Miss Coco Peru, who is no stranger to South Florida audiences, returns with her hit show “Have You Heard?” for one night only at the Sunshine Cathedral (1480 SW 9th Ave, Fort Lauderdale) on Saturday, March 23 at 8 p.m.
Coco Peru aka Clinton Leupp has appeared in many films and TV shows but is perhaps best known for her role in 1999s “Trick” which also starred “Beverly Hills 90210” alum Tori Spelling. Her very popular “Conversations with Coco,” is a successful internet series that has put Miss Coco in front of legends like Liza Minnelli, Jane Fonda, and Bea Arthur.
It was a pleasure to chat with Miss Coco Peru for this Hotspots exclusive interview.
Were you always an entertainer, even as a child, or when did you get the bug?
Yes, I was always an entertainer. I was obsessed with the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” and apparently had memorized the entire soundtrack by the age of two. I would act it out for my family and anyone who would watch and so my parents finally took me to see it on Broadway and when it was over I was pouting. My mother asked, “What’s wrong? Didn’t you enjoy the show?” and I answered, “I’ve been doing it all wrong!” I’ve been a perfectionist ever since.
When and how was Coco Peru born?
In late 80’s I was very inspired by the AIDS activism in NYC. I decided I wanted to combine my love of performing with activism and having been shamed for being effeminate my whole life I figured one of the most powerful, radical things I could do at that time was to be an openly gay performer. I then decided to take it a step further and embrace what I had been taught to try and suppress and instead glorify it. I know nowadays it may seem that being an openly gay performer and a drag queen is not that big of a deal, but back then there were not the opportunities or even the visibility so it really was a leap of faith. However, I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do, not just for myself but for future LGBT people.
Did you do “other drag” before you created Miss Coco Peru?
No. Coco was the first creation and she immediately resonated with people, because I was telling autobiographical stories and that wasn’t something drag queens were doing at that time. I was talking about the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, I was talking about AIDS, I was talking about my family and growing up gay in the Bronx. I was giving a voice to what a lot of people were feeling and my shows sort of became a big group therapy for the audience and me. In fact, I used to say, “Let’s pretend that this is a group therapy session, and it my turn to talk.”
How did you come up with the name and were there any other choices?
My first boyfriend was Peruvian and we went together to visit his country and I met a very cute boy named Coco who later came out onstage as this glamourous drag queen! I could not believe the transformation and I learned that he was very famous in Peru. It got me asking, “How could a gay man in drag get famous and be loved and celebrated in such a Catholic, homophobic country (at that time you had to knock on doors to get into the gay clubs), and I decided that there was a power in having the courage to embrace 100 percent of who you are and that human beings are wired to respect that courage.
What would be the ultimate place for you to perform in?
Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes.
Tell us something about the man behind Coco?
As you grow older there are so many things along the way that can corrupt your love for what you do, so I always try to remember that boy who entertained his family by singing the entire soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof. I remember those Aids activists and those that came before me that made my life easier, and I try to get back to why I originally created Coco, so that when the business makes me crazy I will ask myself, “Why did you get into this business?” After 27 years the answer has always been the same, “I want to entertain, to feel a connection with my audience, and I want to leave the world just a little bit better than I how I found it.” It may sound corny, but it’s important for me to keep things in focus.
Describe Coco and Clinton in three words each?
Coco – Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
Clinton – Bed, Bath and Beyond
What’s new since we spoke last year?
Well, I’m a year closer to retirement! And I was also on Will and Grace since we last spoke. It was so much fun and they even have me coming back again for the Season Finale which will be on in April. We already filmed it in December and Matt Bomer is in the episode and at the table read he walked over to me and said, “I have to introduce myself, I’m a HUGE fan!” Needless to say, I was thrilled! Being on the show was a great experience, and to have been asked back for a second time this season was a real honor. The entire cast and crew are the best.
What can the Fort Lauderdale audience expect from your show?
This a Best-Of show and it’s all material that I love performing. For those who remember me from my early days in NYC, they’ll even recognize a monologue that I became very well known for back in the early 90’s. It’s set to opera aria and it’s a bitch to do, but it’s been fun revisiting it, and since my retirement is on the horizon, this might be the last time I get to perform some of this material. Yes, that’s a threat. BE THERE!
And did I mention that Matt Bomer is a huge fan?
For more information on CoCo, you can visit her website at: Misscocoperu.com or check her out on social media at:.Twitter.com/themisscocoperu; Facebook.com/misscocoperufans or Instagram.com/misscocoperu.
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To purchase tickets to Coco Peru’s “Have You Heard?,” which start at only $30, go to Outlandishfl.com.