Alyssa Edwards is easily one of the most accomplished drag queens in the world. She won Miss Gay America in 2006. She competed on Season 5 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and now, she had her own Netflix show, Dancing Queen, produced by World of Wonder! Despite all of the notoriety, the man behind the makeup, Justin Johnson, hid his talent and passion for years from his community in Mesquite, TX, where he owns his own dance studio, Beyond Belief.

“I live a very Hannah Montana life,” Justin joked exclusively to Life & Style. “Beyond Belief was created in a garage, that’s my life. I fought hard and sacrificed a tremendous amount and, I didn’t want to do anything that could affect or harm that. I thought Mesquite people might be a little taken back if they knew I had an alternative lifestyle, so I kept Alyssa hidden away for many years.” And while Justin suspected some of the mothers of his students may have known, it was never openly discussed. “I never shared, I was walking on eggshells. I didn’t want to be judged. Growing up there, I didn’t want people to question if I was a good role model, I didn’t want to be judged as a business owner or teacher.”

But as Alyssa got more famous, Justin had a harder time hiding his secret. “This was before Instagram, I won [Miss Gay America] in 2006, and that created a little buzz, but if you think about it, Insta wasn’t poppin’ back then, you had to really search, so it didn’t make the Mesquite news at that moment, but dancing queen did make the cover [12 years later]!” The moment of truth came when the promo dropped for Drag Race.

“It was like the Hannah Montana wig got taken off, and I walked into the studio and they were all so gracious and kind and caring!” he revealed. “It was like a scene in a movie, I’ll never forget it. It was quiet for two minutes, which was the longest two minutes ever, and then one just started clapping and said, ‘Thank you, you are so talented, and we had no idea. This explains everything!’ I got so emotional, I had to go to the office. Even if they don’t accept, they acknowledged and appreciated me for being me, the man under the makeup.”

Justin Edwards
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The moment validated all of the hard work and trust Justin had put into his community over the years. Though he wanted to create opportunity for his beloved students to get out of town and do anything they choose, he opted to stay in his hometown rather than to move to the bright lights of Los Angeles or New York.

“I grew up in a small studio, and there weren’t a lot of resources,” he explained. “So I said everything that I learned, I want to bring back to Mesquite because there will be another little Justin that will be there.” One star of Dancing Queen proved that to be true. “When JJ walked in the room, I looked at him and I was like, that’s it. He’s so brave! He’s so unapologetically himself at 8 or 9, I could have never been that. He comes from a broken family, it’s hard for his mother to get him to rehearsals and stuff, but it will make him appreciate it more. I’m glad to be there to offer that for him. Because the studio was my safe haven. I could have moved the studio anywhere, but it had to be here, it had to. This is home.”

Justin’s new show Dancing Queen follows his work at the studio as he tries to put together an elite team of dancers to compete around the country. On top of getting to know the young performers and see Justin’s “tough love,” we also get an inside look into his friends, dating life, buying a new home, and of course some unbelievable Alyssa Edwards performances. Watch it all unfold on Netflix, now!