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Tazo tea taps drag queen Alyssa Edwards as its first camp counselor

The tea brand is launching Camp Tazo, a three-day sleepaway camp for adults as part of their “Brew the Unexpected” campaign.

Tazo tea taps drag queen Alyssa Edwards as its first camp counselor
[Photo: courtesy of TAZO]

Tazo wasn’t kidding about their new campaign “Brew the Unexpected”: The tea brand has brought on RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Alyssa Edwards to be their inaugural camp counselor at Camp Tazo, a three-day sleepaway camp for adults in Austin. Just take your time to digest that sentence.

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Camp Tazo is slated for next year and will feature an itinerary of activities meant to push people out of the comfort zones.

Even though Edwards, whose real name is Justin Johnson, didn’t win season five or All-Stars season two of Drag Race, she emerged as one of the most popular contestants from the show, most recently landing a Netflix docu-series, Dancing Queen, based about her Texas dance studio Beyond Belief Dance Company. Edwards’ southern charm, endless catchphrases, and signature tongue pop make her an ideal spokeswoman for any brand, which is why Tazo reached out to Johnson to bring Edwards’ energy to their campaign. But Johnson admits being very hesitant about the idea at first.

“When this was presented to me, it sat on my desk for a couple of days,” Johnson says. “I was skeptical, like this going to be ‘spill the tea’ or ‘what’s the tea’–those kinds of things. I open it up and it says, ‘Brew the Unexpected’–that caught me right there.”

Tazo commissioned a study for the campaign that found 75% of Americans wish they could get out of their comfort zone but don’t know how, and 72% regret not trying something new versus trying and failing.

It’s something just about anyone can relate to–and Johnson is no different. Before going on Drag Race, he hid the fact that he did drag from his dance students and their parents. So when the season five trailer dropped for the world to see, Johnson says he was bracing for the worst.

[Photo: courtesy of TAZO]
“I was very afraid that I was going to be judged, that my art would be judged, my work. And as a businessman I didn’t know if I was going to be taken seriously,” Johnson says. “I had so many what-ifs, but they’re like, we appreciate, we accept, and we celebrate everything about you, Justin. You are exactly what we hope our child can grow up to be.”

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Having that personal connection to the campaign is what George Hamilton, marketing director of tea at Unilever, which owns Tazo, feels is at the heart of it all.

“In addition to having an amazing personality and wit, we were all deeply touched by Justin’s journey of taking his drag queen persona Alyssa Edwards public, and becoming a worldwide phenomenon,” he says. “Representation matters to us, and we’ve always looked at Camp Tazo as a true partnership with Justin, working closely together to make sure we’re crafting an authentic experience. Making Justin part of our core team is the only way to make this happen.”

Johnson says camp played a huge role in his life growing up, so he’s been involved in every step building out the activities, which will, of course, include dancing among other things.

“I’m gagged that they were open to the idea and they were so inspired by my story, which for me is powerful in itself. And they were so accepting and understanding that this has to mean something to me,” Johnson says. “A brand can say, ‘we’re looking for ABC, and if you don’t fit ABC we’re moving on.’ They listened to me and they made the magic happen. It’s like this role was made for me.”

“And ‘Brew the Unexpected’ is me in full drag because you do not think there’s a tea campaign with a Texas, life-sized drag queen,” Johnson continues. “It’s not going to be people’s first image when they think of a new campaign for a tea brand but it’s fabulous. We live in a world where it’s time. This is the time.”

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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