Coco Montrese is having a stellar drag career. She has reigned as Miss Gay America,and you can see Coco perform as Rihanna or Janet Jackson 6 nights a week in Divas Las Vegas. Coco Montrese is also starring on season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Let’s get to know Coco Montrese from Coco herself.
Coco: Hello Abby!
Abby: Hey Coco!
Abby: Are you ready to go back to the beginning?
Abby: Where were you born, raised and schooled?
Coco: I was born and raised in Miami Florida. I went to Carol City Elementary and then I went to Miami Norland Senior High. I went to college in Alabama at Alabama State University.
Abby: When you went to Alabama State did you ever feel discriminated against?
Coco: You know what? Honestly, I didn’t feel it at school. This is the sad part because I didn’t feel that at school at all. I went to a historically black school. We had students of all nationalities. I felt the discrimination in my community when I started performing in drag in Alabama. I would get things written on my mirror like, “Little black boy go home!” “You don’t belong here!” They would say and do really nasty things to me just because I was in college and they weren’t in school. So it was more so of my own community that showed more ugliness than Alabama. And I was in Montgomery, Alabama. So I didn’t really experience the prejudice there outside of the gay community. The gay community was a little different. Working in the bars with the girls it was a little tough. It was a little tough.
Abby: Because you’re a drag queen or ethnically?
Coco: Well not even because I was a drag queen. Working in the bar where I worked there were not many African American drag queens that made it to that level. It was more of a prejudice against being the only different one, you know?
Abby: So how did you deal with it?
Coco: I started doing drag because I wanted to not have to call my parents for money while I was away in school. The owner of the bar was really nice to me and he offered me to work there and basically said,” I don’t care what these girls think. You look great. You are a great performer. Do your job and don’t even worry about them.” So I would come in and I would do my homework in between shows. So that is what I think set them off a little too was the fact that I was supposed to be “Miss Goody Two Shoes” because I was in college! I wasn’t making a living doing this. I was just making extra money for school to do things that I wanted to do. So it was almost a resentment of a college student getting the job at the bar. It was pretty interesting.
Abby: When did that change for you?
Coco: I stayed there for a few years and they started to kind of warm up to me. They realized that I enjoyed what I do. I really wanted to be an entertainer. It kind of changed a little bit. There is still that resentment when people feel like you are coming in on their territory. It was not an easy road in the beginning. It got easier because I started to develop this tough skin which you probably see a little bit on this show. People are like, ” Oh my god, Coco you’re a bit much.” I’m very headstrong. I am and I speak exactly how I feel because I don’t want people to get a false perception of where we stand. I’m just that type of person. You don’t have to ever wonder, “Well what’s Coco think?”
Abby: Coco’s going to tell you!
Coco: And then we can be friends after. We can be friends.
Abby: Okay my friend. “Congratulations on your reign as Miss Gay America 2010!
Coco: Oh, thank you! Thank you so much. It was one of the most amazing years of my life. It really was.
Abby: What are the duties of Miss Gay America?
Coco: Oh gosh. It’s really intense. I’ll be honest with you. You see Miss America on TV and her responsibilities, traveling around the country and representing America. Miss Gay America is kind of the same thing. It’s a job like any other job. You sign a contract. They pay you every month plus the prize package which is thousands of dollars. You travel the country as a role model. You have to go and crown a new a girl in every state to go and be at Miss Gay America. So you’re it. You enforce the rules. You actually greet the judges and the contestants. You do everything yourself and you do that as a man in a suit and a tie. On top of all that you have to come out at night and be beautiful. You wear a crown, a beautiful dress and perform as well as doing all the duties all day long. Miss Gay America is not just a beauty pageant. It is a business and you run the business for that year. A lot of people don’t know that. They think, “Oh it’s a beauty pageant.” Miss Gay America is the oldest gay pageant around. It’s been around since 1972.
Abby: Okay. You were quoted as saying ,”I’m Miss Gay America and I don’t need anything else.” How long did you feel that way?
Coco: Honestly, in pageantry I don’t. It’s the highest accolade that I could ever receive in pageantry so I don’t need to compete in any other pageants. That was my national platform. I was able to reach a lot of people during my reign as Miss Gay America. I’m done. I don’t want to do another pageant.
Abby: Okay, let’s move to RuPaul’s Drag Race. Quoting you, “Black people don’t swim. Good thing I’m Dominican.” Is Dominican your dominant nationality?
