“We gender benders understand that if you have the balls to change yourself, you have the power to change the world.”
On any given Friday night, you are likely to find one Miss Coco Peru giving a stand up routine to some crowded theater, maybe throwing in a signature song or two to get her audience laughing. For over 20 years, Clinton Leupp has been putting on his infamous wig and becoming Miss Coco Peru.
During the week, you are more likely to find Coco volunteering at one of LA’s many LGBTQ help centers. Often still donning her red hair, she dedicates her days to making the world a better place. Although for many drag is only an avenue for entertainment, Coco has embraced the role of drag queen in a larger way.
During her speech at the 38th Gala Event for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Coco shared why she got started in drag.
“Drag for me was born out of a calling to be an activist. I was living at home in the Bronx, and although I was fortunate to be out, it was the late 80s and it was a scary time for a young gay man in New York City. It was a time when walking down the street you could see the effect of AIDS on people walking towards you. People you knew were suddenly unrecognizable, and it scared the hell out of me. It also made me feel like I had to do something.”
Miss Coco was inspired to become and activist and help her community. However, she knew that in order to make an impact, she had to be visible. She empathizes storytelling as one of the best ways to educate people on issues that are unknown or controversial. The personal impact of someone’s own story is more likely to resonate with people. Coco employs gender bending as a way to help vocalize her story and the larger story of the community. She takes all the negative that is thrown at the LGBTQ community and throws it right back by celebrating it.
“I always felt the way to educate people who didn’t understand me was to tell my story, but I took it a step further, and I made the choice to embrace everything I had ever been taught to hate about myself and instead glorify it, celebrate it. I would embrace my two spirit nature with the intention that if people could listen to my story and forget all this (gesturing to her full drag), they would realize that despite appearances, it is what is on the inside that matters. And that what every human being wants and deserves is love, respect, equality, and justice. With that in mind, I created Coco Peru, and it became my mission to empower my community while letting the world know that drag queens empower a powerful law of mama nature’s. And that is, if you transform the outer, you can transform the inner, and vice-versa, if you transform the inner, you can transform the outer. Yes, we gender benders understand that if you have the balls to change yourself, you have the power to change the world.”
And so Coco began a long acting career both on screen and on stage. Notably, she starred in “Girls Will Be Girls”, “Trick”, and even “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything. Julie Newmar.” You may remember her as the angry drag queen who missed the opportunity to take the trip to California.
However, the majority of Coco’s career has been her stand up routines. For almost 20 years she has been both empowering and inspiring her audiences, while almost making the laugh out loud. Take a look:
Coco continued her activism work alongside her acting work. She helped create the bullying documentary “Teach Your Children Well” and she spends much of her time volunteering for organizations like the Trevor Project and Aids for Aids. Visibility is a big thing for her, so she shops and goes out in drag. She says this is how she feels most comfortable, and it creates an awareness of the community. You can see one of her shopping experiences here:
Miss Coco Peru just wants to make the world a better place. She says she follows a long history of drag queens making a difference. She recognizes the work that many of the queens have done for the community, which is often overlooked in queer history.
“I want to recognize all the drag queens out there in the world and in the worlds beyond, who despite being the first to start the queer movement at Stonewall and who were also among the first to respond to the AIDS crisis by organizing fundraisers, are often dismissed and their contributions rarely recognized.”
If you would like to listen to her empowering speech, you can find it here: