Big Freedia twerking her way to stardom

Big Freedia performed to a large crowd on the Congo Square Stage, despite the rain, during day 6 of Jazz Fest at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Saturday, April 30, 2016.

Big Freedia performed to a large crowd on the Congo Square Stage, despite the rain, during day 6 of Jazz Fest at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Saturday, April 30, 2016. (Sherri Miller/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Talk about your ups and downs.

It’s been a tumultuous year for New Orleans bounce artist Big Freedia: She was caught up in a housing scandal and faces prison, performed on Beyonce’s epic song “Formation” and in the accompanying video, made headlines for being banned for bringing twerking — her signature style of overtly sexual dance — to a Mississippi club and continues to have one of the highest rated reality shows on digital cable network Fuse.

And on Saturday, she returned to the Congo Square Stage at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where her audiences have grown since her first appearance five years ago.

Dressed in a white shirt and purple, sparkly sequence pants, Freedia opened her set — backed by a live band — singing the lyrics “I’m that queen that’ll make you bounce!” to the delight of many in the audience stretched far and wide.

Drops began to fall early in her set, but hardly anybody left as the infectious music unfolded. Umbrellas opened and fans donned ponchos as Freedia moved into another hit that included the lyrics “release your wiggle.”

She also entertained with the popular “Azz Everywhere,” ”Explode,” and “Gin in My System.”

From back-up dancer for Katey Red, the first gay bounce rap artist, to now running her own stage, Big Freedia said in an interview prior to Saturday’s performance she still can’t believe her career has thrived as much as it has.

“I’ve been steadily working my ass off,” Freedia said of her accomplishments. “It’s taken me 15 years to get here. When I decided this was gonna be my full time career, I went all in.”

Raised in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood, Big Freedia — who was born Freddie Ross Jr. — was struck by the bounce bug in the early 1990s after hearing “Where Dey At” by MC T Tucker. After working with Katey Red, Freedia said she knew the bounce style of music was her calling.

That music style caught the attention of Beyonce, who asked her to participate on “Formation.”

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