Inside the first two episodes of his new Netflix docuseries Dancing Queen, 38-year-old Justin Johnson buys a home, muses on making the home a house alongside a lover (and, in time, a couple of youngsters), officiates a marriage, goes on a date, and breezes out and in of his thriving Past Perception dance enterprise — a aggressive studio for younger women, boys, and their cutthroat dance mothers — with entrepreneurial pep in his step. It’s a far, conventional cry from the tongue pops, glitter weapons, and mirror-mugging he delivered to RuPaul’s Drag Race as Alyssa Edwards, the “good, southern Christian woman” drag persona followers fell in love with throughout two seasons of the Emmy-winning VH1 series. And although his drag pursuits take a backseat to the “real” Johnson’s private and professional lives in Dancing Queen, Edwards intermittently rears her blonde, Texas-sized head as a fairy information who joins two halves of the identical man into an important, slice-of-life portrait that goals to point out its younger viewers a well-rounded portrait of a queer individual striving for — and attaining — the identical American Dream sometimes reserved for his or her straight friends on such a mainstream platform.
Forward of Dancing Queen‘s Oct. 5 Netflix premiere, EW caught up with Johnson to dissect his new normal, from dating men with big trucks (and an even bigger penchant for mustard), becoming an ordained minister, his no-nonsense approach to dance-coaching, why you shouldn’t examine his work to Dance Mothers, and re-introducing himself — and Edwards — to his followers once more in his most daring (again) position but. Learn on for the complete dialog.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’re doing all of it on this series: Officiating weddings, operating a dance studio, doing drag, courting. Why did you needed to current your life in such a multi-faceted method versus what individuals are conversant in on Drag Race?
ALYSSA EDWARDS: At the beginning, it’s necessary for me to be authentically, genuinely, and unapologetically myself. This is a docuseries, so this isn’t a produced actuality. What you see is what was actually happening. I’ve been all over the world, and I feel have skilled the Alyssa Edwards journey. You guys have a good suggestion of who and what Alyssa Edwards is and about. However there’s a person behind the magic and the masks, who has one other life and world that’s simply as essential. The mixture of the 2 makes this series particular… This is a triumphant story, and hopefully, it evokes one other little Justin someplace on the earth. Watching it, did you are feeling such as you acquired to satisfy one other aspect of me?
I do. I responded most to the truth that “Alyssa” is just like the fairy godmother within the confessionals, guiding us alongside however not essentially within the story as a lot.
I didn’t ask any of that; I simply stated, “Look, I’m going to be myself. I’m going to show up, I’m going to do what I do, and I’m going to allow you guys to stand in the corner, but you have to stay far back because it can get action-packed! Film, make this beautiful, make this count, make it mean something to today’s time and the world.” I would like this to be so filled with hope and motivation slightly than simply one other dance present. We have already got these. This needs to be true to who I’m… the youngsters of Past Perception, they’re there as a result of all of them make selections. I’m robust as nails, and also you see a few of that. These youngsters are sharing their tales, too.
I really like that you simply’re not afraid to actually whip them into form. Once they’re rejected you’re telling them they need to cry, that they want that disappointment and to expertise wrestle. I feel youngsters are babied an excessive amount of today. Why is it very important so that you can do the other?
It’s the best way I used to be raised. My father was very strict. He noticed me on stage one time, sort of accidentally. My mom [only saw me] a handful of occasions. I needed to do it so much alone, however I feel that carved me out to be the robust man that I’m at present as a result of I needed to battle for what I believed in. I needed to work and earn it. I would like the youngsters to do the identical. I would like them to earn no matter it is they need to accomplish. I would like them to push themselves more durable than they ever believed they might.
Do you strategy them with a parental perspective?
Perhaps within the sense that I’m the guncle, the gay uncle! I’m such an enormous a part of these youngsters’ lives. We’ve spent holidays collectively, I’ve been to their faculties for occasions, they’ve been to my home. They in all probability see me greater than they see a few of their different relations! Once you pull as much as the studio, the signal says: “Beyond Belief Dance Company: A family of champions.” And I created that together with the Haus of Edwards. My brothers and sisters began having youngsters at a really early age, and I used to be simply there on their lonesome at one level, like, what do I do? And I assumed the one factor I can do is create mine, make my household, and I did that. It’s a studio and my chosen household.
Ru says that on the present on a regular basis: the gay group will get to select their household. It’s good to see a illustration of that outdoors the drag world, the place you discover your chosen household is outdoors the queer group.
That’s the 100 % fact. It’s the truth of my life… There’s a lot extra than simply tongue-pops, splits, and kicks. Don’t get me improper, that’s fabulous, however I feel the depth and the quantity of labor I’ve put into this studio as an entrepreneur — now a businessman — [speaks for itself], seeing as I constructed that studio in a storage.
