at that.

Excerpt from Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva! by Big Freedia.
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