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Review: Dancing Queen
TV Critic Amrita Mande checks out Netflix's latest fabulous offering to see if Dancing Queen is worth a watch
Alyssa Edwards is back, back, back, back again in Netflix’s latest show, Dancing Queen. Alyssa Edwards, a.k.a. Justin Johnson, rose to international fame from appearances in two seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and from the web series, Alyssa’s Secret. While Alyssa Edwards, undeniably one of the most iconic and beloved queens to come from the show, is known world-wide for her dancing skills and being effortlessly funny, Justin Johnson’s real life was always kept pretty private until now.
Described as a mixture between So You Think You Can Dance, Dance Moms and RuPaul’s Drag Race, the docuseries follows Johnson, who owns the Beyond Belief Dance Company in Mesquite Texas, as he and his kids prepare for the competition season. But the show never feels weighed down by trying to emulate other reality shows; Johnson, his life and his passions are truly at the heart of it and that’s what makes the show unique.
“The show never feels weighed down by trying to emulate other reality shows
Throughout the show, the viewers get to see Johnson in action as he coaches his two elite dance teams of ‘minis’ and ‘seniors’ for competitions across the country. The show gets the audience rooting for the kids, many of whom, just like Johnson, have overcome obstacles to do what they’re really passionate about: dance. The dance moms really make the show, with their passive aggressive, and sometimes just downright aggressive, ways of trying to make sure their kids make it to the top. But at the end of the day, Beyond Belief is a family, and they go through all the successes and disappointments together.
When opening a window into Johnson’s personal life, the show doesn’t shy away from anything, the good, the bad or the ugly. The series follows Justin’s personal journey as he tries to rebuild his family after his mother’s death, trying to bridge the decades-old divide between him and his sisters. The show also hints towards Johnson’s abusive childhood as he consciously tries to not follow in his family’s footsteps and be the role-model to his students that he never had.
But we also see some really beautiful and touching moments, like when Johnson buys his first home, the first person in his family to ever have done so, and visits his mother’s grave. ‘Dragsgiving’, Johnson’s version of thanksgiving, was heart-warming to see as he celebrated the holiday season with his drag family, his chosen family, including his drag daughters Shangela and Laganja Estanja.
“Alyssa Edwards' tongue popping, twirling and high-kicking make the show unlike anything else
And whenever the show begins to get a bit intense, be it because of the dance moms getting a bit crazy or family drama, Alyssa Edwards steps right in. She makes frequent appearances throughout the show, each time in a fabulous dress, dangerously long nails and wigs bigger than the state of Texas. She adds balance to the show, making viewers laugh with her signature quirky and ditzy humour. Her tongue popping, twirling and high-kicking definitely make Dancing Queen unlike anything else.
Dancing Queen is a unique show. In a world where story and entertainment are now just synonyms for drama, it’s endearing to be reminded of the people behind it all. The show’s strength lies in its heart; no one’s a villain, no one’s a hero; everyone’s human and they’re all doing their best. And while it may be cheesy, the message that hard work pays off really rings true. Several times Johnson expresses his own disbelief that he gets to pursue his passions, drag and dance, for a living. Johnson is the definition of self-made and has certainly proved that he’s ‘still got it’.