Arts & Culture News

RuPaul's Drag Race Continues to be a Fabulous Platform for Dallas Drag Queens

Alyssa Edward's slayed on RuPaul’s Drag Race latest season.
Alyssa Edward's slayed on RuPaul’s Drag Race latest season. courtesy Anastasia Beverly Hills
If you’ve been keeping up with the latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, you’ve probably seen contestant Elliott With 2 Ts slay some challenges while looking fabulous. On the show, she is representing Las Vegas, her home of the past three years, but Elliott hails from Dallas-Fort Worth, as her housewife aesthetic might suggest.

The show continues to be an irresistible platform for drag performers, and some of its most notorious, entertaining and talented queens are proud North Texans.

Elliott grew up on a farm in Ennis. When she was 15, she would volunteer and attend meetings at Youth First Texas, a resource center for LGBTQ youth where she later became a board member and organized a drag show. This is where she performed in drag for the first time.

By 18, she began performing at amateur nights at Station 4. Elliott remembers feeling as though she didn’t fit in with other queens.

“I had a crunchy Halloween wig and I wore old dance costumes,” Elliott With 2 Ts says, “so I just really thought that my dancing was going to get me through. But I started to realize there's so much more that goes into this. I unfortunately had to figure out everything myself because I really didn't have a drag mom or drag family or anything.

"It was kind of difficult for me at first, but it just took a couple of people reaching out to me that weren't even drag queens that really started to get me together and really started to show me my potential.”

When she first started performing, Elliott didn’t have any interests in doing pageants like the other queens. She had dreams of travelling and doing commercial work.

“A lot of people didn't really understand my ambitions and what I wanted to do because it was different from what they wanted to do,” Elliott says. “So I really had to just gain a lot of independence and grow up really quickly and really rely on myself.”

Elliott says she didn’t have a lot of friends while in Dallas, but credits the city for giving her thick skin. She spent her time going to Woody’s to sing show tunes on Tuesdays.
click to enlarge That's Elliott With 2 Ts, henny. - COURTESY VIACOMCBS
That's Elliott With 2 Ts, henny.
courtesy ViacomCBS

Last year, Elliott landed a spot on the coveted RuPaul’s Drag Race lineup for Season 13, which was filmed with strict COVID guidelines. While she couldn’t give us all of the details of what’s to come from this season, Elliott says being on Drag Race has been “the most validating experience of [her] life.”

During filming, the queens are not to use their phones or computers, which Elliott said was rather calming.

“I was able to escape the constant worry and stress of the pandemic and everything going on in the world,” Elliott says, “because we were not on social media and we were not able to connect with people. It was almost like an escape.”

Although Elliott lives in Vegas, she will always call Dallas home. She is grateful to have been able to learn the art of drag in a city that has helped launch the careers of many famous queens.

“It's a tough city if this is what you want to do,” Elliott says of Dallas, “but I'm thankful for the strength that Dallas gave me to be able to do what I want to do with my life.”

Meanwhile, Justin Johnson, better known as drag queen Alyssa Edwards, who finished in sixth place on Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, never plans to move away from Dallas. Before she got into drag, she was assisting at a dance studio.

Edwards would use her dance skills and perform on amateurs night at Station 4, which, at the time, was known as Village Station.

“I was a very shy, introverted, nerdy little gay boy,” Edwards says. “When I walked into Village Station for the very first time and got up on that stage on Thursday nights, it changed my whole life. It gave me the courage to stand in front of a room full of people and not feel so little.”

Now, Edwards owns and runs Beyond Belief Dance Studio in Mesquite. Beyond Belief is featured in a 2018 Netflix docuseries called Dancing Queen, which follows Edwards' day-to-day life.

She has yet to receive any confirmation that Dancing Queen will get a second season, but Edwards is OK with this, as her true joy comes from teaching her students.

“My kids will come to the studio,” Edwards says, “and they'll be like ‘Mr. Justin, people think it's the coolest thing that our dance teacher is Alyssa Edwards,’ and I'm like, ‘Well is she? Has Alyssa made appearances up here?’”

In Dallas, Edwards can usually be spotted riding her bike along White Rock Lake, taking workout classes and most of all, dancing. Edwards says the pandemic marks the longest time in years that she’s been able to spend entire days at home. She relishes every minute.

“There’s no place like [Dallas],” Edwards says. “I know that’s very dorky, but it’s the truth. Every time a plane would land and I’d arrive home, I’d be so excited and energetic on the inside. There’s nowhere else in the world I can see myself living.”

Kennedy Davenport, who placed fourth in Drag Race's Season 7, also has no plans to leave Dallas anytime soon.

Davenport got her start by performing at the Elm & Pearl club, a staple of Dallas’ Black queer community, back when it was known as The Metro, and also performed at the now-closed The Brick on Maple Avenue.

Since COVID, Davenport has taken to virtual shows, and she misses performing on stage. Though some of the places where she got her start are no longer open, she still is one of Dallas’ most recognizable queens  wherever she performs.

“I always have a home at Marty's Live,” Davenport says. “I love Liquid Zoo, and I love the owners of Liquid Zoo. I like going to JR’s too. Those who recognize who I am are always very respectful, and I appreciate that.”

The performer lived in Florida for eight years before returning to Dallas, as she felt other cities aren’t as friendly.

“The city of Dallas definitely means home to me,” Davenport says. “I don't want to go anywhere else. I love Dallas. I love the people. They have true Southern hospitality. Going anywhere else, people are so mean.”
click to enlarge YASSS, queen. Kennedy Davenport was a winner at Miss Gay UofSA. - SCOTT KIRBY
YASSS, queen. Kennedy Davenport was a winner at Miss Gay UofSA.
Scott Kirby
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Alex Gonzalez has been a contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2018. He is a Dallas native whose work has appeared in Local Profile, MTV News and the Austin American-Statesman. He has eclectic taste in music and enjoys writing about art, food and culture.
Contact: Alex Gonzalez