Miley Cyrus’ twerk-filled performance at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards has become the most discussed, polarizing few minutes in a show that saw a ‘N Sync reunion and silhouetted Kanye West singing “Blood on the Leaves”. More than one think piece has accused Cyrus of appropriating and exploiting black culture for her own benefit at the detriment of its pioneers.
New Orleans musician and “Queen of Bounce” Big Freedia is equally frustrated by the level of attention given to Cyrus and twerking’s “new” phenomenon. (The actual dance is more than 20 years old.) Freedia, whose upcoming show Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce premieres October 2 on Fuse, hopped on the phone from the Big Easy to critique Cyrus’ performance, give a few pointers and explain why we’re giving credit to the wrong person.
What did you think of Miley’s performance?
She was going too far. She’s trying to twerk, but don’t know how to twerk. It’s become offensive to a lot of people who’ve been twerking and shaking their asses for years, especially in the black culture. But it’s also helpful because it’s putting twerking on the map around the world. I’ve been transforming twerking for the last three years around the world and for her to just come out of the blue and just start twerking, a lot of people are very offended by it, especially in New Orleans. 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.
Were you personally offended or just found it offensive in general?
In general; not to me. She may be familiar with me, but she don’t know I’m the Queen of Twerking. But 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. Just get me and Miley together so I could give her ass some lessons.
“Just get me and Miley together so I could give her ass some lessons”
You used the phrase “trying to twerk” instead of “twerk.”
Yeah. When you have my dancers, they’re professionals. They’re from New Orleans and know what they’re doing . When they started dancing, it was original twerking. Miley’s dancers were prop dancers. None of them were professional dancers. So yeah, she was trying to twerk.
What specifically about the dance did she do wrong?
For one thing, we have a dance in bounce music called “exercising” where you just open your legs and shake your butt a little bit from side to side. It was that part she did in front of Robin Thicke, but she still didn’t even get that right because she didn’t have any butt control. She needs more practice.
Some critics have pointed to the performance’s racial overtones, with Vulture calling it a “minstrel show.” Is that fair?
Most definitely. 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. I definitely push that at a Big Freedia show and I have a lot of white fans who get up there and really twerk. 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. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this, though. I knew the twerking thing was really taking off, but I didn’t know it would blow up like this.