Cuckoo for Coco
July 05 2005 12:00 AM EST
November 17 2015 5:28 AM EST
Cuckoo for Coco
The Stonewall riots were started by drag queens, so it's fitting that the gay TV revolution should be led by one. Drag diva Miss Coco Peru (a.k.a. Clinton Leupp), star of the indie hits Trick and Girls Will Be Girls, taped a performance June 7 as a comedy special for Logo. I taped a special the same night, but I thought it'd be tacky to write an entire column about myself. During a break from rehearsals Miss Coco and I found ourselves talking about hopes, dreams, and of course drag.
What was the genesis of your performing as Coco?
In my early 20s, I thought, Who am I? A big fag with a Bronx accent. I'm never going to be cast in anything. The only way I'm ever going to make it is if I write my own shows. I attended my first ACT UP meeting and there was so much rage. I left thinking, I respect these people, I love that ACT UP exists, but as a person just coming out I couldn't take their rage on. This made me feel very guilty. I had to do something. I thought I'd do what I'd always done--change people's minds about who I was by telling stories about my life and my family. I wanted to challenge the audience by coming out in drag and by the end have them forget that I'm wearing a dress.
What is it about drag that attracts people?
Human beings are hard-wired to respect courage. I think when people see someone in drag they recognize the sense of self and the personal freedom in it. I sometimes like going to Borders Books or the supermarket in drag. It's wonderful. Drag cuts through the bullshit about who's on your side and who's not. And I'm always pleasantly surprised by the response. Usually it's a smile because they recognize me, a request for a makeup tip, or some guy thinks I'm a tranny hooker and asks for my phone number.
On the other hand, why are people so repelled by an
overtly effeminate man?
There really is no role for the effeminate man in society. We're not valued. I wanted to do drag to reclaim that. I'd ride the New York City subway in drag and never get harassed. But one time I rode dressed as a boy with just my face on and I was called a fag. It's like you have to go to the edge to have people respect you. There's a lot of shame about this in our community. I've called guys whose voices on their machine sound nothing like they do in person because they're butching it up. I always thought it'd be great to have one week of the year where gay people didn't go to work. Just the women alone who couldn't get their hair done would set the nation screaming. And you know straight guys with the flu who were sick as dogs would show up to work just to prove they weren't gay.