Storyteller and monologist, Miss Coco Peru grew up in the Bronx on City Island and got her start as a downtown favorite in the cabaret world of NYC after she wrote, produced, directed and starred in her first show, “Miss Coco Peru in My Goddamn Cabaret,” in the early 90s.
On screen, Miss Coco Peru is best known for her roles in Jim Fall’s Trick (Sundance 1999) and Richard Day’s comedy Girls Will Be Girls.
Other film appearances include To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, and Straight-Jacket. Coco can be heard in the Disney animated feature, The Wild as Mamma Hippo! Coco has appeared on TV in Arrested Development, Twins, Will and Grace, Bravo’s Boy Meets Boy, Sexiest Moments in Film, Welcome to the Parker as well as in an Orbitz commercial that was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.
On MTV’s gay network, LOGO, Coco can be seen in her very own half-hour comedy special taped as part of the Wisecrack series and in the recently released one night stand-up, DRAGTASTIC, which debuted in January.
Coco’s live, one-person shows include: Miss Coco Peru in My Goddamn Cabaret, Miss Coco Peru: A Legend in Progress, Miss Coco Peru at the Westbeth Theatre, Miss Coco Peru’s Liquid Universe, Miss Coco Peru’s Universe, Miss Coco Peru’s Glorious Wounds… She’s Damaged, Miss Coco Peru is Undaunted, and most recently, UGLY COCO.
Coco’s shows have been performed to sold-out audiences in theatres, clubs, restaurants, ballrooms and cabarets throughout the United States and abroad. Coco’s live shows have won her numerous nominations and awards including MAC and Bistro Awards, GLAAD nominations, a GLAAD Award and an Ovation Nomination.
An avid traveler, Coco has appeared in theatres and clubs across America as well as appearances in London, Sydney and Lisbon. Coco is proud to say that she has performed in such diverse places as a yacht in the Mediterranean, a living room in Pittsburgh and a nudist camp in the mountains of Malibu. She is also available for children’s parties!
Coco Peru can be seen in Long Beach on Thursday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Theatre. This special engagement will be benefiting Long Beach LGBT Youth. For more information visit misscocoperu.com. The Rage Monthly caught up with her to chat about all things Coco.
The Rage Monthly: Your show has been described as a, “hilarious exorcism,” by the L.A. Times, how do you exercise those demons?
Miss Coco Peru: Three reps of 15 and cardio, cardio, cardio!
Rage: As a notable entertainer in the LGBT community with numerous awards and recognitions, what are you most proud of?
Coco: I love when I get feedback from young gay people who tell me that my show or appearances on Logo helped them in a positive way to deal with their own identity. Recently, a young guy came up to me in Provincetown after my show and said, “I love your anger. We’re not angry enough and you inspired me.” I was in heaven!
Rage: Any advice on what to do when you get cum in your eye?
Coco: Rinse immediately with water! And stay indoors for at least 12 hours. No one wants to see your red, swollen eye, girl.
Rage: Can you help define the line between being an over-the-top painted clown and a successful and legitimate drag comedian?
Coco: I think you can be an over-the-top painted clown and be both successful and legit, however, I would say that what is most important in the entertainment world is to respect the people you are working with and to be kind.
I work with a lot of people and I always hear how they have to deal with “divas,” and the added stress and disrespect they feel. Having to behave like a diva is a sign of insecurity. A true professional must rise above that.
Rage: Having the distinct honor of meeting and befriending Bea Arthur, what life experiences can you draw from her personal journey and the one-on-one time you had with her, especially your first sushi night?
Coco: Talk about a true pro! Bea was my icon and she was so kind to me. I was obsessed with her as a child and that love of her continued in my adult years, so to that fact, I am still amazed that I not only met her, but also became a friend of hers.
Her generosity and the time she took to be present with me really meant the world to me and so I try to be that kind of person as well.
Rage: For so many families struggling with their “homosexual” sons and daughters, how has your experience with your partner’s father Don Efren changed or affected you as a person?
Coco: Well, when my partner first came out to his family in Spain, his father didn’t want to meet me or really know anything about me. However, with time he had a change of heart and welcomed me into his home year after year.
I think this proves that it is never too late to change and that it is important to come out so that our loved ones have the incredible opportunity to have that change of heart. However, if someone chooses not to accept us, at least we had the courage to be ourselves and give them that gift to perhaps become a more loving person.
Rage: How did your family react when they discovered their son’s talents as a beautiful, funny and engaging entertainer who just happened to wear a dress?
Coco: My parents were somewhat used to my “creativity” since childhood. They just sort of thought it was another one of my creative phases. They were more nervous about the fact that I was going to talk openly about being gay onstage; they thought people would throw things at me!
I am proud to say that both my parents were at my first show. They stood and watched me in my first Gay Pride parade as Coco. And to this day, my mom (my dad passed away in ’94) comes to see me perform.
Rage: Being married to Rafael in Spain where gay marriage is legal, what are your thoughts on the current state of marriage in California and the rest of the United States?
Coco: I think it’s embarrassing that the U.S., a country that was a leader in progressive thought, has fallen so far behind on this and many other issues. One day it will seem impossible that this was even a problem. And to think of all the money wasted having to fight this issue! A double shame!
Rage: How did you get your start in drag?
Coco: Being a recovering Catholic and growing up an effeminate boy in the Bronx, you might say I had some “issues.” Later, when I trained to be an actor in university, one of the notes I kept getting from my professors was that if I was ever was going to be a working actor, I needed to “butch up” and “lose the Bronx accent.”
I knew these two things were never going to be possible for me but I also had a sense that part of what made me funny as a person was my Bronx accent and my “gayness.” One day I had a calling to do drag and my life changed in that moment.
I experienced a liberation that allowed me to know that there was no turning back and three months after that decision to do drag, I performed my first show in a popular N.Y.C. cabaret club and immediately became a sort of cult figure in the N.Y.C. drag/cabaret world.
Part of my mission back then was that I wanted people to watch my show and forget that they were watching a man in a dress, and instead relate to the story. If they could do that, then perhaps we could all remember that what matters in life and in our relationships with others isn’t really what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside.
Of course, that was all when I was very young. Nowadays, my mission is to make cold, hard cash!
Rage: Tell me a about your craziest, most embarrassing moment while performing.
Coco: Well, there have been so many! One time, I wore a very short skirt onstage and my stockings slid down below the hemline of the skirt, and although I was aware that it was happening, I thought to myself, “I’m sure no one even notices.” After the show, my straight, N.Y.C. police officer brother pointed and whispered, “low crotch.” I was mortified!