Alyssa Edwards, our hometown RuPaul’s Drag Race star, will be riding on the Smirnoff float for NYC Pride at the end of the month dressed as Lady Liberty. I chatted with her on the phone from Los Angeles about what drag queen she’d want to have her back in a bar fight, her recipe for a tongue-popping cocktail, and where she hides those rainbow Jell-O shots.
It is an honor and a privilege to get a chance to talk to you. Well, thank you so much. I’m so very excited to be talking to D Magazine because I am a proud Dallas resident.
So that was one of my questions. You’re in Los Angeles now. You’re going to be on the Smirnoff float in the NYC Pride parade at the end of the month. You’ve been on the Werq the World tour. Are you planning to keep Dallas as your home base? I was asked yesterday at an interview, “What is your favorite place in the world you’d like to travel?” And I said, “There’s no place like home.” You know, I just purchased a home. We all got to see that on my Netflix series, Dancing Queen. And I tell you, it is a struggle for me to leave and travel because, you know, I was born and raised in Mesquite. I didn’t have the appreciation for the Dallas community until I traveled. And I’ve visited a lot of beautiful places, but Dallas is home for me.
How do you think Dallas Pride compares to others that you’ve been to around the country? Whenever I ride in the Dallas Pride parade and I see all the smiling faces and all the waving of the fans and the flags, I know those people. I see those eyes, and I know that person.
And I think for me, there’s like an extra feeling of warmth and an appreciation of my community and the amount of support that has been selflessly given to me. I think that’s the biggest difference, you know? I think moving our Pride this year to Fair Park was such a great move in my opinion, because it gives us opportunities to really grow and to really elevate our Pride experience.
That’s good to hear. The one criticism I have heard is that you can no longer bring your Smirnoff rainbow Jell-O shots because it’s not in the gayborhood anymore. Well, listen. You weren’t supposed to bring those out on Oak Lawn either, right? Well if you’ve got a good handbag or a nice clutch, you throw those right in there and go on in. And you know, when people were talking about this, I’m like, “You guys, we couldn’t do that on the streets. We just did it anyway.” Right?
Right. Get that cooler and let’s all come have a good time and celebrate life.
Alyssa, what’s your favorite recipe for a tongue-popping vodka cocktail? Oh my gosh. OK, I’m put on the spot now. Here we go. A tongue-popping vodka cocktail recipe. Well, I am a classic martini kind of gal with a little bit of Smirnoff and some rainbow olives. However, I think I love the Red, White & Berry flavor with a little bit of Pop Rocks around the rim.
OK, this is turning into something good. And my God, OK, what can I have in it? A little bit of pink lemonade!
Oh, that’s perfect. Oh my God. We got to really try this now. You know, I’m going to come down to D Magazine and we’re going to do this live. I’ve got a fine Red, White & Berry bottle at home.
That’d be awesome! OK, so this is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. Pride festivals around the country are using the anniversary to pay respect to drag queens and trans folks who fought back that night. If you ever found yourself in a gay bar riot, what drag queen would you want to have your back? Oh, Shangela. Shangela by far.
What I’ve learned is family’s not always blood. And that is my brother, my sister, my drag daughter, best friend. And I think if I ever had to go to a situation or a riot or a battle or a forefront, you’ve got to have your bestie with you. I would invite the whole House of Edwards. And that’s what we’re doing this Pride. We are celebrating that.
Right now we have the largest transgender mural in America on the side of a building in Cedar Springs that’s honoring Stonewall activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. So if we added a mural to honor Dallas drag queens, who should be on it besides yourself? The late and great Whitney Paige. Donna Day. Oh my gosh, there’s so many. There’s so many that have taken this path, and I was actually fortunate to sit in an audience and witness something that touched my spirit, my soul, inspired me and guided me.
I think it’s the ones before my time that created such a strong legacy. I hope to one day live up to that. And who knows, maybe 50 years down the road, 70 years down the line, they ask another young queen, and that young queen says, “Alyssa Edwards, because she used her platform to promote positivity and unity within a community.”
Were you surprised when New York Magazine and Vulture named you Number 5 out of the 100 most powerful new drag queens in America? I think all of this surprises me. I think if you would’ve asked me, “Where do you see yourself in just 10 years at 25 years old,” I would’ve said to you, “Teaching a dance class at Beyond Belief Dance Company. It’s my life, it’s my love, it’s my passion, it’s what I was put on this earth to do.”
Never did I think I would make it on a reality television show that would land me my own spin-off series on Netflix or make an Anastasia Beverly Hills palette or being partnered up with Smirnoff.
You know what I’ve learned, too? And I’m going to be very honest with you. Don’t get caught up in the blur at all. Don’t get caught up in the rankings, in the numbers. Don’t get caught up. You keep pushing forward. You were given this opportunity, and you were given this platform. Stand on it. And take that microphone and turn it up on high, and make sure what you’re saying comes from the heart and it’s meaningful. Because there’s another little Justin just like you in that audience.
What does drag mean to you? I’ll tell you what drag has meant to me since day one. It gave me the power to be everything Justin Johnson could not be. It gave me that courage. And I think drag, it was like a portal, a gateway to this whole other wonderland that I never knew I could be.
I think I doubted. And I think that that stemmed from me being very shy as a little kid, or introverted. That never changed. It’s easier for me now to not be socially awkward. I can now coach myself. I’ve gotten really good at it. If I get in a room with a lot of people, and maybe I feel out of my element and I don’t have my character on–you know, because Batman was Bruce Wayne during the day–and when I’m in that space and sometimes I kind of feel small, I can coach myself to go, “Just like Dorothy, the power lies within. You have that, Justin. You have that. You have that magic.”
Alyssa just elevates that. Just adds a little bit of color.
OK, time for the speed round. Let’s do it.
Shaken or stirred? Always shaken.
Blonde or brunette? Blondes have more fun.
Mary Kay or Kylie Jenner? Oh my gosh. Shantay, you both stay.
The Round-up or the French Room? The Round-up.
Dirk Nowitzki or Dak Prescott? Nolan Ryan.
Whataburger or Sonic? Whataburger.
Brisket or hot links? I don’t eat meat.