If there's anyone who could be the poster child for following your passion, it's Alyssa Edwards. Born Justin Johnson, the little boy from Mesquite, Texas fell in love with dance and has gone on to become a world-famous drag queen, a fan favorite on 'RuPaul's Drag Race,' owner of Beyond Belief Dance studio, and the star of his own Netflix series, 'Dancing Queen.'
Now Edwards is partnering with TAZO for a (free!) three-day sleepaway camp for adults that is sure to get you out of your comfort zone.
Camp TAZO will be a quarterly event meant to get people to "seek out the unexpected in new ways," something that TAZO founder Steven Smith dedicated his life to.
The first installment, Passion, is happening in March 2019, where Edwards will serve as camp director, coming up with all the activities and participating alongside the campers. The three-day overnight event will take place in Texas, and it's totally free—you just have to apply to attend.
We chatted with Edwards about the camp, her Netflix series 'Dancing Queen,' and what the biggest surprise of homeownership was. [This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]
Apartment Therapy: How did your involvement with Camp TAZO begin?
Alyssa Edwards: I was on a call with TAZO thinking up partnership ideas. So they're like, "We like the idea that you got out of your comfort zone a lot, so we should really focus on that." As shy as I was, and being one of seven kids, I was a home body. Once a year, every year, for as long as I can remember, the highlight would be going to church camp over the summer, and I would leave that camp after a weekend of being there, feeling so inspired and motivated to conquer the fall, and I was ready for life. So they said, that's it! We'll create a camp where I would be the inaugural camp director and counselor.
People will really get to come to this, and they'll get to experience three days of all things Alyssa Edwards. I'm going to be very honest, and tell you that this is probably the most exciting project that I'm working on for 2019.
AT: What can people expect when they show up at Camp TAZO with you as camp director?
AE: Well, I will be greeting them in Texas-sized full drag. But TAZO found that 75 percent of people do want to get out of their comfort zone, but they just don't know how. That's what I want the focus to be, helping people to discover or rediscover something that could be a possibility there just around the corner in their lives. It could be something artistic. A lot of people are very timid to dance, and dance is good for the soul. It's good for the heart. It definitely changed my life.
I actually went to this camp, and went canoeing, which was totally out of my comfort zone, in full drag. I keep saying full drag, because let me tell you, that is a lot to be doing these things. I went camping as a little boy, as Justin, and now I'll be going camping as Alyssa.
AT: So definitely a lot more luggage to carry?
AE: Yes. I just don't know if drag is a camping shindig, but I'm very up for this challenge. Campers won't be the only ones getting out of their comfort zones. I'm going to do the same, and share my magical powers of drag with them.
AT: Your show 'Dancing Queen' recently debuted on Netflix. What has the reception been like?
AE: Overwhelmingly positive. When you do these projects, it's nerve wracking, because it was so personal to me. I knew that I didn't want my show to be a produced, scripted reality series, and they were very open to the idea of shooting docu-style. It was perfect. It was a great fit because what I created in my life, it's all about family and heart, and passion, and inspiration and motivation. I hope that's what people take away from this series.
AT: As people who watch the show know, you recently bought your first house. How has decorating been going?
AE: I love that. That's the fun part. You get to go in and start picking the colors of the walls, and I love to decorate for the holidays. Hopefully, you guys will just maybe, if there's a season two, you guys will get to see it's fully a home now. It's my greatest accomplishment. I'm very proud of myself for this. It's like, "Okay, I'm finally adulting."
AT: Do you have a favorite shopping source for home stuff?
AE: I really like Z Gallerie. I find myself browsing in there quite a bit, more than I probably should. I have a lot of the chess pieces. I have the checker set. Honestly, I think people are going to be surprised at my style, because it's masculine, and a little plain. It's very mild to what my personality is, and what my image is, but I think it's a good balance for my life.
AT: Right, you need somewhere to come home to and relax, and take a break.
AE: You just said that girl. Amen.
AT: What's the best part about being a homeowner so far?
AE: The joy every time I put that key in the door, and walk through it's like, "This is mine." I'm just not driving down the road, throwing out my money to someone else. It's like a sense of like, "Wow. I really did this."
And I can turn my music up as loud as I want. When I'm in my living room just rehearsing my performances, I crank that music all the way up to full blast. I get my life. Now I can have family holidays here. Oh, I love everything about it.
AT: Anything surprising that you wish you knew beforehand?
AE: Well, it's a lot of work. It's a lot of work to learn and there's no manual. If things happen it's like "Oh, gosh, I gotta fix this, okay." It's the little things like that but with anything in life, that should be expected.
Thank you Alyssa! Get all the details (and apply to be a camper!) over on the Camp TAZO site.