The queen strikes back

Alyssa Edwards tackles ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ again, this time as an  All Star.  And she’s more prepared than eve

ALL-STARS-GROUP

By J. DENTON BRICKER AND ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

When Alyssa Edwards walked onto the set of RuPaul’s Drag Race for Season 5, she was shocked to see her longtime rival Coco Montrese among the queens she’d be competing with. The drama made for delicious television, but probably threw Edwards off her game — she finished in the Top 6, but failed to be declared America’s Next Drag Superstar.

So when she was asked to join the cast for the second incarnation of Drag Race All Stars — which begins airing on Aug. 25 on Logo — she decided to play a smarter mental game. She didn’t ask past All Stars for advice. She didn’t worry about who would or would not be her competition. She went all Zen on those bitches’ asses.

“I told myself don’t overly coach — go in there and be you,” Edwards says. “Don’t get inside your head. You need to do this like you do every single day of your life — whether you’re in the studio teaching, or onstage performing, you’re tackling the challenges you’re faced with. You should avoid letting it becoming a mental battle.”

That was certainly good preparation, because once filming began, it was a free-for-all. First up was the discovery that the rules had changed.

“[This season is] borderline Big Brother, because Ru doesn’t make the decisions this time,” she says. “We found that out on Day One. We had no clue! And you’ll see how cracked out we are. All of your dreams have been crushed because guess what? [We were told,] ‘You are going to be sending yourselves home.’ And I’m just like oh-my-gosh.”

This surprise definitely changed dynamics among the contestants, because even though the competition has always been cutthroat, this development took it to another level of intensity.

“I was looking around the room like, ‘Well OK, I’m glad I’m kind of friends with everyone almost.’ Luckily, I do have a good rapport with the girls. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to send you home, honey, because you’re a threat or you’re the possibility that could get in the way of cashing that check.”

One of the girls in the room, it so happened, was Coco Montrese … again. And three other queens from Season 5, making it a reunion of sorts (though not necessarily the good kind).

“I was a little shocked [that] five of the 10 girls came from [my] season. I thought there would have been two, maybe three of us. But we all knew each other — you know somebody and you know when they’re having a bad day or moment, and therefore not overanalyze things that they say,” says Edwards.

That pressure was modulated by other rule changes … including the ultimate reward.

“The stakes are a little different this time around. I’m talking about the coin, the dollar,” Edwards says. “I think everyone that watches the first episode is going to be in for a treat because they totally ru-vamped the idea [of the show]. ‘Coming for you’ is a nice way of putting it.”

But Edwards was prepared this time. Before, she was a pageant queen with a long list of titles. Now, she has not only one season of RPDR under her belt, but the web-based series Alyssa’s Secret and a work ethic rivaled by no one. She went in a stronger queen than ever before, but also a wiser one: She has a solid grasp of her strengths and weaknesses — as well as those of her competitors …. and where they would best be served.

“We are all good in one thing [or another],” she says. “I would never want to step foot on a runway or a photoshoot [to challenge] Violet Chachki, but we can lip sync [against each other] all day. I don’t ever want to get into a Snatch Game battle with Chad Michaels. And why on God’s green earth would I ever ponder a comedy challenge against Bianca Del Rio?”

But Edwards — aka Mesquite native Justin Johnson — also knows something about showmanship. She worked with former Dallasite Rey Ortiz — a fashion designer and himself a former Project Runway contestant — to come up with her smashing debut look, a dazzling ruby gown with a majestic collar.

“I told Rey, I’m OK with doing something fashionista. I don’t consider myself a fashion girl and I don’t think I have the body to model. But I wanted something avant garde, something sexy with my platform heels. I wanted something that just speaks royalty — like she’s the queen. It has a touch of regalness to it but a touch of okurrrr. He was like, that’s a lot of inspiration.”

That costume may have contributed to her secret weapon: Attitude.

“This time I presented myself to be open, confident … and not to tell myself ‘no.’ Just like I teach my kids every day: ‘Can’t never could.’ You better get up there to sing and sew,” she says. “Alaska said it very well: When you’re in Drag Race it’s kind of like a constant fight-or-flight mentality.”

Her newfound calm even informs how she wants fans to watch All Stars this time out.

“I hope the fans watch it this time from a different angle. Drag Race is such a sport — we all get caught up in it, so involved. Just watch it this time: laugh, giggle, have fun with it. Ride it like a rollercoaster; let the ups and downs be equally exciting. Support all the girls, all the queens. It is so difficult when there is a platform and you’re under a microscope. Remove that microscope and live for what it is. Cheers to that.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2016.

—  Craig Tuggle

PHOTOS: Impulse’s Down to Float 2 party

The second annual Down to Float 2 party took place Saturday, with hundreds of guests cheering on a performance by AB Soto, a fashion show (including a boy-dragged Alyssa Edwards) and beats from DJ Brandon Moses. If you attended, I hope you said hi! If you didn’t, this is what you missed.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Drag Star Divas brings in big bucks for Orlando victims

Drag Stars Diva Logo

Drag Star Divas for Orlando, a show held Sunday night, July 17, at The Rose Room in S4, raised $8,500 in about two hours to benefit the victims of the June 12 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

The event featured more than 30 performers, including Rose Room regulars, RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni, Mr. Gay USofA winner and even Alyssa Edwards’ Beyond Belief dance team.

Below are photos taken by Dallas Voice’s Chad Mantooth, and even a brief video snippet of a performance by Kennedy Davenport. Watch for more photos in the Scene section of the Friday, July 22 issue of Dallas Voice.

