If you think you saw the last of Alyssa Edwards when she sashayed off the RuPaul’s Drag Race stage earlier this year, you couldn’t be more wrong. The Mesquite, Texas, native and one-time Miss Gay America has proven to be the hit show’s unexpected Season 5 standout, thanks to her sickening drag persona and downright hilarious take on the competition.
Currently in talks with Drag Race production company World of Wonder regarding a docu-soap of her very own, in the meantime Alyssa Edwards bestows upon us what’s sure to be a summertime hit. Alyssa’s Secret is an all-new web series starring the drag diva and her hilarious outlook on everything from bad dates to dealing with shady queens. If you thought Alyssa’s wellspring of zany one-liners went dry when her Drag Race episodes ceased, think again. This web series will have you convulsing with laughter faster than you can say “Backrolls?!”
Frontiers sat down with Alyssa Edwards to discuss the new web series, her favorite Drag Race Season 5 challenge and what she’s been up to since the show came to a close.
Tell me, what have you been up to since Drag Race came to a close?
Well, I think you mean what have I not been up to! [Laughs] Life for me is constantly moving. I’m constantly on-the-go, which is a blessing, because I do what I love and I love what I do.
What a lot of people might not know is that prior to Drag Race, I had a little break from drag. Before being on the show, I had not done drag for five or six months. I took a break because I was focused on myself, and I wanted to really regain my love for the art and redefine who the character of Alyssa Edwards was. I was a little maxed out on pageantry, and I wanted to take my character—and how I saw myself—a different route.
Since the show—oh my gosh! I have been traveling, I have been performing and I have been living.
I’m always curious to hear how people who have appeared on reality TV think they were portrayed. Do you think you were portrayed accurately?
You know, I was just laughing about this. I think I was, yes. I will say this—I was a little catty. But, you know, the competition is intense. When you get flamboyant gay men who dress in female attire [Laughs] in one room, and there’s a tiara involved, it can get quite, quite catty. So I think in the beginning of the season, you got to see a bit more of my bitchy side rather than ... you know, how can I say this? I think I’m an awkward person just in general. [Laughs]
I asked my best friend, who is a married mother of three, am I really like that? She said, every day, in and out of the studio, in and out of the pageant. That is who you are. I kinda just smiled and chuckled. I think for the most part I was portrayed true to who I was.
You’re probably the most quotable person on this past season. How does that make you feel?
I was just watching the video that was made of me [above], and I had to just laugh. I laugh because I’m like, where did I come up with this shit? “Get a grip, get a life and get over it!” I mean, who says that kinda stuff?! [Laughs] You know, you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself and enjoy it. I didn’t realize I was that quirky, but I’ve embraced it. I mean, it’s quite comical, actually.
Do you have any favorite moments from the competition?
Most definitely the ballet challenge [performed with Coco Montrese], and I’m not just saying that because I won that competition, but it was great for the audience to get to see a different side of me. [At the clubs] people are enjoying alcoholic beverages and they want to see a queen onstage twirling and discoing, flamboyant. So that challenge was something for me. I also enjoyed the opportunity to get to work with Coco. I think we have an amazing partnership onstage.
I think probably the most rewarding experience for me was the Untucked episode where my father appeared, because it was just so far-fetched. Watching it from home, it seemed surreal. That episode gave me anxiety. I’m so private with my personal life.
After the after-party, after the viewing parties and all the gigs, sitting around with Ru, it made me realized how blessed I am and very fortunate and lucky. It also made me realize that I should be very proud of my upbringing, regardless of the fact it wasn’t Hollywood Hills and fancy cars and nice things. It’s still who I am, and it’s ultimately what has defined me. To hear my father finally say that he’s not ashamed to have a gay kid—I’ve resented him for so many years, but I’m learning to forgive him.
I understand that you make a living as a choreographer. Tell me about that.
I have a studio in Mesquite, Texas, and it’s the light of my life. I never see myself wanting to be on TV. I’ve always envisioned myself backstage, as the Steven Spielberg, and dance is what that is. My happiest moments are when I’m there in the studio teaching.
One of the greatest gifts I’ve been blessed with is the ability to take something in my mind and communicate that through the art of movement to children. It’s an amazing experience, and it’s my life.
So are you as much of a ball-buster as Abby Lee Miller?
In a different way. I’m very passionate. I talk with and to my students, not at them. But I’m strict. Abby’s kids are a different type of dancer. Her kids are great competitively, and I like to think I’m creating the next Beyoncés, Gagas—performers.
You have a new web series, Alyssa’s Secret. How did that come about?
I guess because I’m crazy-dot-com! [Laughs] They say that people really liked me from the show, which I find funny, because you never know how you’re going to be perceived. I think people will see this as another opportunity to see me freak out and hear my dramatics. [Laughs] When World of Wonder asked me to come do it, they didn’t really say it was going to be a web series. We just kinda started doing it and going from there, and we went into that gig.
What is a secret about yourself that our readers may be surprised to hear?
That I’m shy! I’m very socially awkward. People that I went to high school with, college, people I grew up with as a child—they say, “We never even knew this person you’ve become.” And I always had it inside of me, but I didn’t know how to express it. I didn’t know how to walk up to someone and say, “Hi, my name is Justin, and I like to take jazz class, and I want to be your friend.” I’m better at it now, but I was shy! But you get a certain age and you’re like, you know, it’s kinda cool to be a little weird. Live who you are. Own it. Rock it.
What’s next for Alyssa Edwards? Any big plans?
You know, I’m just following the Yellow Brick Road. [Laughs] I’m kinda going with it. I don’t know where it leads. I hope it leads to a fairy tale, but who knows? I might still be plain old Justin in good old Mesquite, Texas, and I am totally fine with that. I think I’m just embracing everything that’s coming my way. I’m going with it.
Follow Alyssa Edwards on Twitter @AlyssaEdwards_1, and watch Alyssa’s Secret at worldofwonder.net.