Orange, she said. Really? I wondered. “It’s my favorite color,” she admitted. So orange it is, although I still have some reservations. It took me a while to find a skein of yarn I like. She is, after all, my best friend and I want to knit her a shawl she’ll wear and that I’m proud of knitting. I looked in the local shops for something sweet, nice, and feminine but ran afoul with garish color combinations I would not dare to touch with a 12 inch needle (settle down). So I went looking as far as Turkey, where I tend to get my yarn, and I found a lovely ombre combination that I thought pleasing enough. The colors remind me of a Florida sunset or a fall landscape in New England. I got more skeins than I thought prudent, just in case I messed up and had to start over. And after rolling several of the skeins into cakes, I cast my first stitches and got to work.
When I knit, I do so quietly without distractions when the pattern calls for convoluted finger contortions. My mind wanders easily, so I’ve messed up enough rows to warrant do overs from the start. This time, the pattern is easy enough, and having practiced on the shawl I knitted for mom, I’m confident enough to crank this one out listening to podcasts, enjoying an audio book, or playing something on television.
For the first half of the shawl, I settled on Netflix’s Dancing Queen, starring (one of) the Queen of Drag, Alissa Edwards, aka Justin Dwayne Lee Johnson, of Mesquite, Texas. I first saw Ms. Edwards while watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. She was one of the contestants in Season 2’s All-Star show and for good reason. Gurl works it! Though she was not my favorite to win – I was rooting for Alaska (hissssss) – I nevertheless enjoyed Alissa’s performances, was happy to see her make a comeback later in the show, only to sashay away again later. I was certain then, as I am now, that wouldn’t be the end of the story for someone as talented as Justin. When I saw the reality show on Netflix I thought I’d give it a try and I’m happy I did.
Talk about Texas-size drag-ma! Drah-ma? There’s enough wigs, dresses, high-heels, and nail polish on this show to make any queen happy. The series follows Justin’s managing his dance studio, dance-mothers, and dance teams through several dance competitions in Texas. Most of the episodes follow the standard reality show format where Justin comments on what is happening on the episode and Alyssa gives her beads of wisdom. There’s enough kiki and tea to satisfy anyone’s need for a BravoTV drama. Some of it is perplexing at best, while most of it is self-induced. Had I to deal with some of that crap, I’d take my work and go knit alone in the park.
In the episodes we get large-doses of the dance-mom-monsters playing a Game of Tiaras with their daughters to get them in the “elite” team. These moms are piece of work. I don’t know if they are there for their daughters or for themselves. The back-stabbing, name-calling, eye-rolling, and drama seeking made me miss a few stitches I had to retool to get back on track. There were so many times I wanted to slap them and tell them to scoot off the dance studio…well, thank goodness there’s Justin to keep them all (somewhat) in check.
The rest of the episode is devoted to Alyssa Edwards. Namely, we get a behind the scenes view of what her days and performances are like. This is where the show becomes interesting. Alyssa has a larger than life personality. I can’t decide who’s bigger: the wigs or Alyssa. Throughout the series, we go on an awkward date with her and a guy she meets in a bar, shopping for wigs, buying a house. We see her perform in Barcelona, and we tag along as she records a single.
In what was one of my favorite scenes so far, Alyssa performs in a country western bar to Shania Twain’s “I Feel Like a Woman,” surrounded by a group of men doing a line-dance. Oh, be still my heart. Cowboys? Men in boots? Pick-up trucks? Plaid shirts and black cowboy hats. Swoon! I can’t tell you how many times I rewinded and re-played the performance. I wish I could line-dance like that! Check out the guy with the grey long-sleeve shirt. Boy, oh boy! I’ll let him lead any day for a spin around the dance floor with him!
The show truly shines when we see the vulnerable side of Justin as he tries to make good with his family. Reuniting with his sisters, visiting his mother’s grave, taking grandma to her first drag-show, talking about drug addiction and how divorce affected his relationship with his family is the heart of the show. I’d gladly give up the dance-moms for more of this, but the producers must have thought a new version of Brats with Tiaras is what the world needs. Yet, for someone with a personality as big as Justin, and a drag queen as fabulous as Alyssa, the family counterpoint gives the show something other shows of this kind lack. This is the “reality” part of Dancing Queen I hope to see more of if the show gets picked up for a second season.
@Anne Marie: This guy