As ‘The Haus of Edwards’ girls get ready to take Dublin by drag storm, Alan Finnegan quizzes them about life before and after RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The Haus of Edwards, aka drag trio Alyssa Edwards, Shangela Laquifa Wadley and Laganja Estranja, have packed up their wigs and oufits and are ready to meet their Irish fans at a very special Dragged Up performance in Dublin. All have been previous contestants of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and while they may not have won crowns, they certainly won our hearts. Alan Finnegan asked the queens about what they’ve planned for their show and what it takes to be a member of the Haus of Edwards.
Why did you want to get into drag?
Laganja: It is something that I always had an appreciation for, but never really intended on getting into. I always wanted to be a musical theatre star. I went to college for choreography, but it wasn’t until after college, when I couldn’t really get a job as a dancer that I discovered drag as a viable option to make a living. I entered an amateur contest out in Los Angeles and I won. One of the prize packages was to be a regular showgirl. That was my first gig, and from there I fell in love with it and committed to it full-time.
Shangela: I first fell in love with drag when I was in college. Sahara Davenport, who was on season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race, was a regular in a local club in Dallas. I would go and see her and I loved it. Then I started doing back-up for a lot of the pageant competing drag queens in Texas.
I didn’t actually get into drag myself until five years ago in LA. I was choreographing a number for some guys who were going to do a number in drag. One of the guys fell sick the night before and couldn’t go on, so they asked me if I could fill in. The rest is history!
How did you become part of the Haus of Edwards?
Laganja: I have worked for Alyssa now for seven years at her dance studio. I teach contemporary as well as jazz and a trick combination class. I also do a lot of choreography for her. We’ve had a relationship as guys for many, many years. It wasn’t until she got Drag Race that I really knew about her drag career. At the time, she was keeping it very separate from her studio life. So from there I approached her about it and that’s how I got into the Haus.
Shangela: I met Alyssa at a drag pageant. I was back-up dancing as a boy for a drag queen named Claudia Foster and after we did our number, Alyssa came up to me and said, ‘You are going to dance for the Haus of Edwards, and that’s a wrap.’ The next thing you know I was at her dance studio learning back-up choreography. We went all across the US, winning pageants and snatching crowns.
What does it take to be a member of the Haus of Edwards?
Shangela: Talent and professionalism. You have to love what you do and love people. You come to a Haus of Edwards show and you’re gonna get high energy numbers onstage. Even if we are doing ballads, they are still going to have energy, baby.
What did you think of each other when you first met?
Laganja: We hated each other!
Shangela: We hate each other now! We both met Alyssa separately. At the beginning Alyssa said to me, ‘You have to take care of your sister.’ I said, ‘What sister, girl? I don’t know no sister.’ She said, ‘You have a sister and her name is Laganja Estranja.’
So we got to know each other. We are very different people but we have a lot of similarities. From working together and having similar experiences, especially with Drag Race, we have just become so close.
Langanja: It really is like a family.
How has the Haus of Edwards tour been so far?
Shangela: It’s been great
Laganja: We had our first stop in Savannah, Georgia. It went off perfectly. It was super fun.
Shangela: We did our opening number that we rehearsed, like two hours before the show, for the first time.
Laganja: We still killed it. It is just great to be with my sisters because I’ve done a lot of travelling alone this last year. It was really nice to have my friends there, have somebody to turn to if I needed somebody.
Shangela: We have so much fun together. Because we are all so crazy, we can just laugh at different things together. Here’s a funny story, actually. In Savannah on our opening night, it was sold out and I was backstage getting ready. I decided to use this black spray stuff to shade my forehead, to give it that little extra for opening night. As I sprayed, I thought I was so fish that I didn’t need any cover. I sprayed my whole forehead. I tried to blend it down and my whole forehead turned grey! I didn’t bring any foundation with me from the hotel, which is where we get ready. So I’m looking around the room and you can see I’m slightly tanned fish and most of the girls are Laganja’s tone.
