COVINGTON – Get ready St. Tammany Parish—“Miss Thang” is about to roll into town.
Brian Edwards, a Covington native, will be returning to his hometown the week of Sept. 22 for a handful of public appearances after building a highly-acclaimed reputation the past 30 years in Hollywood, working as a talent executive, producer, performer and now an award-winning book author.
Edwards packed his bags immediately after graduating from Covington High School in 1984, heading for what he expected to be success in some form or fashion with the movie industry.
Now, with his own CHS 30th class reunion planned Sept. 26-27, Edwards is looking forward to a week in his hometown after three decades of steady work in the movie business, capped in the past year by an autobiographical success in writing “Enter Miss Thang,” a story about his own challenges and success growing up gay.
Edwards will host a book signing at Barnes & Nobles in Mandeville on Tuesday, Sept. 23 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by a special appearance at the Playmakers Theater on Wednesday, Sept. 24 from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. when Edwards will be on stage for a Q&A session moderated by Winifred Hervey. He will attend the Friday night Covington High homecoming game, then attend his 30th class reunion on Saturday.
From the time Edwards headed to California at the young age of 18, he was determined to “do anything I could to get my foot in the door of the entertainment industry. My plan was to walk through the first open door and follow where it led me.”
It took a year, but he was hired as the executive assistant to five-time Grammy award winner Donna Summer, starting his trek up the road of success in the business. Since then, Edwards has been a working professional for 30 years in various ways, but mostly as a talent executive and talent producer for multiple television and movie productions. In 1998 he was signed as the manager of celebrity talent for the American Movie Classics network, and the Women’s Entertainment cable network.
He has worked with a long list of big Hollywood names, but claims Joan Rivers as “my second mom,” and is close friends with Cindy Crawford–both of whom wrote introductions or forwards in his recently published book, “Enter Miss Thang.”
His book is now in filming production for what is expected to be a documentary on one of the cable networks, and is rumored to be considered for a full-length motion picture after that. Edwards said he is doing all he can to maintain creative control over the book-turned-movie.
“How would I sum up my years in Hollywood?” he responded. “I’ve had so many amazing experiences with people I respect in the business, which has given me the opportunity to work with many larger than life stars.
“As for the book, I didn’t expect such acclaim, especially since I’ve made my way by being the cheerleader for others. But I wrote the book wanting to inspire somebody else the way I was inspired, especially in terms of being a young gay person,” he said.
Among those who were important in his life from his teen years was an English teacher at Covington High, Joyce Wolfe, and his mother, who always told him, “be an individual.”
Edwards said he knew he was gay from the age of 5, recalling that Christmas when his father, an ex-military man, bought him a Tonka truck, and his mother bought him a Barbie doll.
“I drove the Barbie around in the truck all day,” he said with a laugh.
He was also certain from a young age that he wanted to go to Hollywood.
“I loved the women in movies, and the handsome men, and loved the way they inspired me,” he said. “I knew I was going to Hollywood as soon as I graduated from high school.”
During his high school years he linked up with Playmakers Theater, the original on-stage production company in the little town in the 80s. He remembers trying out for his first play in the 11th grade and being heartbroken when he wasn’t picked.
“They were doing a play that had a gay theme, but when I never got called by the producer for a part, I called her back. She kept beating around the bush about why I didn’t get picked and finally I said, ‘so I’m too gay to be in a gay play?’ I was sure I would be the star, but I didn’t get picked for anything,” he said.
His first acting role came soon after in “The Sunshine Boys,” where he had four lines as the patient in one scene.
“I know the play was a huge success became of my four lines,” Edwards said jokingly. “But in my mind, everyone loved me and I definitely loved everything about being on stage.”
After working with Summer, he got another excellent job as an assistant to famed talent agent Betty Fanning, then vice president of commercials at the William Morris Agency. That eventually led to his jobs with American Movie Classic and Women’s Entertainment, where he was a part of three Emmy Award winning shows.
In 2012, the International Press Academy honored Edwards with the Satellite Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Entertainment, making him only the third recipient of the honor in the academy’s history.
Always planning ahead, Edwards was setting goals from the time he graduated.
“On graduation night in Covington it was storming so I went home and typed a list of what I called 20 in 20. It was a list of 20 things I wanted to accomplish by the time I came back for my 20th reunion,” he said. “I sealed the list in an envelope and put it in my mom’s safe deposit box at Citizen’s Bank.
“When I came back for my 20th reunion, I opened the letter and went down the list. I checked off everything on there,” he added.
Writing a book was also something Edwards had always planned to do, and after starting it in 1996 and working part-time on it, he decided in 2012 that it was time to get serious.
“I was going to be 50 that year and the clock was ticking, so I changed the title, redrafted some chapters and got it finished,” he remarked.
The cover photo depicts Edwards sitting down with two shirtless men giving him a manicure and bringing him a tiara on a pillow. The crown is actually the Miss America crown won by Vanessa Williams and he said the manicure is because he gets one every week.
The book has received tremendous acclaim, making it to the national best seller list and receiving honors from The National Indie Excellence Awards for “Best Autobiography” and “Best LGBT Non-Fiction,” in addition to being named as a finalist in the category of “Best Cover Design.” The book has also won book awards from the Beverly Hills Book Awards® and honors of “Best Humor” at the Benjamin Franklin Awards held in New York City.
“The feedback on this book has been simply tremendous,” he said. “I have gotten letters and e-mails from people who have been bullied, and they said it inspired them to push past all that.”
Edwards said he determined at a young age to not allow any gay discrimination hold him back, using humor to deal with it, even though there were times he admits “going home and crying on two difference occasions. But for me it wasn’t anything like today when kids go home and kill themselves.”
His advice for others is to realize “nothing is ever as bad as it seems and things will always get better.”
Edwards is returning to Covington, in part, to thank the Playmakers Theater for helping him feel accepted and get his start. He is donating all proceeds from the Wednesday Q&A session to the theater, as well as the author’s royalties from the book sales at Barnes & Nobles.
He is donating royalties from the sales of his book to God’s Love We Deliver (GLWD), a nonprofit organization that delivers more than 4,500 meals each weekday to those struggling with life-altering diseases throughout New York’s five boroughs, Newark and Hudson County, New Jersey.
The book is currently available on amazon.com and most book stores.