by Daniel Hanks -
SGN Contributing Writer
If you've ever seen Coco Peru perform, then you know what you are in for. If you've not yet had the pleasure, this is one show you won't want to miss. Through her sharp-tongued wit, with her showtune-ish voice and impeccable comedic timing, Coco will inevitably say whatever the hell she wants, yet somehow remind you of the fact that the world really is a beautiful place.
Clinton Leupp, the man behind the makeup (the sick genius who created Miss Coco Peru) has successfully elevated the character beyond the drag-queen circuit and RuPaul's Drag Race, LOGO TV's cattle-herding drag series that pumps out bad makeup and hair faster than you can say, 'You better work!' Whether starring in the 1999 Gay romantic-themed comedy Trick or hosting fundraisers to benefit Gay youth in Louisville, Kentucky, before Leupp knew it, Miss Coco Peru went from drag queen to drag legend.
Seattle Gay News recently spoke with Coco about Seattle, her views on life and activism, and her brand-new show, 'Miss Coco Peru: She's Got Balls!'
Wrapped in a towel and sitting poolside in sunny Palm Beach, Florida, Coco recalled for SGN the first time she heard of the infamous Re-bar.
And who, pray tell, did she reach out to when seeking answers? Why none other than that half-crazy, always stupefying drag legend itself, Dina Martina.
According to Coco, Dina said of Re-bar, 'It's like a urinal - a really friendly urinal.'
'It's one of my top three places to perform,' Coco said, adding, 'I feel the energy from the audience and it's very genuine. Nobody comes with an attitude.'
Because the audience is always so welcoming, Coco says that whenever she comes to Seattle it's refreshing. It's like a boost of energy for her. 'Plus,' Coco adds, 'beards work for me. I can't help it, I love them.'
SGN decided to talk with Coco about two things that drag queens usually don't like to bring up in casual conversation: her balls! After all, she did name the show after them.
Coco credits her mother, referencing having been raised up in New York, where Coco says, 'people talked a certain way and my mother would say, 'She got balls.'
Somewhere along the way, Coco says, she realized she got balls too. Although she's never been one to mince words, she tells SGN that her upcoming Re-bar appearance will be a show where she finally says what she feels like saying, no apologies.
'Why wait?' asks Coco.
We agree, Coco! Now seems like as good a time as any for a night of twisted songs, smart jokes, and a drag queen that doesn't have the word 'needles' or 'box' in her name.
Still, the truth remains that Coco puts her heart and soul into every performance - even the ones at Re-bar. 'All of my shows are vulnerable,' she said, talking from the heart. 'They always include my personal stories.'
In order to make a change in this world, Coco says, it is important to remember to talk about your life with others. And, whenever possible, relay these stories with a positive attitude. 'Bad experiences make you stronger,' she said, adding, 'When the audience laughs or applauds, it just makes me feel wonderful.'
In November, all eyes were on Washington as we campaigned to approve Referendum 74 and keep the state's same-sex marriage equality law on the books. Coco was glued to the news coverage, and is happy to report that she was 'thrilled when Washington State approved marriage equality!'
'It's kind of funny, but I really never even had any interest in getting married,' said Coco. 'It was never talked about or thought of in our community.'
But something changed in 2006. Coco got married in Spain, after that country legalized same-sex marriage. 'That experience was so amazing,' she said.
Just like the LGBT modern equality movement is not a one-issue movement, Coco is not a one-issue drag queen. She is passionate about educating and protecting LGBT youth. During a recent fundraising event in the South, Coco says she was 'shocked to see two 13-year-olds, who were completely out and talking to each other.'
'In my generation, that act at that age, would be unheard of,' she recalled.
'History is history, and young Gay people need to be reminded of their history,' says Coco, adding, 'which includes the HIV/AIDS epidemic that horrified me.'
According to Coco, it was during those tough years when so many died and the smiles disappeared off of the faces of Gay men around the country, that her drag persona was created. There was a need for laughter. Audiences craved an escape. And drag queens like Miss Coco Peru provided them that respite.
'It's where all my activism started,' said Coco.
At the conclusion of her last show, Coco said, 'young people actually came up to me and thanked me for sharing that piece of history with them.'
Coco mentioned that she's noticed a resurgence of activist energy in her audiences around the country. It would seem that the younger generation has come full circle and that is something that Coco is pleased to see.
SHE'LL BE YOUR DRAG MOM
These days, the LGBT community pops out baby drag queens at warp speed. Obviously, not all of these new queens have a traditional drag mother.
Not to worry! Enter Miss Coco Peru at stage left: 'It's really important to mentor the younger queens to ensure they get an education,' she said. 'The drag queens of my generation, like Lady Bunny or Jackie Beat, understood the banter (shade) is all in good fun. It came from a place of love. It's an art form where you have to be clever and witty.'
Today, things aren't as cordial. Drag queens born post-9/11 are, for whatever reason, not so much clever as they are simple, and one might want to substitute the word 'cunty' for 'witty.' They have taken the drag community's cultural tradition of 'throwing shade' and turned it into something unrecognizable.
In short, Miss Coco Peru says, 'Be kind.'
Miss Coco Peru told SGN she has a message for our readers who plan to attend her show. 'Come with an open mind and don't show up drunk,' she urged. 'Sit back, relax, and enjoy!'
Coco is scheduled for not just one, but two shows at Re-bar (get your tickets now because these shows will sell out): February 1 and 2, 7 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/308122.
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