Laganja: Casper realness.
Shangela: So they come at me with this hot pink powder, thinking it’s gonna cover it up. It was extra! But it turned out to be fun. We get to laugh so much and we are going to have so many stories by the end of this tour.
You’ve both preformed in Ireland before. Are you excited to come back?
Shangela: Oh my gosh, this will be my fourth time back in Dublin. It’s always amazing; I always end up getting pissed, as they say. The fans have energy like no other place. It’s such a great place for drag, and Victoria Secret is a great friend of mine, and Davina Devine and RuPaul Ryder. I just love them to death.
Laganja: I’ve only been to Ireland once, with Alyssa. It was definitely my favourite place from the tour. I felt the energy in Ireland was very different; it was very connected. It wasn’t like they were watching a show; they felt like they were part of the show.
Shangela: Y’all bitches know how to drink!
RuPaul’s Drag Race returns on March 2. Laganja, considering you were in last season, do you think you’ll enjoy it more now?
Laganja: Absolutely! I’ve been a huge fan of the show since it started. I’ve never missed a season. So being on the show it was quite different. Obviously it made viewing the show different too. I’m excited to just be an audience member again and to be able to laugh and not feel like I’m the joke.
Was being on the show therapeutic for you?
Laganja: It definitely brought up a lot of issues. Since being on the show, there has been a lot of healing and spirituality. I’ve discovered what I want in my life.
You’ve also been working a lot with creating make-up and fashion accessories. Is this something you’ll continue on with?
Laganja: I’m working on rebranding myself as a fashion icon. I would like to be somebody who has a blog and is able to go to fashion shows and write about the upcoming trends. I would, of course, love to have my own fashion line. We’re starting really small right now – we’ve got hats, sunglasses, jewellery, make-up and back packs. I’ve always had a love for fashion, which is why drag happened so naturally for me.
Shangela, you injured yourself while onstage and had to take time off to recover. What was that process like for you?
Shangela: I broke the tibia and fibula bones, both those bones make up the bottom part of your leg, and they snapped. I spent a month in the hospital and had three months of physical therapy, and they didn’t think I would be able to dance until August. I went on tour last year at the end of February and I just pushed through. I was very thankful to my family, friends and my fans who gave me so much love throughout the recovery process on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Alyssa, as well as being a globe trotting drag queen superstar you are the owner of a dance school Beyond Belief? Have you found yourself torn between the two?
Alyssa: I am very fortunate and lucky to be the boss, so I make my own schedule. If anything it has actually given the students a little bit of time to breathe, to study and train under other teachers. For so many years at Beyond Belief, I was always the primary director, teacher, coach, mentor.
It is good for me too. I get away, get onstage and feel my fantasy and live my gig. This is my creative outlet. Nothing gets taken away from either side.
What were your first impressions of Shangela and Laganja?
Alyssa: With Shangela, I was real confused. My mind was conflicted. Laganja, I could see being a drag queen, with her yellow and green hair, with her sequin jackets and leggings. So I got it. But when Shangela she told me she was gonna do drag, I was like, I don’t know whether she knows what she’s talking about.
And what were your first impressions of Alyssa, girls?
Laganja: I thought she was bat-shit crazy. She couldn’t come to the studio on time. She had her own schedule, her own things to do.
Shangela: I was inspired. I thought she was a mentor, a teacher, a leader. She was one of the best performers in Dallas. I loved that. My ex-boyfriend used to be her dresser on the show and he would tell me, ‘Oh my gosh, when she gets going watch out, ‘coz she starts yelling and throwing things’. It was very fun to get to know her as my friend first and then later as my drag mother.
What should we expect from the Haus of Edwards show in Dublin??
Alyssa: I think I summed this on Alyssa’s Secret, it was a five-minute video of me describing, aerating, giving the T. You should expect glamour, high energy, and entertainment at its finest.
Shangela: If ever there was a trio to see, this is it.
Haus of Edwards appear at Dragged Up in Break for The Border on March 13.
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