Coco: No. Actually that is such an inside joke because I am actually African American. I really am. Most of my relationships were with Dominicans. That was the whole inside joke thing. I just have this thing for Dominican guys.
Abby: Are you in a long term relationship right now?
Coco: Yes I am. He’s a marine. We’ve been together about 4 years now.
Abby: Would you get married?
Coco: Yes, absolutely! Actually, we did a commitment ceremony here in Vegas at the Encore. We did a big beautiful ceremony. Once it’s legal in Nevada, yes most definitely!
Abby: I just can’t picture going to one of those drive thru weddings.
Coco: Oh, no!
Abby: When you say Las Vegas, I’m sorry but the quick weddings pop into my head.
Coco: I know. They have gotten so chic with it now. Even in the high end hotels. It’s like a drive thru, literally. I couldn’t do it though. I have to have a big lavish wedding. I’m a very “over the top” type person. I can’t do that spur of the moment type thing.
Abby: Have you and Alyssa Edwards reconciled your differences?
Coco: It is so funny because other people are speculating on what’s going on between Alyssa and I. Alyssa and I will always be friends. We are like brother and sister. If you’ve ever had a brother and sister you know that their are some times that you don’t get along. You fight and you argue and that will always be. That’s just the nature of a brother and sister relationship sometimes. Some people will say, “Oh no. I never did that with my brother or sister.” Most brothers and sisters can love each other all day long but if there is a conflict, there’s going to be a conflict! And Alyssa and I are very headstrong people. If we agree or disagree with each other we will definitely voice it. So the feud between us is not just a feud it’s actually brother and sisterly love. It’s just televised. We fight like there’s no tomorrow. We’ve never gotten physical with each other. But if we don’t agree, even on the phone, we’ll call each other and go at it. Then we will be like, “now let’s go to lunch.” Now that it’s playing out on TV. People are being forced to take sides and they are just freaking out. We are both sitting back, calling each other and going, “Girl did you hear what they said?” So we’re laughing at it. Alyssa and I will always have that relationship.
Abby: Okay, “Abby the Twisted” is going to ask, “Which one’s the brother and which one’s the sister?”
Coco: Oh my gosh! This is how we described it the other day: We love each other like brothers but we fight like sisters. That’s how I would explain who’s the brother and who’s the sister. It’s both of us.
Abby: Well said! Fan question: Bruce Jackson, the famous Coco Montrese impersonator wants to know, “Did you know that Alyssa Edwards was going to be on the show? Did you have any suspicions whatsoever?
Coco: I love him. No. It was a big shock! I won’t say I didn’t expect it because you can never rule out anything. So it wasn’t like I was saying, “Oh god I’m going to walk into this room and she’s going to be here.” You always feel that meeting again could happen and I’ve wondered how would I react. I didn’t know it was going to be on television. So that’s basically the answer to that. No I didn’t have a clue that she was actually going to be there.
Abby: Who were your favorite Drag Race competitors?
Coco: Oh my gosh! Let me see. Alexis Mateo is one of my favorites from past seasons. I love her. There are so many girls from the past seasons and what I think we forget is that they are all so unique and different. It’s really cool to deal with them on that level. I’ll be honest, in the beginning I didn’t understand Jinkx Monsoon at all. I got to know Jinkx and her style and it’s just amazing. It is amazing! It’s amazing to see the different elements of drag and they are all brought together in one room. It’s really, really cool.
Abby: I have a question because I am supposed to interview Jinkx Monsoon next week. What should I ask her?
Coco: Do you think that Coco Montrese has watched Grey Gardens? Oh my gosh. That will be a great question for you to ask her because her and I were tweeting back and forth about it. We were quoting lines from the movie and everything. It was just hilarious. It’s funny because I’m an open and honest person. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk or anything when I said that I did not know. I didn’t. And everybody was like, ” Oh my god I can’t believe that you don’t know.” A lot of them in that room didn’t know either. I was the only one that spoke up and said, ” I didn’t know who Little Edie was.”
Abby: I didn’t know who it was.
Coco: I got so much hate mail! They said, “Your gay card should be revoked.”. ” I can’t believe that you don’t know who Little Edie is!” Oh, it was interesting. I laughed. But I didn’t take it back because I didn’t know. I did my research and I actually love it. That’s just a part of life, of being human. I don’t mind being vulnerable and letting people see that side of me. I’m not going to know everything. I’m just a normal person just like everybody else. So it was cool to actually go and watch Grey Gardens and see what she was portraying. I think she did an amazing job. Absolutely amazing!
