“Life, Love & Lashes” Comes to New Haven

Zofia Filipczak | June 3rd, 2022

“Life, Love & Lashes” Comes to New Haven

College Street Music Hall  |  Downtown  |  Drag  |  LGBTQ  |  Arts & Culture  |  Youth Arts Journalism Initiative


Zofia Filipczak Photos.

Designed to look like a backstage dressing room, the College Street Music Hall stage filled with dancers in sheer black bodysuits as they flawlessly danced to ABBA’S “Dancing Queen.”

With her high-volume white wig and bedazzled silver dress shining in the spotlight, Alyssa Edwards—the dancing queen—arrived.

Best known for turning on season five of the Emmy-Award winning show RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars, Edwards swept into the Elm City recently for a stop on her 34 city “Life, Love & Lashes” tour.

I learned about the tour from my friend, Kayla Tirozzi, and knew I had to be in the audience to witness Alyssa Edwards. My friend Kayla, tagged along and Edwards didn’t disappoint.

She regaled the crowd with a two-hour show, performed in two acts. The first was about her early life. The other was about her time in Hollywood.


Edwards emulates her playing baseball as a kid. Zofia Filipczak Photos.

Mesquite, Texas is the town where she grew up. It’s a place where boys played sports and wore blue, she said. Back then, Edwards was known only as “Justin.”

“Alyssa Edwards” is a stage name but the performer is also known by her birth name, Justin Johnson, and uses both the feminine and masculine pronouns interchangeably.

Edwards said he found the courage to be himself from his grandmother and her motto, “When life gives you lemons, you make some very sweet lemonade.”

He said his journey to success as a young gay kid wouldn’t have been possible without his beloved “Granny,” whom he called his biggest supporter, and his gay uncle, who introduced him to queer culture in New York.

In addition to stories about his grandmother and uncle, he shared tales of attempting sports and failing, being in high school, and coming out.


Zofia Filipczak Photos.

The performance also included four lip sync performances and stories about how she rose to fame in the world of drag and finding love.

After seeing an ad on Facebook, Diane, who didn't give her last name, came to the show with some friends from West Haven.

With every lip-sync, Edwards changed into another costume, which was a real treat for attendees like Diane, who didn’t provide her last name. She and friends from West Haven attended the performance after seeing an ad for it on Facebook.

“We’ve been fans since season five,” Diane said. “The costumes were fantastic.”


Diane, at far left, and her friends. We’ve been fans since season five,” she said. Zofia Filipczak Photos.

Edwards had a total of six costume changes; highlights included a sparkly silver gown with a big bow in the front and a sequined yellow wig. A bedazzled purple bodysuit with tassels sent the crowd cheering while Edwards danced alongside the dancers.

The crowd also cheered during each dance routine and silently watched during the more heartfelt lip syncs.

I started to tear up during her lip sync to Keala's Settle “This Is Me,” as she sat at her stage vanity, showing us a raw version of herself without all the makeup and the wig.

Watching Edwards gracefully twirl in a cheetah print robe and her wig cap while the screen showed pictures of her in high school, I empathized with her early life struggle with her identity and coming out is relatable to a queer kid like me.


Alyssa Edwards dancing, in front of photos of her teenage self. Zofia Filipczak Photos.

Edwards said her first experience with drag was at a gay club was life changing.

“There was this character on stage running a mock but the one thing I admired about this entire performance was the amount of power that one person had over the entire audience,” Edwards recalled. “I turned to my friend and asked, '’What is this?’”

“Justin,” the friend said, “that’s a drag queen.”

The second act was all about Edwards’ start in Hollywood with the legendary RuPaul. With feather boas, Edwards’ dancers moved to the theme song for RuPaul's Drag Race while highlights of Edwards’ time on the show flashed on a screen at the center of the stage.

Edwards was already a successful queen, having won many pageants and owning a dance studio, she said RuPaul’s Drag Race was a new challenge.

She said she'd only watched one episode in support of her drag daughter, Shangela, before being recruited for RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars.


Zofia Filipczak Photos.

“I’m in Hollywood a lot, then I get a call from World of Wonder productions… I picked up the phone, ‘Hi Alyssa! We would like for you to join the cast of All-stars 2,’” she recalled. Although she didn’t win, Edwards left her mark in Drag Race history.

After her appearance on Drag Race, Edwards is now the star of her own Netflix series, Dancing Queen, and has appeared on “America’s Got Talent.”

As “Dancing Queen” played again at the end of the show, confetti fell from above. Edwards shined under the spotlight for the last time that night with her classic high-volume wig and a silver jeweled white cocktail dress.

“All this would’ve been impossible if it wasn’t for the love of so many people,” Edwards said. 

 This piece comes to the Arts Paper through the fifth annual Youth Arts Journalism Initiative (YAJI), a program of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Read more about the program here or by checking out the "YAJI" tag. Zofia Filipczak is a junior at Engineering and Science University Magnet School (ESUMS).