Alyssa Edwards is having a hell of a year. Not only has she partnered with Degree for their new multi-channel campaign, Move Again With Degree – which celebrates the power of movement and inspires people to get back out into the world (safely) and with confidence – the RuPaul’s Drag Race icon has made her West End debut with Memoirs of a Queen and showcased the fierceness of her Beyond Belief students on America’s Got Talent. (The latter went viral on social media.)
“I believe my book of life is already written, it’s just now being read out loud and I’m going along with it,” Alyssa tells GAY TIMES. “I’m very honoured to be a part of this Degree campaign because at the end of the day, it takes people like myself, teachers, performers and entertainers to lead the pack and lead the people. If I have to be the one to say, ‘Hey! C’mon, let’s go ahead, grab our deodorant and costumes, get back on the stage and in the spotlight and share our love for art,’ then that’s exactly what I’ll do.”
We caught up with the legendary Dancing Queen (now available to stream on Netflix) to discuss all of her incredible aforementioned projects, how her time in lockdown led her on a path of self-discovery and – this part is crucial – the importance of wearing deodorant. In the words of Alyssa, “Get your head back in the game! Not only get your head back in the game, but get your scent back in the game as well!”
How has this experience on the West End been for you?
I’ll be very honest with you. Tonight is night three, so the first two nights are always trial and error, and error and trial. Especially after sitting in the house for over a year, this is my first time back on a huge stage like this. It’s been exciting than nerve-wracking. This is also a show of me stepping outside of my comfort zone. I think that there’s a lot of heart involved and a lot of vulnerability. I’ve always been timid to allowing audiences to see certain sides of me. This one is a very special one, so it’s been going great and the audience has been so into it. I’m in a really good place and I’m very thankful and grateful.
What can you tell me about Move Again With Degree and your partnership?
I wanna start off by saying that over this past year, over a half of the population did absolutely nothing. So, sitting at the house did not require us to put on deodorant. When this was on my desk, I thought it was perfect for me. Me being a dance teacher and performer, there’s a few things I might leave at the house, but deodorant is definitely not one of them! I think this hashtag speaks volumes, #MoveAgainWithDegree. I think it’s so form-fitting and perfect for me. I will tell you too, if we’re going to go ahead and get into statistics, 60% of Americans were less active than they normally would be. So, I don’t know what’s going over here in London, but us Americans were basically sitting at the house. Over this past year, for me, I can say that there was a lot of self-discovery. There were many days that I found myself in my back yard landscaping or riding my bike around the lake, and I, just like many others, thought, ‘I’m not gonna see anyone. I’m by myself, so I’m not gonna worry if I have moisturiser on today or deodorant.’ Here we are, everything is getting back to… I don’t wanna say we’re ‘going back’ because after this last year, we’ve learned not to take things for granted. I think we’re reawakening, and I believe with this campaign, this is the perfect message to inspire people to get up and get out there, get active again. Get your head back in the game! Not only get your head back in the game, but get your scent back in the game as well!
I completely get it. Over lockdown, it was so easy for me to just sit there on the sofa, not shower for days and watch Dancing Queen for the fifth time…
Oh Sam! Oh my god. Fun fact: over quarantine, I started to watch it. I found myself doing this stop go, stop go thing. Then at one point, I was writing in my journal and just turned it off. I was like, ‘You know this. You lived this.’ I just smiled. That was all I need. I don’t need to watch it. I’m at total place of peace with who I am and what I’ve done in my life, and where I’m going.
Are you still going to officiate my wedding?
Oh my gosh, I’m holding you to that Sam! That was my very first wedding to officiate it was just so special. It was a hallmark of my life. I will be able to look back one day, when I am an old lady, and I will share with all of my friends and students like, ‘Look, this is what was going on in my life.’ Even watching shows like that, it’s important. Going back to this campaign with Degree, we have got to get to that place again. Everybody got so… I don’t wanna say ‘comfortable’ because I never got comfortable at home. You can only teach a virtual dance class so many times before the TV is broken, your whole body is bruised and then you’re feeling uninspired. I just think it was very hard for me, and this campaign is brilliant for me. It’s perfect for me. It’s everything that I stand for. Not only do I stand for it, I also represent. I teach children every day, ‘Show up feeling your best. When you feel your best, you are your best.’
What was like for you in lockdown, not being able to teach all of the kids at Beyond Belief in person?
The first two weeks was like a staycation because my life is usually on a rotating schedule. It would be dance on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and stage on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; different city, different town, different country, different state. Then it was on repeat, right? When lockdown came about, I left Australia. Two weeks later, their borders were closed. You got to see from Dancing Queen that I purchased a home, and I didn’t have time to make that house my home. That’s exactly what I did for the first two weeks. Now, after those two weeks, I woke up and looked around the room like, ‘You’ve cleaned out every closet, there are flowers planted, what are we gonna do?’ I got into a rut. It was very hard not having the means and opportunity for art-making that truly is the key to my soul and to my being. It was difficult. Many days, I didn’t know what was going on. I was becoming stagnant. I woke up one day and said, ‘That’s it, we’re not doing this anymore.’ One of my greatest investments, I purchased me a bicycle! Oh my gosh. I didn’t realise how therapeutic it is to ride a bike. For me, I would soak up the rays, stop and write in my journal. I would create dances. I started diving into these stories of how I was feeling. This trying year, the silver lining was the internal road that came from it. I don’t know if I would’ve taken the time to slow down if this didn’t happen. In a wild way, I think I needed this. But now that the world is opening back up, I am telling you I have hit the ground running. I’ve been at the studio, the kids have had a fantastic season this year. I didn’t miss one competition. Now being here in London at the Vaudeville Theatre, my gosh, it’s been truly magical.
And of course, we have to talk about America’s Got Talent. Beyond Belief were outstanding!
Thank you! I was so proud. You could see it in my face. I’m an old soul with a young heart and I was so happy to see them there on that huge stage. Honestly, it was one of my proudest moments and those little kids inspire me and motivate me. My gosh, I have so much that is going on in my life right now where the stars have just aligned.
Also, Alyssa motherfucking Edwards doesn’t need no introduction! How dare they!
[Laughs] I know! Everyone started tweeting like, ‘Absolutely not!’ You know what, I didn’t even think about that while I was there. That didn’t cross my mind. I came out there and I was just excited for them. When we were creating the number, I shared the story of what drag meant to me and what it did for me and my life. I was a young, shy and awkward kid in Mesquite, Texas. I said, ‘This is gonna be ya’ll’s drag number, and when you put on this costume and get on this stage, you can be anything you wanna be. Don’t ever hold back. Never shy away, go out there and seize the moment.’ They did just that. It’s the greatest reward being a teacher. Being a teacher is the greatest reward I have ever received.
If Dancing Queen isn’t coming back, is there any chance for a Beyond Belief spin-off?
Well fingers crossed! I believe my book of life is already written, it’s just now being read out loud and I’m going along with it. I’m very honoured to be a part of this Degree campaign because at the end of the day, it takes people like myself, teachers, performers and entertainers to lead the pack and lead the people. If I have to be the one to say, ‘Hey! C’mon, let’s go ahead, grab our deodorant and costumes, get back on the stage and in the spotlight and share our love for art,’ then that’s exactly what I’ll do. Last night, before I went on stage I had nervous jitters. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, you’ve been doing this for over 20 years! What makes you so nervous?’ Then I reminded myself, that’s called passion. It reminded me how much I love this; how much I love doing what I do – day in and day out.
Watch Beyond Belief slay the America’s Got Talent stage here or below.