by Jesse A. Hancock
Peru, aka Clinton Leupp, got her start as a drag entertainer in New York and has been entertaining crowds for almost 25 years. “I’ve always described my show as a ‘group therapy session,’ and it’s my turn to talk,” said Peru.
No stranger to the camera, Peru has starred in such movies as Trick (1999) and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything: Julie Newmar (1995). She has also had guest appearances on such television shows as Arrested Development and Will and Grace. In 2004 she appeared in an Orbitz commercial that was nominated for a GLAAD award. Her hilarious YouTube videos include “Let’s Play Grand Theft Auto 5 With Coco Peru”and “Miss Coco Peru Goes to a Haunted House.”
David Atlanta: We’re thrilled to have you return to Atlanta! Tell us about your show in March at Lips. What can the audience expect?
Coco: I’m going to do a ‘best of’ show. I’m celebrating going on almost 25 years, so I’m just going to do some of my favorite monologues from over all those years. One in particular is very old. It’s a monologue set to an opera aria, and it’s the one that got me noticed in New York many years ago.
DA: Some of the proceeds from your show are benefitting Jerusalem House, a local non-profit that provides permanent supportive housing for low-income and homeless individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS. Why Jerusalem House?
Coco: Regina Cartier is involved with that organization, and the last time I did an event in Atlanta with Regina and some of the local queens we also benefitted Jerusalem House. I was given a tour of their facilities and was really impressed. I was happy to come back. Hopefully, people leave my show feeling good about themselves and feeling good that they helped raise money for a good cause.
DA: What comes to your mind when you think of Atlanta, and what are some of your favorite things to do in Atlanta?
Coco: I’ve never really got to do too much in Atlanta because, you know, I fly in, do the show, then usually leave the next day. I did have a nice time last time meeting some fans, and I did get to go out to eat.
DA: Well, I guess that’s the life of a star. Not too much time to stick around before your next big show.
Coco: (laughs) I’ll tell you how much of a star I am. When I was there for that event, there was no bathroom backstage, and I peed in a bottle. How’s that for the life of a star?
DA: It’s not always as classy as it sounds.
Coco: No, it isn’t.
DA: RuPaul’s Drag Race is about to return for a new season. Do you watch the show, and if so, who are some of your favorite queens from past seasons?
Coco: I do watch the show, and I personally know some of those queens. I’ve worked with Kelly Mantle, I’ve worked with Willam Belli, and I’ve worked with Bianca Del Rio.
DA: Do you have any favorite queens?
Coco: I really love Alyssa Edwards because I knew her uncle back years ago in New York City. He had shown me a videotape of his little nephew, who was trying to choreograph his sister and some of the other kids in the neighborhood. And the nephew was just getting more and more furious because they couldn’t follow the routine. I laughed so hard at that video because it reminded me so much of myself when I was a little boy. I laughed so hard that I actually started crying because back when I was young there was no video. I felt like I was hearing myself. So there I was watching RuPaul’s Drag Race one night and I was looking at Alyssa Edwards on TV when the image of that little boy popped into my mind. I thought, ‘That’s so funny that I just thought of that boy, Justin. I wonder whatever happened; I wonder what he’s doing.’ Then all of a sudden they showed Alyssa as a boy on the show, and I said, ‘Oh, my god, that’s Justin. That’s him.’ I got to meet Alyssa recently at an event, and she came right over and was talking about her uncle. What a funny, small world it is.
DA: Which do you think are the most talented queens from Drag Race?
Coco: Well, I think Bianca Del Rio won for a reason. She’s been working really hard all these years. I think that says something. With TV sometimes you can get famous without having to put a lot of work in. Then you haven’t developed your craft as well as maybe you should if you’re going to be in show business a long time. Bianca had that down, and she actually came into the competition with that confidence. She knows what she does well, and she could only do her best.
DA: What does it take to have such a long lasting, successful career like yours? And are we almost overloaded with drag queens?
Coco: Oh, no. I don’t think there can ever be too many drag queens. (laughs) I love that RuPaul’s Drag Race exists. I think it has brought drag back into the mainstream. It gives little boys across America who might want to put on girls’ clothes and express themselves the opportunity to not feel so alone. What makes a career long lasting is you have to work hard. You have to be dedicated. You have to have a craft. And you have to be kind.
To purchase tickets for Coco’s show, go to www.dragavanza.com or the Lost-N-Found thrift Store. Ticket also includes entry into Totally 80’s Dragavanza on Saturday, Mar. 7 at Jungle Atlanta. Be sure to sign up for Coco’s newsletter on her website: www.cocoperu.com. Also like her fan page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.
“What makes a career long lasting is you have to work hard. You have to be dedicated. You have to have a craft. And you have to be kind