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RuPaul's Drag Race Alum Alyssa Edwards: 'I Am So Much Bigger Than Being a Drag Performer'

People logo People 10/24/2018 Deirdre Durkan
a woman standing next to a forest © Camp TAZO

Justin Johnson is best known as famed drag queen Alyssa Edwards — and now, he’s sharing the more personal parts of his life as the subject of Netflix’s Dancing Queen.

Johnson’s new series follows his life as the owner of Beyond Belief Dance Company as he juggles family, dance and drag. Throughout the eight-episodes series, fans will get to explore the bond he has with his dance students, see him officiate a friend’s wedding in full drag and buy his first house.

Amid multiple offers and conversations about filming a reality show, Johnson, 38, was initially hesitant about opening his doors for the cameras.

“The others weren’t a good fit for me because I hold the studio as a lifeline, a very sacred place, because it is my artistry. I love reality TV — I’m a reality TV junkie — but it was not what I need for my studio,” the RuPaul’s Drag Race alum tells PEOPLE exclusively. “Netflix came along and was like, ‘We don’t want produced reality, we want this to be a docuseries.’ I was like, ‘Okay, I’m totally down for this. Stand in the corner, I’ll allow you in my home. No talking please!’ ”

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With the show, Johnson hopes to continue to use his platform to inspire others to step outside of their comfort zones.

“It is the greatest reward for me to share my story, my art and my work,” he says. “And people receiving that and being thankful and grateful, it once again resonates deep within because it reminds me that I am so much bigger than being a drag performer.”

RELATED VIDEO: America’s First Lady of Drag Reflects on 30 Years of LGBTQ Pop Culture


For Johnson, breaking out of his shell has ranged from first challenging himself to try drag, entering television and, most recently, preparing for his role as a camp director for an overnight camp experience for adults.

The dance instructor decided to team up with Camp TAZO to relive his summers at youth camp, which always energized him. After “canoeing in a wig and full character,” Johnson says there were a few things he wanted to opt out of, like axe throwing.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this. I’m going to break my nails. I’m not strong enough.’ Then I threw it and hit the target — at least one,” he says of the experience. “It is so much more than a selfie and a good time!”

a person riding a horse in a field © Provided by TIME Inc.

Having grown up with a “very strong, masculine” father in a “town where boys wore blue and girls wore pink,” the Dancing Queen star has chosen to embrace his “little extra bit of pixie dust.” Even with his increasing fame, Johnson says he has no plans to ever retire from teaching.

“The greatest gift I’ve ever received is being a teacher. I’m going to be 95 years old in a chair, watching some kid dance somewhere,” he jokes. “That is my passion. That breathes me life. I walk into that studio and I’m so inspired.”


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