It has gone down in history as one of the most iconic lip sync showdowns in the RuPaul’s Drag Race canon—the perennial favorite, and accidental sound bite machine, Alyssa Edwards versus the underestimated and stunning “early season” queen Tatianna. The two queens performed Rihanna’s “Shut Up and Drive” for a chance back into the All Stars 2 competition. The sole Lip Sync For Your Life, in a season full of fun but low-stakes Lip Sync For Your Legacies, the performance is remembered not only for the queens similar looks and nearly choreographed synchronicity but their double win, sending both back into the competition. No gay bar or queer space would ever be the same again.
To commemorate it’s two-year anniversary, VH1.com chatted with Alyssa and Tatianna, as well as eventual All Stars 2 winner Alaska and judge Carson Kressley for a full blow-by-blow (or a wow-by-wow) of the memorable lip sync.
Alyssa Edwards: I can tell you “Shut Up and Drive”, for me, it was a battle because both of our hearts were in it to win it. And it wasn’t just to stay in the competition, it wasn’t just for the $10,000, you can tell that these are two entertainers that were born to be on stage. There was no Hokey Pokey going on with that lip sync.
Tatianna: It was [the right] song. On season two, when I was lip-syncing for my life it was always mid-tempo disco songs, [and] this time around, it was like, “Oh, this is actually something that I know!” and I have performed this before. So I was excited to show that side of my performing style, and show that I can dance.
Alaska: It was really special. Anytime Alyssa Edwards does a lip sync, that’s like an event. So, it’s always exciting to watch her do that. Then it was like, is Tatianna going to bring it? And she did. It was really exciting and if you look at the back of the stage, I’m living my life, clapping and screaming. We kind of all were. Girl, it was really fun.
Carson Kressley: I do think it was one of those monumental ones. I am a huge Alyssa fan. I think she can turn some great looks and she also is a bit campy. She has a fantastic sense of humor. She’s one of a kind, so I have to say I was rooting for Alyssa. Tatianna is beautiful and I remember her season quite well. She really blossomed in All Stars but I didn’t think she would be able to keep up with Alyssa. Then the lip sync happened, and I was like, “Wait a minute,” [because] they were both spectacular.
All the eliminated queens returned for a standup comedy challenge that saw them working alongside contestants still in the competition. Tatianna (paired with Detox) and Alyssa (working alongside Alaska) found themselves in the top spots after the judge’s critiques.
Tatianna: I really didn’t know [how the standup challenge went]. It’s really hard to know with comedy challenges [because] it’s hard to gauge if everyone thinks it’s funny or everyone doesn’t.
Alyssa: When I came back to All Stars, I said, “Okay, you told everybody in season five that you weren’t funny. You’re not funny, Justin, you’re hilarious. You said you couldn’t sew. So please, give me that needle and thread and that hot glue gun and watch me do this.”
This time coming back for All Stars, I was like, everything you said you couldn’t do, you tackle that. You overcome that fear, you face it, and you deliver.
Tatianna: When I was on stage, I was like, “Just remember the lines, just do what you’re supposed to do” and it will fall where it will fall. When me and Detox were being critiqued and everything was being well-received, I was like, “Oh thank god.” It was a little bit of a weight off my shoulders. I had no idea how everyone else was going to end up. So I didn’t know who else I was going to be up against.
Alaska: I was hoping it was definitely going to be Alyssa in there because I thought we did really well, especially coming off the week before, which I think was kind of a train wreck for Alyssa. I liked working with her but acting is not her thing, so we did this thing where she could sort of be herself and deliver that.
Alyssa: For the comedy, if you can get RuPaul to laugh, you’re doing your job. I thought that Tatianna definitely had a shot at [being in the top] but, to be one-hundred with you, I was very focused on myself. I was really focused on that comedy challenge [on] just being myself and having a good time with the audience, with all the past queens, and making Ru cackle a little bit. Mission accomplished.
Then we are gonna get the opportunity to come back by a lip sync? Oh baby! Lights, camera, action—now starring Alyssa Edwards and Tatianna, the ultimate showdown of all showdowns. I looked around, I said, “Baby, I need that hair and I need that costume. I’m putting on my good disco boots and I’m fixing to go out here and slay for all the gods.” Then, if I don’t get to come back, I’m gonna leave my heart beating on that damn stage so the girls will feel it trembling the next time they walk out there on that runway.
The queens walked to the stage for their lip sync, wearing nearly identical looks—Tatianna in white and Alyssa in black. The number would see not only eerily similar costumes but also complimentary dance moves.
Alaska: One of the magical things about All Stars 2 was that the queens would be end up wearing the same thing and then end up lip syncing against each other. It happened with Tatianna and Roxxxy [Andrews] and then it happened again with Alyssa and Tatianna. They were both wearing the same outfit but in different colors. It was really thrilling, especially because one of them got to return. It was really fire emoji.
