Alyssa Edwards Shows Us Her Secret in Her New Drag Race Meets Dance Moms Netflix Series
Drag Race Meets Dance Moms: Alyssa Edwards Talks New Netflix Series
The Drag Race legend spoke to PRIDE about her new Netflix show Dancing Queen, her home state of Texas, and coming out as a drag queen.
Welcome to Mesquite, Texas. Population: 143,736. The hometown of Alyssa Edwards, the beloved drag queen who rose to international fame after appearing on RuPaul's Drag Raceseason 5 and All Stars 2.
With her quirky catchphrases, fierce dancing ability, and irresistible charm, her tomfoolery and buffoonery made her beloved by millions (she is one of the few Drag Race queens with over 1 million followers on Instagram), and while we may know Alyssa as the larger-than-life character on TV, what exactly are her secrets? If "the wig is a cape to a superhero," who is the man under the wig?
Dancing Queen, Alyssa's upcoming original Netflix docuseries gives us a peek at the person behind the hair.
"If you would've asked me ten years ago 'Do you see this [docuseries] for your future?' Absolutely not," Alyssa told PRIDE. "I just really read my journal out loud for the entire world, 190 countries to watch live. Ohmygosh, the feeling of joy. It's a hallmark of my life."
The eight-episode docuseries is equal parts Drag Race and Dance Moms. Justin Johnson, Alyssa's humble alter ego, owns a dance studio in his hometown and is selecting an elite group of his young dancers to compete in Los Angeles. Tears, dramatic exits, and catty voiceovers are in abundance as many of the dancers—and their moms—snap under the pressure.
Justin handles the drama as gracefully as he did on Drag Race. But when the theatrics calm down and Justin and the moms sip drinks around a fire pit, the love and respect in the air is palpable, which might be surprising to some considering the homophobic reputation of small Texas towns.
"I'm sure there are people that probably don't get or understand what it is exactly I do," Alyssa said. "As far as recognizing the negativity, my eyes are directed on the road ahead of me."
In 2013, as the first national Drag Race promotions began rolling out with her face (beat for the gods), Alyssa's drag world began to collide with Justin's professional world. Alyssa was nervous about the moment of impact, but the studio was more accepting than she previously thought.
"I think the biggest difficulty was myself," Alyssa explained. "I didn't know how they would react so I kept that very internally and private. Then the season 5 trailer came out and the photos and there's me, there's Cleopatra. It was like, 'You have to face this now.'"
"Fast forward, everyone was very supportive. If they weren't, they just didn't say anything. And I went on All Stars, I just finally said, 'That's it. I'm going to be very proud. I put a lot of time and energy and effort into creating this character and it's not illegal, it's not bad, it's not threatening. My character makes people smile and laugh.'"
"If they did judge me, they didn't allow that to stop them from allowing their child to study underneath me."
The southern charm of Mesquite seeps through the seams of the show. But with the fame Alyssa Edwards has achieved, why stay in Texas?
"I opened the studio long before I went on Drag Race and I thought, 'There's going to be another little Justin just like you that will need an edgy, pushy studio where they can train and grow,'" Alyssa began.
"Me growing up there, I outgrew the studio that I started at really quickly and there was really no opportunity. I'm one of seven, my parents would get me back and forth, it became difficult. When I was opening the studio, I chose here because you know what, this is home. This is home for you."
"I'm so glad I did because of all those kids...the studio was a safe haven for me as a child and I've created the same space for all of my dancers. There's no way I can move. I'm a true Texan. As much I love the inspiration in the air in NYC and LA, just like Dorothy, there's no place like home."
While Dancing Queen's focus is the studio competition, we get plenty of moments with Alyssa and Justin. We laugh with Alyssa as she officiates a wedding in full drag, wipe away a few tears when Justin visits the abusive home he grew up in, and even cheer him on as he meets up with a guy for their first date.
The world is rapidly changing and maybe, for the first time, many people around the world on Netflix's platform will see a drag queen as not only a character, but as a fully-realized human being with hopes and dreams and fears.
Drag Race has been pushed into the mainstream but finally, it's the queens' turns. When asked about her own success, or Willam and Shangela's roles in A Star Is Born alongside Lady Gaga, or the success of the Trixie and Katya Show, Alyssa couldn't help but feel anything but pride.
"I remember laying in my bed waiting on the world to change and listening to that song going, 'Yep, I'm waiting too.' Now I'm not waiting, I'm actually living and a part of that change. Being a part of the Drag Race legacy, I'm very proud of that. I think that we live in a time where we need something that makes us smile, that touches us, that encourages us, and that motivates us."
Dancing Queen premieres October 5 on Netflix. Watch the trailer in the video below!