Raised in Texas and Oklahoma, Cotton moved to New Orleans in 2005, shortly before Hurricane Katrina.
For years, Cotton covered second lines and New Orleans street culture for Gambit Weekly.
When she was shot during the Original Big 7 parade in 2013, Cotton was right in the middle of the crowd, filming the musicians and steppers.
"I was one of nineteen people shot at a second-line Mother's Day in 2013," Cotton said. "I was only shot once, but it ripped diagonally up, so it went in my hip and came out right below my heart. So, it took out several organs and partial organs."
The single gunshot wound resulted in multiple hospital visits and more than 30 surgeries. After the shooting, Cotton found herself thrust into another role, the victim's advocate.
In December of last year, Cotton spoke about facing her shooter at a community forum.
"I was just trying to understand what makes a criminal. What a person with that kind of heart and the kind of skill and outlook that they can look at a crowd of strangers and shoot them," Cotton said.
Cotton talked about reaching out to the man who many people in her situation would never want to see again, her shooter.
"We really have to make their struggle our struggle. Their wounds our wounds. Their dreams our dreams," Cotton said.
Cotton covered second line parades for Gambit as "Big Red Cotton." In a statement, the newspaper called her a "culture bearer."
"Her contribution to New Orleans' second line and brass band communities was immense, and her generous spirit of forgiveness and hope was a model for us all. She is tremendously missed by her Gambit family and all who love New Orleans."