Tatianna: What happened with All Stars was, if you weren’t wearing something that you could perform in or you just wanted to change your outfit for your Lip Sync For Your Legacy, you’d have that opportunity. I was gone for two episodes and the silver outfit was supposed to be my futuristic outfit [for the Future of Drag runway]. I didn’t put on any of the accessories [to make] the big futuristic look. I just put on the base, kept my hair from the challenge, changed out my shoes because I was like, “Okay, I know I can move in this.” So I threw that on.
There was never a discussion [about wearing similar outfits], I just thought, “What can I wear that I’m not going to need to wear later on, if I make it further in this competition?”
Alyssa Edwards: People think that that outfit thing was planned. It was not at all.
Tatianna: I believe Alyssa was like, “Oh, you wearing that, mama?” and I was like, “Uh-huh,” and then I guess she found something, not trying to be similar but like, “Okay, you’re wearing something you can move in? Okay, so am I.” And you only have a limited amount of time to change, so I think it made sense that she put on what she put on. It did end up being a similar overall shape. [Laughs]
Alaska: It’s not a lot of time because everyone has to sit around and plead for their life and then cry, so that takes up a lot of time. If you are wearing something really crazy and cumbersome and you want to change, you just have a couple minutes to do it.
Alyssa: I realized [we were dressed similar] when we walked out, side by side. I said, “Well alright, we got the yin and the yang.” I mean, it was fab but I’ll tell you right now, our outfits might’ve been opposite color but I know what wasn’t opposite. Our hearts were pounding because I could feel it when I was holding her hand. Our shoulders were rolled back, baby, our chests were lifted, that chin was up and we both were in it to win it. And not just the competition, not just the lip sync, but to win that self-satisfaction of, “Oh yeah, I did that. I did that. Mmhmm, I did.” I can see when I stand up at the end and I toss my hair back. I see that look in my eye, and I look over at her and I’m like, “Well, bitch we just gave these folks a show!”
Tatianna: I was super excited and nervous. I was happy that I was in the top so that I could get a chance to come back into the competition. I feel like me and Alyssa were on edge because this was really our last time to get in there.
Alyssa: My goal definitely was to win All Stars or be in the top three, but in the end I wanted to walk away from that experience proud of what I presented, so I told myself that this is your last lip sync in front of RuPaul, baby. All these years of traveling and performing and competing, it all boils down to this one four-minute lip sync. Leave no stones unturned and let it be very clear that when it’s all said and done, the legacy that you will leave as Alyssa Edwards was here.
Carson: Alyssa is so funny and Tatianna was so gorgeous on this particular day but I don’t think we were expecting it to be such a barn burner of a lip sync. It started off slow, as the song does and then there’s all those great car crash sound effects and Alyssa is literally hurling herself on the ground. Tatianna is throwing all kinds of face. It wound up being a little bit of a surprise.
Tatianna: We were just interpreting the song similarly because I never looked at her until she did a death drop. There were like two times where she did a death drop, but I’m not going to do a death drop because this bitch can’t do a death drop. So, obviously I heard her hit the ground and I looked.
Alyssa: We didn’t know we were gonna do [similar moves]. It’s like iconic drag when you’re on stage [and] you’re feeling it. You gotta take the children to church for Sunday school, you know, that happens every Sunday, right? You just know you gotta do it. It was that part in the music which you just know you gotta do it. And girl, me and her both did it, honey, we both did it.
Tatianna: All of the dance moves that were similar, I think when you are a queen who dances consistently on stage, you have your go-to moves. You know certain moves go to certain parts of the song. To be fair, it’s not always the most original movement to go with one part of the song. I did find it funny, watching it [again] that we both did our little spinning moments, we both hit the ground at the same time—she did a death drop, I did my little back arch moment—and I loved it.
Carson: They were both so fantastic and I think those are the best lip syncs because we’re like, “Oh my god, who is going to win this?” It’s like a ping-pong game of one wow, after the next wow. Then at the end, our jaws are sitting there on the judges table and Ru is having to figure out who the winner is.
Tatianna: We weren’t looking at each other. You’re making eye contact with the judges because you want to try and make them like you best. Us not looking at each other and it coming out like that is genius.
Alyssa: Let me tell you something about Alyssa Edwards: When I am onstage, honey, and then y’all really put my biggest inspiration in front of me? Oh, girl, please. My eyes are more connected. I wanted Ru to recognize that eye of the tiger and I wanted him to see everything I’ve learned since season five. I felt like he’s mentored me, that in the end, when it will all be said and done, I’ll be a part of a legacy that he created. That makes me an All Star.
After the performance, RuPaul surprised viewers when she saved both Tatianna and Alyssa. Their reactions (as well as the queens in the background) were a mixture of stunned and ecstatic.
Tatianna: Ru leaves and I think she watches it back on a monitor so she can see everything fully. We had a chance to sit there. I think that I sat on the ground and chugged some water. And then they’re like, “Alright we’re resetting.” Then we stand up, and try and look semi-together. Then, they tell us what their decision is.
