Bounce queen and BUSTie Big Freedia is probably the foremost authority we have on twerking, and she has a lot to say about Miley Cyrus.
When BUST reached out to Big Freedia, she sent us an official statement on the Miley Cyrus twerk-gate. She said, “Get me and Miley together so I could give her ass some lessons.”
The New Orleans musician shared some insight on the current twerking craze, its origins in New Orleans’ bounce scene, and why Miley needs to be gently but firmly told to stop.
Though Big Freedia said she herself was not offended by Miley’s VMA performance, she added, “it's offensive to black culture and black women who've been twerking for years. Every time we do something, people want to snatch it and run with it and put their name on it. And they still don't even have the moves down yet.”
Twerking got its start in the ‘80s and ‘90s in the New Orleans bounce scene; this video for DJ Jubilee’s 1993 song “Do the Jubilee All” is what Big Freedia calls the “ground zero” for twerking.
“[Twerking] was happening way before [DJ Jubilee], but he took it to a whole 'nother level once he started making the videos. In all of the middle school and high school dances, you could not go anywhere without hearing a Jubilee track or seeing him and his dancers cutting it up at a concert. He was the King of Bounce. All of his songs are New Orleans classics.”
On how Miley got it wrong:
“It should've been someone else having those dancers up there and not Miley. We want to empower women of all walks of life to express themselves through dance music.
Screencap from the "We Can't Stop" video, which is offensive on so many levels
“I have some amazing white dancers who would get up there and shut Miley down. They could've used girls from New Orleans, even if they were not black, who knew what they're doing. They're just using anybody possible just to get that buzz since twerking is hot now.
“[Miley] needs more practice.”
The problem with the use of twerking as cultural appropriation, says Big Freedia, is not the racist overtones, but rather the smack of colonialism: “When something get hot, everybody want to jump on the bandwagon and act like they created it. That's totally understandable but they have to give credit where credit is due.
“A lot of people are very offended by it, especially in New Orleans.”
Big Freedia recently recorded a response to the twerk fever, called “Twerk It,” that’s going to bring twerking back to its roots. “Miley did her twerking on the hip hop side of things, but mine is strictly bounce that's gonna get people shaking their asses the way it originally started. ["Twerk It" will] be out any day now.”