The TV personality and beauty influencer on her latest project, and how brands can avoid turning queer culture into a marketing ploy. 

By Tynan Sinks
Updated: Jul 03, 2019 @ 5:35 pm
Courtesy of Anastasia Beverly Hills

In 2019, when the art of drag is bigger and more mainstream than it’s ever been, it’s hard to turn on the TV, watch a music video, stream a makeup tutorial, or go to the store without running into an ad featuring a drag queen. Companies have started incorporating drag looks, drag makeup, and drag queens into campaigns, whether or not the product they’re hawking has anything to do with drag, or queer people at all. The corporate commodification of queer culture is nothing new, but now that drag queens are trending, some brands use queens to position themselves as young, cool, and inclusive.

For choreographer, drag performer, YouTube host and television star Alyssa Edwards, watching drag culture go from a form of underground entertainment to a marketing ploy isn’t always ideal.

“There have been instances where it’s like, ‘Okay, where we were just used?’ Of course we think about that. We’re in a time where we can, and should, be a little sensitive about who we are, and about our community,” Edwards says. “I always try to be optimistic and hopeful, and hope that everything I see, was done positively, and for the right reasons. I don’t want our community to be used for a ploy, or for a brand.”

I spoke with Edwards the morning of World Pride in New York City at the end of Pride Month, an event that some say has been overly commodified and capitalized upon by brands. An estimated four million people were slated to attend. Even though she was getting full glam in preparation for the parade, Edwards was in an introspective mood.

“I was lying in bed this morning going ‘How is this really my life?’ I don’t think I ever hoped for this. I didn’t pray for this. Last October, my original Netflix series launched, then DragCon, then the announcement of the Anastasia Beverly Hills collaboration. I’m going down my yellow brick road!”

Edwards’ tornado of year was capped off by one of the most talked about launches in beauty, her namesake palette with Anastasia Beverly Hills. In 2019, beauty collaborations are so commonplace that it’s hard to get excited about any single one, so much so that it’s almost surprising when a brand launches a product without an influencer’s name attached to it. 

But the Alyssa Edwards x Anastasia palette is highly anticipated by beauty lovers and drag enthusiasts alike. For starters, the product is solid. But more importantly, it’s very, very Edwards. A masterfully curated collection of 14 shades, the palette has eye-popping brights like we’ve never seen from ABH, paired with more subdued neutrals and a few pops of shimmer. It perfectly embodies Edwards' vibrant drag persona.

“The coolest thing about this experience has been that the brand was very open to learning about me and my idea of beauty. When the opportunity was presented to me, it wasn’t like, ‘Okay, what do you think about these colors?’ They didn’t just want to use my name. They really took the time to listen to me share my life story.”

The shade names are a timeline of Edwards’ career. The eggplant purple, called B.B.D.C., is named for Edwards’ Beyond Belief Dance Company. The light camel brown, H.O.E, is for House of Edwards, the drag family she is a part of that mentors and supports drag talent. The bright, sunflower yellow is named (yes, you guessed it), Brick Road. 

Courtesy of Anastasia Beverly Hills

“This palette is two years in the making. They were very diligent in bringing to life all things Alyssa Edwards. When I open this palette, I don’t just see bright, colorful shades, I see a journey. I see my life, my career. It’s very, very important to me to not only be authentic to who I am, but to also be sincere.”

And unlike brands that use drag and queer culture as trendy marketing ploys, ABH has positioned itself as a supporter of the LGBTQ community since inception, and acted as a sponsor for RuPaul’s Drag Race, on which Edwards was a contestant, since 2015. Given the brand’s history and inclusive stance, brand president Norvina says that Edwards was a natural fit, despite the fact that ABH rarely collaborates with influencers.

“Alyssa is the ultimate example of a queen,” says Norvina. “[She’s] a  professional that exemplifies pride, professionalism, and a background that embodies the American dream.”

The limited edition Alyssa Edwards x Anastasia Beverly Hills palette is available now at anastasiabeverlyhills.com and at Sephora, and is the perfect next endeavor for the multi-hyphenate, multi-talented pageant title holder. And whether it’s beauty, television, drag, or dance, there’s one through-line to her work that ensures that all of her projects contribute positively to her legacy. 

“They all have one thing in common. For anything like this, you have to invest your time,” Edwards says. “You have to take the time to ask, ‘What is it that I am creating, why am I creating it, and why is it important?’ The who, the what, the where, the when, and the why. The magic to me is in the process. And it’s rewarding to see it come to life in the way you had envisioned and imagined. It has been a lot of work, but you know what? That’s anything in life. If you want anything in life, you’ve gotta work for it. Like Britney said, you better work, bitch.”

 

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