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Dreaming Out Loud : Alyssa Edwards Takes Town Hall for Carnival 2023!

by Steve Desroches

Life since appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race has been a blur of a thrill ride for Alyssa Edwards. It’s been 10 years since Edwards (born Justin Johnson) first appeared on the pop culture phenomenon, and the experience has been akin to Dorothy being sucked into a twister and dropped in the magical land of Oz. And that describes Edwards’ first trip to Provincetown. He has to remind himself he was even here. The opportunities that can come up after appearing on Drag Race are dizzying. Former cast members zip around the world for gigs large and small. And one year, Edwards can’t remember which, he was flown into Provincetown for the annual Carnival Parade to appear on a float sponsored by a credit card company. It might’ve been Mastercard or maybe American Express. Either way, Edwards landed at the airport, was whisked to the staging area near the Harbor Hotel, waved and threw beads as the float glided down Commercial Street, hopped off at Franklin Street, and then was shuttled back to the airport and flown out of town. Edwards laughs when he recalls that trip.

“It was definitely a hit and run,” laughs Edwards via Zoom from his home in Mesquite, Texas. “I didn’t get to experience anything. I was in the parade and then I was gone. I didn’t get to experience any of the things I hear are so great about Provincetown and that is why I’m so excited this time around. I’m coming a few days early and I’m finally going to see Provincetown for myself.”

Indeed, this time Edwards can soak in all that Carnival in Provincetown has to offer, as he is coming to town at the invitation of the Provincetown Business Guild, the organization that produces Carnival, to perform at Town Hall Wednesday night and then is slated to ride in the parade once more, this time with a clearer idea as to where he even is! Edwards promises a glitz and glamour, high-energy, “everything-is-bigger-in-Texas” style drag show for Carnival. Sitting in the drag room he has in his home, out of drag and comfortably inside air conditioning because it’s 108 degrees outside, Edwards shakes his head and smiles when he thinks of coming to Provincetown, especially when he hears that on this particular day it is only 74 degrees on the Cape tip. But his smile reveals much more. Edwards looks content. He looks grateful. And he looks centered, aware of the magic carpet ride he is still on. And what a ride it has been.

Since appearing on season five of RuPaul’s Drag Race, in which he was a stand-out fan favorite, Edwards went on to appear in film and in other television shows like Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, The Bachelorette, MTV Cribs, as well as a return to the pink work room in season five of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. And Edwards’ hit web series Alyssa’s Secret is getting a re-boot. Edwards has toured the world several times over with dates in North and South America, Europe, and Asia, including a run of his solo show, Alyssa: Memoirs of a Queen, in London’s West End. And most recently, some of Edwards’ dance students appeared and competed on America’s Got Talent and he joined them on stage, in drag, in one of the proudest moments of his life.

“If you had told me pre-Drag Race what my life was about to become I never would have believed you, never,” says Edwards. “When I was 18 I thought I was destined for success. I left home at 18 determined to be a success. I always dream out loud and dream awake. And I created a successful dance studio, Beyond Belief Dance Company, and it’s still here and flourishing. I’m so proud of it and my students. But I never thought I would be a success through drag and continue to be a success with my dance school through the art of drag.”

Growing up in conservative Texas with a father who thought “boys wear blue and girls wear pink” the life Edwards is living seemed inconceivable to him as a child. After coming out while a student at the University of North Texas and then seeing his first drag show at the Rose Room in Dallas, he decided to dabble in drag, ultimately choosing a life in glitter. But he also had a passion for teaching dance, and in Texas the prospect of being openly gay and a drag queen teaching children seemed unlikely. Despite recent headlines and legislation attacking LGBTQ people, and in particular drag performance, Edwards continues to be a success at both drag and dance education, with his students and their families offering nothing but support.

“This backlash against drag is so predictable,” says Edwards. “We’ve seen this kind of thing before. There are such bigger issues in Texas, not to mention that drag isn’t hurting anyone. Kids go to school and get killed by guns in Texas, and they go after drag. Please. Drag isn’t going anywhere except further into the mainstream. Drag teaches us to be ourselves in every way. That’s what I tell my students. Love yourself and be yourself. And there we were on America’s Got Talent! Though it’s funny, one of my littlest students didn’t understand that Alyssa Edwards and me were the same person. When she saw me in drag, in-person for the first time, she went, ‘Wait! You’re the Alyssa Edwards?!’”

The Provincetown Business Guild presents Alyssa Edwards at Provincetown Town Hall, 260 Commercial St., Wednesday, August 16 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets ($45-$165) are available at and at the door the day of the show, if not sold out. For more information call 508.487.2313.

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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