When the new cast for RuPaul’s Drag Race was announced I knew it would be one crazy ride! There were plenty of hungry newcomers dressed in heels I had never heard of but there were a few seasoned professionals who I knew would bring the noise. I was right! Front and center is pageant puss Alyssa Edwards showing how and why she has made such an impact in the competition world of pageantry. When queens walk the walk, they should talk the talk. Madame Edwards does just that as I interview her in-between gigs.
When it comes to getting the true Tea from the sources themselves, no one helps out like All Starr Management! My dears Natasha and Bob get me in and provide the means for these special Dolls of RuPaul to share their sordid stories and express themselves as only queens can. Well, hell… let me allow Alyssa the time to tell it like it is! When she talks we definitely listen. And remember, “It’s not personal, it’s drag.”
Steven Michael – Great meeting you in L.A. recently with Bob Taylor at Micky’s during the featuring of RuPaul’s Drag Race girls from season 5. Love seeing you Dolls go at it on Drag Race. It’s a real fun season because of you seasoned pros. I’m hoping you’ll take a few minutes, let your hair down and answer some questions for your super supportive fans! Tell it all… No Tea.
Girl, we have a lot in common. I’m a choreographer and grew up dancing the workshops and competitive dance competitions like Tremaine and Showstopper. I’m guessing you did, too! Tell us about your dance background and how your passion plays into Alyssa’s performances.
Alyssa Edwards – “I stepped my first foot onstage at the age of 9-years-old (I believe). The one thing I remember most at the conclusion of my first group dance was: This Is WHAT and Who I AM destined to do and be. My love for the stage grew intense as studying, performing and competing were my happiest and most memorable moments of my childhood. I realized a few short years later dance would become more than just my passion but my first love and life.”
“I won my first student choreography award at the age of 16 and began student assisting thereafter. I opened Beyond Belief Dance Company which only existed in my most fascinating dreams. A dance space where students could unite and express themselves through the art of movement. By mere trick of fate and with the help of a few of my students’ parents this dream became reality in 2004. I am living my passion as an educator mentoring the youth of today and the future of tomorrow, a choreographer and artistic company director.”
“Upon discovering the art form of female impersonation I found myself very intrigued. I loved playing dress up with my four sisters and entertaining a large crowd was my addiction. Alyssa’s performances are built around just that… ‘Getting My Life’ every time I take to the stage! My dance training and arts background has been my foundation for many of my talent productions and gigs! I am blessed with the gift of dance and creativity which I will forever be thankful.”
You’ve mentioned putting Shangela in drag for her first time. Who put you in drag for the first time and who have been your inspirations? I believe you’re a bit old school like myself.
“Growing up with several women, as a ladyboy I loved to play in the cosmetics! As I grew older I found an interest for makeup. I put myself in somewhat drag and pranced on into the club feeling extra fishy and ultra glam! I look back at those pics and just smile. A dear friend of mine Alan McCune assisted me in the cultivating of my drag beginning. He was a fantastic makeup artist and believed in my potential. It was Alan who introduced me to Laken Edwards who would take me under her wing as one of my drag mothers. Laken was a successful pageant queen with a skilled etiquette of style and carriage.”
“I terrorized the town as a young gay boy playing dress up turning out the amateur shows. I met another individual who would play a key role in the building of my character. Whitney ‘The Eyes of Texas’ Paige. Along with Laken, my drag daddy Mark and my grandmother Miss Manny, I had acquired the ultimate gay family to mentor me! My biggest inspirations are the style of Joan Collins, the grace of Ginger Rogers and the presence of Linda Evangelista!”
My dear “Mister Sister” Kimbol Purkerson always told me that you and I reminded him of each other. I competed against Tandi Andrews at Miss Gay USA decades ago. She of course won and I most definitely did not. Care to share your pageant resume? I know you’ve had a few moments that have gone down in drag history. Anything you’d care to share in your very own words or want to clear up?
“Living in the south, drag is BIG, glamorous and to make it one must be top notch! Pageantry is borderline a must to get your act noticed! My very first newcomer pageant was an epic fail during crowning. However, that showing gained me some recognition. People enjoyed my talent and saw the potential. I competed the following year to win that big hat and received my first gig as a member of the up and coming elite Edna Angels show cast. I went on to achieve numerous titles as I was addicted to pageantry and competition. Each experience was an invaluable piece to my puzzle.”
I am a former:
Miss Texas America
Miss Texas Continental
Miss Texas FFI
Miss Gay USofA
Miss All American Goddess
“I achieved a long term goal after five attempts placing 2nd-alternate and 3rd-alternate twice as Miss Gay America. This was a dream of mine that was very near and dear to my heart. This journey was a hallmark of my life and career however it was not my destiny. I was crowned October 31, 2010 and released of my duties Jan. 1, 2011 due to ‘Conduct unbecoming of a Miss Gay America.’ In every working relationship there are kinks that require adjusting but in this situation I simply was not a good fit. Our differences as adults and the decision to relinquish my title never changed my respect for the leader and creator of the wonderful world of drag pageantry.”