—  Tammye Nash

Dallas drag stars gather to show we are #OrlandoStrong

Cassie_SparkleThe events in Dallas over the past few days have led many to use the hashtag #DallasStrong. But most of us still haven’t forgot about the massacre last month at Pulse Nightclub — the largest mass murder shooting in modern U.S. history. And despite our own tragedy, Dallas’ LGBT community is still focused on helping out those 100 victims. So on Sunday, a special event called Drag Star Divas for Orlando will gather more than a dozen of the top drag entertainers in North Texas — among them RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants Alyssa Edwards and Kennedy Davenport, pageant champion Asia O’Hara, Dallas Voice columnist Cassie Nova and many more: Krystal Summers, Lalya LaRue, Edna Jean Robinson, Jenna Skyy, Valerie Lohr, Kelexis Davenport, Raquel Blake, Kandy Cayne, Plastique Tiara and Athena O’Hara.

The extravaganza will be at the Rose Room from 6–9:30 p.m. and all proceeds will benefit the LGBT Center of Central Florida. A $5 entrance donation is requested, but give as much as you can to let Orlando know we’re there for them. You can RSVP here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Happy birthday Alyssa!

AlyssaOut North Texas cover girl and RuPaul’s Drag Race/reality TV star Alyssa Edwards is celebrating her birthday this month, and you can join in the fun by heading to The Brick, 2525 Wycliff Ave., on Saturday night when Dannee Phann Productions presents “One Night in Bangkok: Alyssa’s Birthday.”

The party will feature — in addition to Alyssa, of course — Bible Girl, Gia Gunn, Laganja Estranja, Nicole O’Hara Munro, Unshante DeFoxx, Raquel Blake, “G”Licious G and Jada Fox.

Doors open at 9 p.m., the show starts at midnight and there will be a meet-and-greet photo shoot after the show.

Tickets are $125 for a VIP table for three, $10 general admission for those age 21 and up and $25 general admission for those ages 18-25. Reserving a table for three — without the VIP placement and perks — is $25. Buy your tickets in advance here.

And while you are at the Brick, be sure to pick up a copy of the 2016 Out North Texas, with Alyssa on the cover, and read our interview with her on Page 6.

And by the way, Happy birthday Alyssa, from your friends here at Dallas Voice and Out North Texas! We love you!

—  Tammye Nash

WATCH: Bianca del Rio at The Brick Saturday

IMG_8896She didn’t go on til nearly 1 a.m. and her set lasted just half an hour, but Drag Race winner Bianca del Rio nailed her comedy set at The Brick last night, with help from fellow Drag Racer Alyssa Edwards and others. She brought a number of locals onstage with her (including Dallas Voice contributor and goofy fangirl Chaka Cumberbatch) but her quick wit was what sold the set. (You can download and watch a brief clip below.)

Also on hand was Dallas designer Rey Ortiz (whom we profiled recently here) who presented del Rio with his “tip” — a custom-designed dress.
BiancaBrick

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

And the winner of ‘Drag Race’ is ….

BiancaDelRio…. Bianca Del Rio!

Yes, it was easy as A, B, C on the RuPaul’s Drag Race 90-minute finale Monday, when insult comic and quick-wit queen B bested A (Adore Delano, perky and charismatic) and C (Courtney Act, Aussie songbird and costume hoarder) for the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar.

It was a popular choice, with even Courtney screaming in support for Bianca, who early on established herself with a smarmy turn of phrase and a way to deflect genuine ire. Indeed, all three were frontrunners almost from the start. Bianca gets the $100k prize money, the fame and the gifts.

But she wasn’t the only winner. Endlessly upbeat Ben de la Creme took the Miss Congeniality prize — also not a shocker.

The show opened with an elaborate production number, with all the queens dancing to Ru’s single “Sissy That Walk,” this season’s theme song. And Dallasite Alyssa Edwards appeared in the audience as the drag mother of contestant Laganja Estranja.

Congrats to all the girls!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Drag Race’ returns & the 1st out is …

Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race revved up last night, with 14 new queens competing on what is, for my money, the best competition show on TV. And was it just me, or have the girls upped their game?

Think about it: On Project Runway, professional designers are given a decent budget and days to do nothing but design a gown for a fit model to walk in; on America’s Next Top Model, girls just have to walk and chew gum at the same time. Both skills are legit — but the girls on Drag Race do all those things, and they have to lip-sync and do their own makeup and … well, it takes talent, grrl.

And these 14 seem to have it. Among the contestants were Texan Alyssa Edwards, pictured, who made it to the middle-ground in the first outing (neither in the top nor bottom). Honestly, she was lucky not to be in the bottom, as her red carpet look seemed scattered. Still, with one of her nemeses also on the show (that’s a story that will surely develop), she made an impact.

Also making an impact: Alaska, the partner of last year’s winner, Sharon Needles. As with Sharon, the queens underestimated Alaska’s creativity because her style of drag is more shock than illusion. But her Saran Wrap mermaid gown was astounding.

Still, it was the wonderfully named Penny Tration who got booted first off the 90-minute extended season premiere. Penny Tration was already known to viewers — she was the queen voted onto the show through an online poll last summer … in other words, the fan favorite. But no one can say she didn’t deserve to go: During her lip sync for her life, Penny forgot the words and looked awkward and surprised to have to perform.

We’re hooked. Again.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones