The breakout Drag Race star gets real about whether her Netflix series will return for a second season -— and what she learned from watching a year of her life on TV.
Alyssa Edwards, aka Justin Johnson, is in the top tier of RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni. After first competing in Season 5, then returning to All Stars, Edwards reached new heights of celebrity in 2018 as the star of Netflix’ Dancing Queen — a docu-series built around him/her juggling duty as a dance school instructor (and managing stage moms) with a red hot career in drag. We caught up with the peripatetic performer during the launch of a new Alyssa Edwards-endorsed eyeshadow palette to find out what’s next.
Metrosource: We all want to know: Will Dancing Queen be back?
EDWARDS: I think we’re in that in-between. The thing about Netflix is that they’re very mysterious, and we all know they don’t really get in a hurry for second seasons. And truth be told, the first season took a looong time. It was a long process. Dancing Queen was filmed over a good year. Sometimes you don’t want to rush what you put out. You want something that’s true to who and what you are. I will tell you this: Regardless if anybody picks it up or they call me and say it’s a ‘no,’ it will go again. If that’s me having to produce it and putting it online through my Instagram, I will, because I’m so proud of Dancing Queen.
It’s definitely the biggest platform I’ve been on, because it’s about me and my life, day in and day out and what I do. And I love doin’ all this. I love being onstage, but not nearly as much as I love being in that studio with those kids. That is my passion, and I think that’s my destiny. That’s what I was born to do — to be a leader and a teacher and a choreographer. I found drag by accident, just for my kicks onstage. It’s special and very meaningful, and it’s important because it’s not every day a drag queen gets a knock on the door from Netflix that says, “Hey, can we build a show around you and your life?’”
What did you learned about yourself, seeing that year again on TV?
I’d watch me in a situation where I’m being a tough love coach to one of my students, and I’m like, “That’s the man I you were born to be. Be honest with these kids; be there to comfort and nurture them. But scold and hold them at the same time.” I watched myself have very difficult conversations with my sisters that were very private and personal. And I learned that I am very socially awkward on a date, so I just learned a lot about myself. I learned that I am a man that is strong but sensitive. And I learned that I have an awkward head-lean when I’m really deep in thought.
When we talk about Season 2, I’m like, ‘How are we going to top this? What would we do?’ I’m now in a relationship — after two years -— and he also teaches dance as a high school teacher in Dallas. We we’re both socially awkward together, and he gets everything about me. My students just danced at Barclays Center for WorldPride and he was here with his students taking dance at Alvin Ailey.
And now you’re also branching out into a signature makeup line through Anastasia Beverly Hills with an eyeshadow assortment.
When I open this box, I don’t just see eyeshadows. I see my life; my journey. I look at these names — the Unicorn Tribe, that’s all my dance students, that’s what I refer to them as. HOE, I know it sounds silly, but the Haus of Edwards: that’s my family. Beyond Belief Dance Company, Texas Made, Don’t Dream It, Be It. Things that have meant something to me. Make up was always very important to me. For the very first time for me to feel like I could just jump off this building and fly like Superman, I had makeup on. It gave me the courage, the confidence I needed. Now it’s easier, but as young Justin, a young man I was very confused and lost. So in all of this it was very important for me to be true to the definition of who I am.
And now there’s some little guy or girl out there who has you to look up to as a role model when they’re feeling like you did.
I believe my book of life has already been written. It’s just now being read out loud. If I could go back and tell teenage Justin something right now, it would be, “Stay tuned, cause these dark nights- just a few more hours the sunlight is going to come out.” And that’s where I hope the world is going. I kept my dance studio Beyond Belief in Mesquite for that very reason. I knew there was another Justin somewhere who’s family couldn’t afford to take him to Dallas or some fancy dance school. I’ve always been true to my roots and who I am. It’s important to me every time I get in drag to remind myself, through the power of social media, there is a little boy or a little girl watching. So always use your superpower for positivity. And drag now is so much bigger on stage with the kicking and splitting. People see us, and like you said, it may inspire them to be their authentic selves. It gives them the hope that I can be like that too.
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One of the most emotional performances I’ve ever given was at the Barclays Center for the WorldPride opening ceremony, and I opted out of doing it with professional dancers. All the other queens used the 20 professional dancers, and I said, “No, I’m doing this with my students, because my kids are my professional dancers, and they’re my heroes. Those kids’ parents celebrate me; they lift me up. And we took that stage and I’ll never forget Cyndi Lauper coming up to say, “Thank you. That was so beautiful.” And I came out and I thought, “I don’t need to dance. I want to watch you all.” And I did Pink’s “What About Us,” and it was so powerful. The whole room was on their feet. And I walked off stage and I was a bawling mess and I said, “This is what my life was supposed to be.” And I would be selling myself short if I did not do what was true to my heart. The pageants, they fade, the crowns… But what lives forever will be the memories.
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Last modified: October 3, 2019