I know with your contract at RDR you can’t allow much regarding the show but what did you find as the hardest part of filming the show?
“This experience as whole in a nutshell challenges and pushes one to the extreme outer box! Rewarding in so many ways to see the potential meeting a new level. Difficult, intense but most of and above all memorable. One of the greatest paths I have been fortunate to walk. I can say I DID IT!”
Out of past seasons, if you were paired up with someone like the Dolls were in RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars who would you want to team up with and why?
“DUH! The One and The Only… Shangela Laquifa Wadley! Not only are we colleagues, friends, fellow entertainers but we are family! We are the dynamic duo full of Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and most importantly in my eyes TALENT! Always keeping it real and having a great time at it! We both know our strengths and have learned to embrace our weaknesses. The Sequel Baby!”
What do you think the casting agents saw in your video audition that caught their eye in wanting to see more from you? Any advice for young squirrels wanting to get on the show? Had you applied before season 5?
“In the casting process it’s most crucial to simply be ‘Who You Are!’ Your uniqueness is what’s desirable. Stand out amongst a crowd and deliver your character in a matter of minutes. Keep it real, be sassy, be funny, take it up and reel it in… It’s ALL about you! Whether right, wrong or indifferent, believe in your ability and potential. I had auditioned prior before finally truly being myself on my audition tape! Never give up and remember it’s free to audition. Get on that tape! I believe the casting agents recognized what I recognize about myself: My confidence, my flaws, my talent, my characteristic traits and most definitely my C.U.N.T! My advice: Don’t Dream It… Be It”
You’ve been on the pageant side of things in the drag industry for years and now you’re having a surge in popularity because of the show regarding bookings, fees and exposure. The opportunity really is priceless. Have you come across any of your sisters in the community that have changed their ways towards you either wearing green on their sleeves of envy or bouts of cattiness? How do you handle the haters?
“RuPaul’s Drag Race has Ru-volutionized the drag industry. Ru has taken this somewhat underground scene and has made an exciting mainstream extravaganza! It’s like watching the largest pageant from the viewing of your own home every Monday night… I live the House Down Pumps!”
“I don’t reward nor entertain negative naysayers. Debbie Downers, Bitter Betty’s and Negative Nancy’s are UNINVITED to the Party! And I thank you all.” (laughs)
What are you doing on your time off? How do you let your hair down, when and where?
“I am a busy gal, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! In my spare time I love a good scary movie or chick flick! I also enjoy low-key nights with close friends chillaxing! I am a very sweat pants, t-shirts kinda guy.”
Who keeps you grounded? Have you found that people are trying to be all in your world that served crickets before? I figure people would be coming out of the woodworks pining for your attention.
“The beauty of life keeps me grounded. I am blessed to have these opportunities and I remind myself quite often. My studio kids take me to a place that gives me hope and drag inspires me in a million ways. All the world is a stage and I am humbled I am living my life on one of the worlds largest.”
Watching yourself on Logo TV, have you been overall happy with how you’ve been portrayed? Were you nervous going into production?
“I have learned in life, and this experience has aided me in laughing at myself and not being such a critic. It is very hard to truly get to know who I am and what I am about in this televised competition, other than I am highly competitive. I have enjoyed giggling at my ridiculous nonsense as it’s all in fun! Life is too short to not savor these moments that are sometimes a once in a lifetime.”
The most recent episode of Untucked, which I always say is where the real story is, gave us a battle of wits and wisdom vs. youthful ridiculousness. You seasoned vets shredded Miss Cha Cha. It continued on and on. So… she was getting on your nerves, huh?!
“So basically you are implying the old vs. the new! (smiles) She actually was not getting on my nerves too much, it was just an intense situation. We had been working together all day and it had been a long day of work! Miss Cha Cha is quite the talented and quick witted young entertainer with a well-lit road ahead. When you get a bunch of fabulous queens in one room after many hours of fierce drag, alcoholic beverages and opinions, it can get out of control! We all were about to pull each others eyelashes off!”
Would RuPaul come and visit you girls like Tyra Banks would on America’s Next Top Model or were you locked away from everyone and everything? What did you find yourself doing when you weren’t ruining drag in giant aquariums or cruising the underwear-clad Pit Crew?
“In my moments of ‘Me’ time throughout this experience I found myself journaling about my existence. I believe our book of life is already written and the story is now being read aloud.”
And finally… What’s the song YOU would choose to lip-sync for your life if given the choice?
“The one song if I could chose to lip- sync would be my theme song…. ‘The Glamorous Life’!”
“Always and Forever, Alyssa Edwards.”
THANKS MY LADY! Looking forward to having our readers find out more about you! Best of luck with the rest of the season of RDR and look forward to seeing you again soon. Stay in touch if you make it to Palm Springs and we’ll have you over for a home-cooked meal and cocktail. XO