Alyssa: I think [RuPaul] might’ve been gone 10 seconds. I honestly don’t even think she left that day. I think it was obvious. I didn’t know what Tatianna did, but I knew when it was over, their mouths were on the floor, the faces were cracked and shattered, the girls in the back were like, biiiiitch. You know that TV show Lip Sync Battle? It must’ve been inspired by mine and Tatianna’s “Shut Up and Drive” lip sync cause that’s what a real lip sync battle is.
Tatianna: I thought it was going to be Alyssa. I was going up against Alyssa Edwards in a dancing situation. I know what my capabilities are, and I know what hers are. We’re not that super-duper far off, except that she can do a lot more acrobatic bullshit than I can. I just naturally assumed that because it was Alyssa Edwards and the judges love her so much, that it was going to be, “You did a good job, Tati, but we’re keeping Alyssa,” so when they said my name first, I was like, “What the hell?!? Werk.”
Alyssa: I was fine. I was at motherfucking peace. I said, “Bitch, pack your shit up cause you gotta go home to teach a jazz class with a bunch of nine and ten year olds. Pack your wig. Don’t even change, just head to the airport, go through TSA with this outfit, and just hear, ’Oh, you look lovely.'”
I was done, put a fork in me. Another check mark on the bucket list, cause baby, I could tell Ru was completely and utterly shook, gagged, living, and he even said that’s what a lip sync should be: a fight, the hunger. Girl, we were hungry—starving.
Alaska: I had no idea [they would both be safe]. I was hoping not because then it’s more people in the competition that have to go home, but I never suspected.
Carson: I think that was before a lot of the surprise [double saves] started happening and we didn’t know. We thought, “Oh my gosh, how is this going to shake out?” We thought there would have to be a terrible decision made. Then in Ru’s wonderful magical way, and how he makes everything better, he even made that situation better and both were winners.
Tatianna: No, I had no idea. I was happy for Alyssa but I was pissed because I wanted the full $10,000 and we had to split that shit.
Alyssa: I think we both were gagged that she picked both of us, but we were both so fulfilled. We both were like, “Okay, if we leave tomorrow, girl, we had a moment. Like Miss Kelly Clarkson had said, ’some people wait a lifetime for,'” at least that’s what I felt. I thought this is another opportunity for you to be here. I feel like a winner, I work like a winner, and I got that win. “Shut Up and Drive” was the win for me. That was the win for both of us.
Tatianna: Undressing in the workroom, everyone was very complimentary. Alyssa and I high-fived, we were like, “We did it, bitch.” And then they were telling us that we were doing a lot of the same moves at the same time. And I was like, “Oh, that’ll be fun to watch back.”
One of the producers said, “We were in the back of the studio watching and that’s probably going to be a major, major moment.” And I was like, “Okay, sure,” not really taking it seriously, like, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” because you never know how the audience is going to react.
Carson: There’s several things that make it so memorable and for a fantastic package. Both of the queens look so great and they’re giving us tight, curvy beautiful bodysuits. They were giving us big, bold blonde hair—excellent for hair-ography. And that they seemed to be doing it as a group number. They seemed to be in tandem and that synchronicity made for a positive lip sync and a joyful one. Both of them were shining and everyone who watches it is so happy for both of them. It makes it very memorable.
Alaska: It’s amazing. Just watch it. Alyssa Edwards does these—I wouldn’t call them death drops—sort of inverted death drops where she’s flinging herself to the ground. And then Tatianna is doing these advanced eight-count hair flip choreo-moments. They both know that there’s so much on the line. They’re not just trying to get $10,000 as a tip, they’re trying to turn it and stay in the competition.
Tatianna: There was a surprise factor with me because I had not been in a situation like that before on television. I think we both gave it our all and iconic lip syncs [happen] when both people are on it 110%. You could see as a viewer that we were both going to fight this shit to the death. And I think visually, we did have similar outfits, and hair, and white and black, so it did come across aggressively stylized. All those things together made it one to remember.
Alyssa: Two people that have obviously fought a whole lot in their life to get to where they are, that climbed over mountains clearly, the hunger, that will, and that eye, and I’m not saying that but you can see it in my eyes, you can see it, can you not see it when you watch it? That we came around the corner, I remember telling myself when them lights went down and that spotlight pops on, it’s showtime folks. If you want a show, you came to the right place cause me and this gal right over here is fixing to serve up one hell of a fight. Girl, I was waiting for them to start charging admission for all the girls in the back and the rest of the guest judges.
Tatianna: We did a gentle recreation in Newcastle in the U.K. last year and that was super fun. It was me and her, we were both wearing similar outfits again—little leather corset-bustier things. We weren’t death dropping. We were just enjoying it and enjoying it with the audience.
Alyssa: It’s something that the children and the grandchildren and their great-great-grandchildren will read about and watch. We’ll be in drag history books for eternity, honey, and that’s the win, ain’t it?
Watch the evolution of Miss Alyssa Edwards in this digital exclusive.