And right here you at the moment are on Netflix. I’ve heard some Dance Mothers comparisons, so I’ve to know: are you afraid of encroaching upon convicted felony Abby Lee Miller’s territory? She’s acquired jail credibility now. I have to know in case you’re ready for that battle.
You’ve seen me on TV not as soon as, not twice, however 3 times now! You understand I’m fearless. I’ve already fought the great struggle. I’m alive. I’m comfortable… there shall be none of that. However, this present is so totally different from hers. There might be no pyramids, no charades, and in her series, dance is a really small half. It’s extra about her interplay with the mothers. Mine has fairly a little bit of that as nicely, however it additionally exhibits me navigating by means of my life. There’s a lot extra coronary heart. Do you assume it’s just like Dance Mothers?
There are comparable parts. You do say at one level: “Three things are certain in life: Death, taxes, and crazy dance moms.” I all the time thought Dance Mothers was an exaggeration of actual conduct, however I see parts of it right here, too. It’s no joke. These ladies are out for blood.
I don’t know what occurs on Dance Mothers. I did see a few episodes, and [I feel] it’s a “produced” actuality present… with my present, right here’s the actual tea: this is a real Texas gig. The personalities are greater, proper together with the hair, the denim, and the lashes, and we’re all aggressive. If you mix a Texas lady in a contest setting together with her youngster, she will get very critical. However on the similar time, they’re additionally very respectful to me. They’ve this respect that they maintain so pricey that sort of retains me getting into all of this outdoors of my love and keenness for it. These mothers really respect me they usually give me the chance to mentor their youngsters and be that tough-love coach. I’m greater than only a dance instructor and choreographer. I stated this on Drag Race, too, however profitable isn’t the whole lot; eager to is. You possibly can outline your personal win. What is essential to you? Is it a trophy? Is it a plaque? Is it a medal? Is it a crown? Each case is totally different. And I’m robust with the mothers, too. I don’t take no mess. I allow them to know straight up: pay your tuition on the primary. After the fifth, you’re going to pay the late charge. And don’t ask me to waive it.
As you say on the present: “No ma’am!”
No ma’am! However I feel we’re a household…. This is it. And I’m going to say it and repeat it 100 occasions as a result of that is what that is for me. Household is for good, proper, dangerous, fallacious, and detached.
One thing else I discovered about you within the first episode: Miss Alyssa, you’re ordained! You possibly can carry out weddings!
You understand I’m a very good, southern Christian lady. And I used to be like, what can I do subsequent with my profession? I do know what I can do: I can officiate these weddings!
I feel we should always change the official wedding ceremony dialogue to your, “Let them speak now or forever shut your mouth.” I need to say that at each wedding ceremony I’m going to from now till I die.
I assumed that was the silliest, campiest, and wildest factor I’ve achieved thus far with my profession. However it was very enjoyable and rewarding!
Ought to drag queens officiate all weddings? Would the divorce price be decrease?
[Laughs] I don’t know if the divorce can be decrease however it might undoubtedly be an excellent previous gay time.
Talking of weddings: your love life is explored right here, too. Drag Race typically options contestants speaking concerning the difficulties of courting in drag. Have been you maybe apprehensive about placing that half on digital camera?
By no means. I’m at some extent in my life the place I do need to date. One feeling all of us share is the sensation of affection. And it’s necessary to have that affection. Now, it’s all very new for me to be courting. I’ve gone on dates earlier than and I’ve had informal boyfriends, however I’ve simply been so career-driven and targeted. I needed the studio to turn into all the things I’d ever imagined or dreamed, and I knew that may take a variety of time, so I used to be lifelike. The one factor I used to be apprehensive to point out was how socially awkward I’m on dates and the way kooky I’m going to look. However in the long run, if that’s authentically who I’m, so be it!
Yeah, speaking about mustard on a date such as you do in episode 1, I don’t assume it will get worse than that.
Oh God, the nation boy? Was it simply terrible?
I assumed you appeared extra engaged than him. It was terrible on his half.
That’s a great factor!
One other good factor: It’s so necessary for younger individuals to see you shopping for a home and beginning a household. It’s such a strong factor for queer youngsters to see on TV: a gay drag queen chasing the normal American Dream.
It’s vital and it’s essential as a result of it goes again to this present being hopeful and motivational. It’s refined for adults however inspiring sufficient for adolescents. It’s a family-viewing series. In my panel at DragCon, a dad in a camouflage shirt raised his hand and asks me — whereas I’m sitting there in full drag — “Justin, can you give me advice as a dad with a son like you?” It’s such as you’re ready on the world to vary, however I’m truly dwelling it, as a result of I’m wondering: If there was a DragCon once I was a toddler or perhaps a search engine or RuPaul’s Drag Race, perhaps my father would have been totally different. Perhaps our relationship now wouldn’t be totally different. So, I’m very proud that this series is going to succeed in out to totally different audiences. We’d like exhibits like this on TV proper now… particularly at this time!