Texas isn’t all sports, all the time. Mesquite has plenty of native sons and daughters that have contributed great things in the world of arts and entertainment. Do you know these eight entertainers who have made their name in the arts and culture? They all have connections to Mesquite.
1. Alyssa Edwards: Drag Performer, Reality Star, Dance Instructor
Justin Dwayne Lee Johnson, better known by his stage name Alyssa Edwards, is best known as a fan favorite on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Edwards was crowned the 34th Miss Gay America in 2006, and in October 2018, Netflix released a documentary about him called Dancing Queen, produced by RuPaul. Edwards still lives in Mesquite, where he owns and operates a dance studio called the Beyond Belief Dance Company.
2. Dave Abbruzzese, drummer for Pearl Jam
David Abbruzzese, the drummer for the rock band Pearl Jam from 1991 to 1994, may not have been born Mesquite, but he grew up here and went to Vanston Junior High School and North Mesquite High School. He started performing with a variety of groups in Texas before forming a three-piece funk-influenced band called Dr. Tongue. He became friends with another Texas drummer, Matt Chamberlain, who contacted Abbruzzese when Pearl Jam was looking for a new drummer. Abbruzzese joined the band in 1991, just before the release of Ten, Pearl Jam’s debut album. He toured with the band and worked on their next two albums, Vs. and Vitalogy, before leaving the group in 1994.
3. Tayla Parx: Singer, Actress, Songwriter
Taylor Monet Park, better known by her stage name, Tayla Parx, is a talented musician, singer, songwriter, and actress, known for many things. She was born in Mesquite, and her family lived in the area until she was 12. It was then she attended the Texas dance camp of noted actress, dancer, and choreographer Debbie Allen, who encouraged the family to move to Los Angeles to take advantage of the opportunities out there. Parx is credited as a co-writer on four Billboard Top 10 singles, and she has collaborated with some of the biggest names in music like Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lopez, Pentatonix, Mariah Carey, Babyface, Leanne Rimes, Christina Aguilera, Usher, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Meghan Trainor, and countless others. As an actress, her TV credits include The Gilmore Girls, Everybody Hates Chris, Carpoolers, Bones, Victorious, and she held a recurring role in True Jackson, VP. She also appeared on the big screen as Little Inez Stubbs in the 2007 version of Hairspray. She currently lives in Los Angeles.
4. Craig Wayne Boyd, winner of Season 7 of The Voice
A 1997 graduate of West Mesquite High School, Craig Wayne Boyd is a country singer and songwriter best known for winning Season 7 of The Voice. He’s released three albums—Craig Boyd, I Ain’t No Quitter, and Top Shelf—and his single My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face, reached No. 1 on the country charts.
5. Jerry Hall, actress and model
Actress and model Jerry Hall was raised in Mesquite and graduated from North Mesquite High School—early at the age of 16. She would go on to become one of the top models in the world after she and her twin sister Terry were discovered while sunbathing in Saint Tropez. She would appear on more than 40 magazine covers in the 1970s, and in 2016, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Fashion Group International Dallas. In addition to modeling, she’s appeared in movies, including Urban Cowboy and Tim Burton’s Batman, she has appeared on Broadway and in numerous TV shows as well.
6. Terry Fator, singer and ventriloquist
The winner of season two of America’s Got Talent, Terry Fator is a ventriloquist, impressionist, and stand-up comedian. He grew up on Mesquite an attended the Mesquite Christian Academy before spending more than 20 years performing and perfecting his act in relative obscurity before being discovered nationally on the TV-competition show, which changed his life. In addition to the $1 million prize, the exposure helped him land a headlining gig at The Mirage in Las Vegas, where he would eventually sign a five year, $100 million deal. His act includes more than two dozen puppets, and Fator is known for his unique ability to impersonate singers while performing ventriloquism. In his audition for America’s Got Talent, he performed Etta James’ At Last through a female puppet. Fator continues to perform his Las Vegas show, now going more than 10 years, while still touring the country to perform.
7. Cara Lockwood, novelist
Looking for a little romance? Novelist Cara Lockwood, a graduate of Mesquite High School, has written more than 20 books, all in the chick-lit or romance genre. Her best-seller is I Do (But I Don't), which was made into a movie for Lifetime with Denise Richards and Dean Cain. She also wrote the Bard Academy series for teens.
8. Greg Vaughan, actor
Actor and former fashion model Greg Vaughan is best known for his roles on the soap operas The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, and Days of Our Lives. The Mesquite High School graduate started modeling right after high school, where he landed work from designers Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, and Tommy Hilfiger. In the mid-1990s, he moved to Los Angeles to work as an actor and was able to get roles on Baywatch, Beverly Hills, 90210, and Charmed.
Written by Jeff Banowetz for Matcha in partnership with Mesquite CVB.