STORY: Neal Howard
PHOTOS: Sara Hanna

In a time when America is hungrier than ever for a new breed of hero, look no further than Edie Cheezburger.

First Amendment warrior: check. Dedicated philanthropist: check. Tireless voice for the marginalized and underserved: check.

“Something that’s very important to me is to give back to my community,” says Cheezburger, née Andrew Jones, who performs regularly at the Lips drag show palace on Buford Highway. “That’s the sole reason I [became Edie]—not to perform, but to be a fundraiser. It was something that had been eating away at me for a long time, and I was like, ‘I just need to do something, and this could be the way for me to do it.’” That something has come in the form of countless hours of fundraising work for Atlantans of all stripes, but primarily those living with HIV/AIDS.

Cheezburger says her philanthropic agenda and drag performance career began eight years ago. At first, it was once or twice a month helping with community-oriented education—condom use, getting tested, etc. Then she joined the self-proclaimed longest running drag organization in the country, the Armorettes, whose members have raised more than $2 million to date for HIV/AIDS charities.

“That was the genesis,” says Cheezburger. “Then I performed in a competition called Dragnificent—I believe at the time it was called Dragnique— and I won my season and got offered a show.” Although spending her workday as a graphic designer for some of the country’s largest manufacturing firms, she says “every Friday I would leave work, get ready for a show and perform at 9:30. As I kept doing it, I kept getting more and more recognition from my community. Now I’m hosting and managing four shows in the area, and this has become my career.”

For the city’s 2018 AIDS Walk to be held in Piedmont Park Oct. 21, Cheezburger had already raised nearly $5,000 when we spoke to her in August. She hopes to double that figure by the time the walk commences, with the help of several local companies that have agreed to donate matching funds.

Her efforts toward extinguishing HIV/AIDS aren’t her only altruist outlets. Another of Cheezburger’s favorite ways to give back is Storytime with Kids at Posman Books in Ponce City Market, where every other month she reads to children in full drag splendor. “Tyra Banks showed up with her son the last time I did it, which was pretty cool,” says Cheezburger. “Being able to introduce kids to inclusivity and being different is really cool, too.”

WHERE TO CATCH HER: Lips Atlanta, Brookhaven

CURRENT SHOWS: Twisted Broadway (every Wednesday), Taboo (Thursdays) and Showstopper Sunday (Sundays; with celebrity lookalikes)