This year, a number of Drag Race queens have stepped down in Philly — Alaska, Jinx Monsoon, Manila Luzon — and while they were all great in their own right, none of them could bat an eye lash at the Vanessa Williams of drag herself, Alyssa Edwards, who performed last night at Ratchet Wednesdays at Tabu.
Though notorious for being late, she was right on time for this shebang. When she arrived, she entered the dressing room treating all the other queens like they were her sisters. As a manager at Tabu (and occasional drag performer), I hung out with her backstage and found that she was as fun and easy going as anyone I’ve ever worked with, joking and playing with everyone while adhering to an unspoken “No T No Shade” dressing-room policy. Among the queens getting ready with her were the evening’s performers, Aeryanah Von Moi, Zsa Zsa St. James, Satine Harlow and the hilarious hot mess Bev. Buzzing around them were on-the-scene photographers Alexander John Ortiz and Garrett Matthew. At one point Ortiz’s shirt came off, prompting Alyssa to give him a bare-bottom spanking. Hilarious.
All the co-starring queens were great, though we got a little nervous when Bev debuted her Alyssa Edwards parody outfit — complete with a sign that read “Back rolls?” We weren’t sure how Alyssa would take it, but she loved it. And when Bev performed the classic remix of Alyssa sound bytes, Alyssa made sure to come downstairs to tip her. Fabulous.
Alyssa’s first number was Lady Gaga’s “Applause,” which began with a few lines from the Lana Del Rey neo-classic “Ride.” So many queens have attempted to perform this now that ARTPOP is on everybody’s gay airwaves, but Alyssa takes the cake. Her dancing was legit (which is no surprise, considering she runs a dancing school in Texas) and when the second chorus began she jumped into a split that had everyone grabbing their junk. Ouch.
Her second performance of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” was simple yet spectacular. She judged her Philly crowd well, because this song was just what everyone seemed to be waiting for. To get it started, she slowly entered from the stairs, just posing along the wall for an entire verse. There was no crazy dancing for this number, but there didn’t need to be.
When the show was over she continued to mix and mingle with guests until closing time — not just taking photos and signing autographs, but actually gabbing with her fans. A good friend once told me that it’s not your performance on stage that gains you respect, but the performance you do backstage that will get you hired again. And if I have anything to do with it, this queen will be back in Philly again soon.
See the rest of Alexander John Ortiz’s photos from the night here.