It’s been a minute since we had our Alyssa Edwards fix since the premiere of Dancing Queen on Netflix in October of last year. Like much on the streaming service, it’s not hard to have binge-watched the entire series in a sitting getting to know the BEAST that is Alyssa Edwards and the man behind the makeup, Justin Johnson. The docuseries explores the duality between Alyssa and Justin.
Dancing Queen is a fabulous fusion of Dance Moms and an elevated, up-close-and-personal Drag Race confessional. For all the Alyssa Edwards fans out there, like me, this is the look at the queen you’ve been waiting for. If you haven’t watched it—beware–it will give you life, make you drop dead, and bring you back to life.
Dancing Queen is a departure from the Alyssa Edwards we immediately fell in love with on Drag Race and Alyssa’s Secret on WOW Presents. It’s a humanizing, humbling perspective that shows that this larger-than-life queen exists because of the hard work and determination of one boy from Texas who never let anyone blow out his light—not even those feisty dance moms.
Obviously Alyssa Edwards requires no introduction as the stand out from RuPaul’s Drag Race season 5 and All-stars season 2 who gagged us week after week with her catch phrases, death drops, tongue pops, and GIFable moments.
It’s no wonder that Alyssa is conquering the world in every which way possible, including stepping out of her comfort zone in heels. But the female fantasy that is Alyssa is no longer a well-kept secret. It’s her grandeur and enthusiasm for life that urged the folks at Camp TAZO to make her the camp director for the very first Camp TAZO experience in Austin, Texas.
Camp TAZO is an adult camp where thirsty strangers from different parts of the country were selected to participate and push their boundaries. Following Alyssa’s lead, campers took part in activities like improv classes, axe throwing, dance classes, campfire sing-a-longs, and a talent show—all which encouraged them to explore new elements of themselves.
Alyssa, who hails from the state of Texas, put on her camping gear and transformed into the most glamorous camper ever!
I had an opportunity to chat with Alyssa about her experience with Camp TAZO and what’s in store for the mother of the Haus of Edwards.
INSTINCT: Before we get into it—what IS Alyssa’s secret?
Now, if I told you my secret I wouldn’t have a gig, right? (laughs) You know, it’s so funny people always ask—it’s a secret, I gotta keep it! The truth of it is this—I am 39 years old and I am more alive and I am living this life and loving every moment. Every second. At this point, I have to be honest with you, I am my happiest! And I don’t know if that’s a secret, because I hope it shows. Love is alive in my life!
INSTINCT: How did you get involved with Camp TAZO?
TAZO, after quite a bit of research, found that many people were too afraid to get out of their comfort zone. And they thought ‘What can we do—to get people inspired—and to get them to step out of their comfort zones?’ And they thought—let’s get Alyssa Edwards! Sure enough, they called me and I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t know it was ACTUALLY going to be a camp. So I shot the commercial, out in the woods, all day, in all drag, canoeing, hiking, throwing the ax—by the end of it I was like, “I don’t know if this is the proper extravaganza for a queen—especially in Texas!” So let me fast forward when they said “We’re actually going to be doing these things at the camp and you’re going to be the camp director!” I’ll never forget! My mouth just dropped open! Now hold up—I don’t go camping—but I’m down for GLAMping! Next thing I know, we packed up–5,000 applications were received, and I helped choose the 30 campers that were selected from all across America. From different ages and backgrounds, colors and shapes and stories. I put on my hat and my camp suit and I am not just a camp counselor, but a director! Now talk about a plot twist in life.
INSTINCT: What activities at the camp did you enjoy the most?
I’ve gotta say that probably my favorite was getting out of my comfort zone. I had a grand entrance—TAZO thought it would be SUPER fabulous if I ziplined into the camp. And I thought ‘Okay, this is something like a kids in playhouse’—oh no! So in drag I had to climb up a 10-12 foot pole, stand on a platform and not only zipline, but zipline across the lake! You have to image me in full Texas drag! A mountain of hair on my head and there I come ziplinin’—and I’m terrified of heights, by the way! If I’m gonna ask people to get out of their comfort zone, might as well go ahead and be the leader of the pack!
My favorite interaction with the campers was a hot Texas line dance party and I really enjoyed it because as a dance mentor I’m able to share my passion and I’m able to share the courage that drag has given me. A lot of people are very afraid to dance. They immediately think “I can’t do that!” But dance is good for soul. It’s a celebration of life. There’s no right or wrong. When I first walked in I could see the terror in their eyes—the fear—by the end of it everyone was dancing and laughing. For me, that was the most memorable moment. And the brunch at the end that I hosted with the campers because everyone left like a family. It was really cool!
INSTINCT: Why do you think that Camp TAZO is so necessary in today’s world?
Facing your fears is important. Learning more about yourself and sharing that story is so important. It was a celebration of life. When I watch these application videos, I think of Trish who was a grandma, a veteran, someone who has never really traveled. And a young lady who was uncertain of who she was, insecure and now she’s a blogger and writes about body positivity and has embraced everything about her. I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in social media and everything that’s going on in the internet and we forget to turn the phone off. But while we were on the campsite we turned the phone off and we got to chat with each other and share our life experiences.
INSTINCT: So how much of Alyssa Edwards did the campers get and how much of Justin did they get?
So day 1, all Alyssa. Day 2, all Alyssa. And on day 3 they did a brunch with Justin because I wanted to make sure it was fun and exciting. And not that Justin’s not, but Alyssa’s that EXTRA. I mean it was hilarious to see me getting into a canoe. You’ve gotta image that! When I think of Alyssa as an entertainer, this was so much bigger than that.
INSTINCT: What was it like doing Dancing Queen?
From the bottom of my Texas State heart, I’m so grateful that I’ve had this opportunity my love for the stage—my art—my life. Dancing Queen was a labor of love, something I’m very very proud of. Everything I’ve touched is something that’s meaningful and I couldn’t have done it without all the support from all the people.
INSTINCT: What’s next for Alyssa Edwards?
Ooooh! Ok! I wish I had a crystal magic ball because I would kind of wanna know, but then would you really wanna know? I think that’s already written it’s just not being read out loud. And I am so enjoying this chapter. But I’m hoping the next one will be just as exciting! I will tell you, though, I’m not gonna be that queen that says “Stay tuned”, but I have some really MEGA amazing fun things that I cannot wait to share in the next month.