One of the most recognized drag performers throughout the world, the copper flipped wig of Miss Coco Peru is as ubiquitous in gay entertainment as a good glory hole joke. First enjoyed by large audiences in Trick, Coco Peru has since garnered acclaim for roles in Girls Will Be Girls, To Wong Foo, Will & Grace and much more. As she gears up for three weeks of anniversary shows in Los Angeles, Coco Peru takes a moment to chat with Gay List Daily about life, threesomes, and annoying drunk straight girls.
How did the name Miss Coco Peru come about?
Years ago, before I did drag, my first boyfriend was a Peruvian guy and I traveled to Peru with him where I met a drag queen named Coco who was quite famous and who had crossed over into the mainstream. Whereas being gay was a huge taboo there, it seemed to me that there was power in drag that people respected. I was very inspired that he was celebrated in such a Catholic and macho society. So, later when I decided to do drag myself, I called myself Coco Peru as I started to write my first show and the name grew on me and I stuck with it.
You’re undoubtedly an icon for the contemporary LGBT community. Who were the idols that inspired you?
Well, thank you! One of my greatest icons is Bea Arthur. I was obsessed with her comic timing as a child; I would spend hours listening to Mame and imitating her. She was such a big part of my childhood, so the fact that I have gotten to be friends with her now is, as you can imagine, AMAZING! I talk about Bea in my Ugly Coco show as well as another friend of mine… Liza Minnelli. Have you heard of her? I must also mention the amazing Charles Busch, who first showed me that drag could be theatre.
I’ve heard you have a slight disdain for drunk straight girls. Care to explain?
Oh dear! You’re referring to a recent rant of mine after a particularly unpleasant show in Louisville, Kentucky. I am used to performing in theaters but sometimes in these smaller cities I will perform in a gay bar that they set up cabaret style, and nowadays a lot of straight girls hang out at gay bars with their gay guy friends, which is fine with me. The problem is that these straight girls love the attention they are getting from their gay guy friends and they are not willing to give-up that attention, not even to the drag queen onstage in front of them who is doing a show! Suddenly you’re their competition and then you add into the mix that these girls are full of alcohol and it gets even uglier.
When did it sink in for you, Jeffery Roberson and Jack Plotnick that you had a cult hit on your hands with Girls Will Be Girls?
It sunk in as I started getting emails from obscure towns across America from gay guys who said that they and their friends have GWBG viewing parties! Also, as I travel and perform in different cities people bring copies of the DVD for me to sign and some of them seem to have the entire movie memorized. We’ve even had guys dress up as us for Halloween!
You’re a darling of the critics, and your shows and performances are consistently awarded. What's the secret to your success?
I am grateful for all the success I’ve had. I have to keep things in perspective because often I can start to wish I had more success, and that can leave you feeling depressed when you focus on what you don’t have. So, I have to think about everything I’ve achieved, especially as a drag queen – which in the entertainment industry can be very limiting. I think part of the reason I received a lot of attention when I first started Coco was that I was doing something new. When I started doing drag, most drag queens performed in bars and lip synched, which I really enjoy, but I saw something different for myself. I created a character that told autobiographical stories, and I performed in cabarets and theatres. I think it’s important to create something original that you are passionate about.
Where does one keep so many awards?
Well, it’s not that many but I have a little shelf in my Coco/Guest room!
So you’re bringing back to the stage three classic, critically-acclaimed shows, first performed in L.A. years ago. How will the shows be different this time around than when they originally graced the stage?
Well I have rewritten Glorious Wounds…she’s damaged and turned it into a one act like the other two which have also been slightly reedited, but my main reason for doing them is that a lot of people have asked me if I was ever going to do them again in L.A. In the past, when I’ve done my shows there, a week after they close, it always seems that people write to me asking “When are you dong a show in L.A.?” So, this is a sort of last chance for people to see these shows. I really hope that people come!
Three shows spread out across three different weekends? Do you have a thing for threesomes?
I think it’s important to experiment and explore! I actually have a fourth show but I thought that might be too much! I’ll stick with threesomes for now!
You’re like Pinkberry – you’re everywhere these days! You sing, you act, you tickle our funny bones, you host high-profile gigs like the GLAAD Awards… is there anything you can’t do?
Oh, that’s a long list. The important thing is to figure out what you do well and stick with it, and if I can make enough money to pay people to do the things I don’t do well, all the better! My mother always gets so mad at me when I don’t know, for example, how to fix a leaky faucet and instead hire a plumber. But I always remind her that I don’t think my plumber can stand onstage in a dress and talk and sing for an hour-and-a-half. I’ll have to make sure to display those awards you mentioned earlier a little more prominently in the guest room next time she visits!
After your 10-year anniversary performances in L.A., do you have any shows planned across the country?
I’ll be going to Spain to vacation and then I return to the east coast to perform in PTown, Ogunquit, Rehoboth and New Hope. But right now, it’s all about Los Angeles!
Catch webisodes of Girls Will Be Girls on YouTube.
If you’re in Los Angeles in May, check out the Retro Coco shows at the Renberg Theatre. For dates, tickets and more info, visit www.misscoco.com.