If you somehow missed Miley Cyrus’ performance on the MTV Video Music Awards last week, you must be living in some sort of insulated yurt community for music snobs. The performance of Cyrus’ “Dooo It ” — a song off Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, which was released shortly after the VMAs — was memorable for a couple of reasons that don’t include her being called out and made to look like a fool by Nicki Minaj. In addition to her head full of terrible white girl dreadlocks, Cyrus was joined by more than 30 drag queens from Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, three of whom hail from Dallas.
The Haus of Edwards is a drag collective helmed by Mesquite native Alyssa Edwards. Edwards is joined by Paris, Texas, native Shangela (née D.J. Pierce) and Carrollton’s own Laganja Estranja. All three queens have made appearances on various seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race, but they were quickly thrust into mainstream pop culture last week when they were asked to perform with Cyrus, who hosted the VMAs this year.
Dallas' most famous drag queens didn't merely participate in that performance of "Dooo It," either. They were heavily involved. Cyrus’ team directly reached out to Say What Entertainment, the management company that Pierce founded last year. “Miley attended the RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7 taping party in Los Angeles in May,” recalls Pierce. “We did a performance on stage, she fell in love with that, and said she wanted to do something with us. She’s watched Drag Race. She’s a fan of us as much as we are of her, which is amazing.”
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In fact, Cyrus’ production of the “Dooo It” number started that night, with heavy involvement from the Haus of Edwards. Cyrus served as her own artistic director for the VMAs performance, and asked Laganja Estranja to work with her as co-choreographer for the live number. “[Miley] started learning the choreography that we did at the Drag Race show, and that’s where the dance breakdown in the performance came from,” says Pierce.
The performance itself has been cheered and jeered — whether or not you like it seems to depend on whether or not Cyrus's brash, nouveau-hippie, pothead aesthetic appeals to you — but it was no doubt a feat. Thirty drag queens in coordinated costumes performing an intricate dance number on one stage is impressive enough, more so when you consider that the group of performers only had one week to rehearse together. Fortunately, according to Pierce, Miley was the consummate professional, and enjoyable to be around.
“I live in Hollywood, and you work with celebrities. I’ve performed in Lady Gaga videos and performed for Nicki Minaj, but working with Miley Cyrus was different,” Pierce says. “She was one of the most down-to-earth, approachable, sweet and professional people. She’s a little drag queen, indeed. Miley Cyrus is a little drag queen.” According to Pierce, Cyrus showed up to rehearsal one day playing Pierce's single, “Professional,” in her car, and would frequently wear merch the queens gifted to her to the next day’s rehearsals.
Despite plenty of experience as a professional drag queen, Pierce was still plenty nervous about performing at the VMAs. “I have performed on six of seven continents — they won’t book me in Antarctica for some reason — but the VMAs are different because it’s one of the world’s most watched awards show. Miley had a lot on her shoulders,” he says. “For me to be on a stage in front of so many celebrities that I look up to and love their music, I didn’t want to mess up a step. I wanted to honor that moment.”
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Pierce is also pretty committed to the message of “Dooo It,” the first single from Dead Petz — which, coincidentally, was recorded not far from Dallas with Cyrus' BFF, the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne. “Miley told us that this performance to her was about being exactly who you are in the face of people who might not accept you,” says Pierce. “She said, 'I’m dooo-ing it. Fuck everyone else, fuck what people think I should do or what I should be. This is for everyone who didn’t fit in; you fit in right now.' And that’s why she invited us to be a part of it.”
Later, Cyrus asked the Haus of Edwards to perform at her afterparty that followed the Awards at The Roosevelt in Los Angeles. Of the 30-plus queens who had been on stage earlier in the night, only the three Dallas-born performers were asked to follow Cyrus to the weed-scented wonderland that no doubt followed the VMAs. On stage, Shangela, LaGanja Estranja and Alyssa Edwards twerked with Miley Cyrus, and inducted her as an honorary member of the Haus of Edwards.
Fortunately, Dallas will soon have a chance to see the Haus of Edwards in real life. On September 19, Pierce’s fabulous alter-ego Shangela will be joined by LaGanja Estranja and Alyssa Edwards for a performance at The Brick for Dallas Pride. During the actual parade, the Haus of Edwards will regally ride a float before hosting a meet-and-greet for VIP fans at the Ilume Dallas. If you missed out on that VMAs performance — or loved it beyond belief — you might want to go ahead and get your tickets now.