Alyssa Edwards isn’t just a drag queen – she’s a choreographer, makeup collaborator, business owner, and an entertainment personality involved in multiple tv shows. From her humble beginnings in Mesquite, Texas, to her explosive performances on the world stage, Edwards has captivated audiences with her vivacious personality, spellbinding dance routines, and high-class beauty. This article will take a deep dive into the world of Alyssa Edwards, exploring her journey to stardom, the impact of her work, and the indelible mark she has made on the world of drag and beyond.
Alyssa Edwards, whose birth name is Justin Dwayne Lee Johnson, was born on January 16, 1980, in Mesquite, Texas. From an early age, Johnson exhibited a passion for performance and dance, a trait that would ultimately shape his future.
Growing up in a conservative Southern Baptist family, Johnson faced challenges related to his identity and self-expression. Justin is one of seven children, his mother was very supportive, whilst his father was a more conservative stereotype. Justin may have had struggles with his father but had lots of support from his openly gay uncle, Bobby, who helped Justin get his start in community theater and helped Justin get involved in the Joy Sharp school of dance, focusing on Jazz. Justin’s parents divorced when he was in high school, and Justin also volunteered to choreograph for his community’s drill dance team.
Justin attended two colleges; his first was Ranger College, but ended up transferring to the University of Texas where he came out as openly gay, and was involved in his college’s cheer squad. While in college, Justin was introduced by friends to the Rose Room lounge where he saw his first drag show, and started drag competing at one of the lounge’s amateur drag competition nights. Justin came up with his stage name around 2003; his first name, Alyssa,
from actress Alyssa Milano and his last name, Edwards, from his drag mother, later on, Laken Edwards.
Throughout these early years, Alyssa Edwards steadily made her name in the drag community, winning titles in local drag pageants, and later going on to gain wider recognition by winning multiple state titles like Miss Gay Texas, and national titles like Miss Gay USofA. Her story of overcoming adversity in Texas to become one of the most celebrated drag queens of her time serves as an inspiration to many in and beyond the LGBTQ+ community.
Alyssa Edwards is about the Haus of Edwards, which consists of Alyssa, Gia Gunn (Season six, and All Stars four), Shangela (Season two, three, All Stars three), Laganja Estranja (Season six), Viviene Pinay (Season five), and Plastique Tiara (Season eleven). Before Drag Race, Alyssa was a part of Pageant, a 2008 film about the 2006 Miss Gay America pageant. Alyssa has also been apart of a few pre-Drag Race scandals though, she was stripped of her Miss Gay America 2010 title for having private business plans that conflicted with the obligations of her title, CoCo Montrese (season five) was given the title afterward, and in that same year, Alyssa was also stripped of her All American Goddess title as well.
Have no fear, Alyssa regained public recognition in 2012 when she was announced as one of the contestants for the fifth season of RuPaul Drag Race; fun fact, Alyssa was eyed for season four of Drag Race, but did not get the official cast because of some apparent drama associated with her via an online article, Alyssa mentions this in her online episode of Exposed with Joseph Shepord. Alyssa won the ballet challenge of season five “Why it gotta be Black, and was in the bottom three times. Her first time in the bottom was a double save against Roxxxy Andrews lip-syncing to Willow Smith’s Whip My Hair, the lip-sync has become viral, mainly because of Roxxxy’s wig reveal. She later was in the bottom a second time, sending home Ivy Winters, and for a third time against CoCo Montrese. The lip-sync against CoCo has gone viral, performing Cold Hearted by Paula Abdul, with CoCo ultimately sending Alyssa home, placing her sixth in the overall competition.
Alyssa became popular because of witty catch phrases like “Back Rolls?!?” and her famous tongue-pop noise. Flash forward to 2016 where Alyssa returned to television in season two of RuPauls Drag Race: All Stars, competing with 9 other queens. Alyssa made top two during the rusical challenge playing Annie Oakly, she won the lip-sync for you legacy against Detox to Taylow Dayne’s Tell It to My Heart and eliminated Ginger Minj. The very next episode Alyssa was eliminated by Alaska. Alyssa, however, came back later on in the season with the other eliminated queens for a chance to return to the competition. Her and Tatianna both came back after an amazing performance to Shut Up and Drive by Rihanna – in that lip-sync, both her and Tatianna got a chance to eliminate a current competing queen, and they both chose to send home Phi-Phi O’ Hara. Alyssa eventually was eliminated a second time by Detox in the makeover challenge, overall placing fifth in the competition.
However, Edwards’ success isn’t limited to the Drag Race runway. She has utilized her platform to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and promote self-expression. As the owner of Beyond Belief Dance Company, Edwards nurtures the next generation of dancers, further extending her impact. Her life as a dance instructor and business owner was documented in the 2018 Netflix docuseries “Dancing Queen,” which offered a candid glimpse into her world beyond drag and underscored her contributions to the world of dance. Outside of dance, and television, Alyssa has been a part of multiple projects. She performed with Miley Cyrus at the 2015 VMA’s, has done promotions for the tea company TAZO, she released a makeup collaboration with Anastasia Beverly Hills Cosmetics, Alyssa had her own web series with World of Wonder called Alyssa’s Secret, has returned to Drag Race multiple times as a guest, once for All Stars five as a lip-sync assassin against winter Shea Coulee, who she lost the lip-sync to, and in season 10 as the main choreographer for their Pharm-Rusical challenge. In 2016 and 2018, Alyssa was a part of Hurricane Bianca, and Hurricane Bianca Two, In 2021, Alyssa and her dance crew from Beyond Belief auditioned for America’s Got Talent, a part of music, including Todrick Halls Mask, Gloves, Soap, Scrubs, and her own song The Supreme. Alyssa has done her own one-woman show in London called Alyssa: Memoirs of a Queen; needless to say Alyssa has kept a busy schedule since season five All-Stars two!
Through her performances, activism, and mentorship, Alyssa Edwards has contributed significantly to the art of drag and to the visibility and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Her legacy continues to grow, and she remains a beacon of unabashed self-expression and vivaciousness in the face of adversity, inspiring countless fans and performers worldwide.
Alyssa Edwards tends to keep her personal and romantic life relatively private. She bought her own house in Texas around the time Dancing Queen was being filmed, and despite her larger-than-life on-stage persona and visibility on reality TV, she has been notably discreet about her relationships. She has occasionally shared that she is in a relationship in interviews, but the identity of her partner has generally been kept out of the public eye. Her focus remains on her professional career, the art of drag, and her role as a mentor and business owner at Beyond Belief Dance Company. Edwards continues to be a proud and influential figure within the LGBTQ+ community, advocating for acceptance and understanding, both in her personal life and professional endeavors.
Awards & Nominations
Alyssa Edwards has received considerable recognition in the pageant circuit, she has won numerous regional and national competitions and has also won a WOWIE Award in 2018 in the category People That Inspire Us and was nominated for Best TV Moment, as well as a being nominated for a Queerty Award in 2019 in the category of Drag Royalty.
Alyssa Edwards is known for many things, from dance/choreography to being a high-energy performing drag queen known internationally, from being a business owner, to a makeup collaborator, for being known for television moments, Alyssa is considered one of the most well-known and iconic queens to be associated with RuPauls Drag Race.