Abby: Well she was very entertaining. Besides your own, who’s style did you like the most from season 5?
Coco: I love Roxxxy Andrews. I love the glitz and the glamour. Her style is just really different and amazing.
Abby: You said, “Lynesha is a Puerto Rican papi.” Who else did you find attractive out of drag from your season?
Coco: I thought Vivian was a really cute boy. Vivian was very, very cute.
Abby: Are you back to performing nightly in Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas?
Coco: Yes. I’m in Divas Las Vegas 6 nights a week. On Friday’s I’m either at my home bar here or I’m on the road traveling. So I really don’t have a day off ever. It’s like I am always on the go. I’m used to it because Miss Gay America prepared me for this. It’s not bad for almost 40! Yeah. Let’s talk about those girls in the show calling me old at 40. What’s going on with that?
Abby: Oh, yes. Sarina Cha Cha got you.
Coco: Oh, poor Sarina. She is doing good now though. She is doing good.
Abby: How long did it take you to recover from lip synching for your life?
Coco: Oh my gosh! I’m going to tell you that it is the most nerve racking thing ever.
You have waited all of your drag career to get there and now you are standing in front of RuPaul! You have fallen in the bottom which can happen. I mean come on, like I said, “I’m not the best at everything. I just love to entertain!” So when it comes down to falling in that position in front of your idol you have to turn it on! You’ve got to give him what he asked for. I mean it’s not even a choice at that point. It’s a lip synch for your life! We’ve seen the results when you don’t actually lip synch for your life. So the adrenaline coming down from it, it takes time. It can really take a while.
Abby: How did you feel about Monica Beverly Hillz’ confession?
Coco: I love Monica. She is such a really, really great person. We got to see that side of her and get to know her. I’m not judgmental of who she is and what she wants to do. I’m the type of person, I will support you whole heartedly. I have many transgender friends and if you are doing it for the right reasons then I support you whole heartedly. I support her. As far as the competition goes, to me she hadn’t done anything to disqualify herself. She stated that she’s a transgender woman that means that she wants to go through the process. Physically, we couldn’t tell if she had already started the process. So I think contractually she was fine. Everyone wants to know why Ru didn’t get rid of her. I don’t think there were grounds to be disqualified at the time. But that’s my baby. I love her.
Abby: You’ve mentioned a couple of times that you had plastic surgery. Do you want to mention what you had done?
Coco: Honestly, as a young entertainer there is a lot of peer pressure in a lot of things. I’ve had work done on my face. My cheeks aren’t real and my chin isn’t real but I was really young. I was like 20. To me it’s like you learn and you grow. I haven’t had any done recently.
Abby: I read that you got to sing with Gladys Knight while doing an impersonation of Dionne Warwick. What was that like and what did you sing?
Coco: Oh my gosh, that was the most amazing experience with Gladys Knight! Frank Marino and I film a lot of TV shows here in Vegas. We’re going to make an appearance on Toddlers and Tiaras soon so you’ll be seeing me on that. We also did a thing for the Food Network with Gladys Knight. Cooking with Gladys Knight. Gladys and Dionne Warwick are very close. I impersonated Dionne Warwick so I could go to her dinner party, have dinner and sing with her. I actually got to sing “That’s What Friends Are For” with her. That was one of the most amazing experiences of my career. To get to do that with Gladys Knight was unreal.
Abby: I love Gladys and Dionne too. I would have loved to have seen that! Is there anything that you want to add?
Coco: Yes. I think the biggest thing people don’t get with some of us is that they think that we don’t like each other. Or that we really hate each other. That is so not true. We love each other and we love what we do. We love the experience of actually competing together. I think a lot of time people lose the sight of that and know that we have 14 queens that just incurred the experience of a lifetime. That is overshadowed by us having to compete and emotions flying. Things are being said and done and people go automatically, “Oh my god they can’t stand each other!” That’s not the case.
Abby: So what more can we expect from Coco Montrese?
Coco: Everything. I’m not going to limit myself there. I’m going to do everything I possibly can. You will probably see me popping up at a lot of charity things too. I love to do a lot of charity for a lot of organizations. HIV and AIDS is a very big charity for me. I like to devote my time to it because I’ve lost a lot of people along the way from it. Cancer research is a big thing for me too. I lost both of my parents to cancer. I lost my parents less than a year apart and I was very close to my parents. So cancer research is a big thing for me as well. I’m working on music too. I’m not going to put myself in one area and be stuck in one thing. You are going to see a lot of Coco Montrese. Trust me!
Abby: I appreciate you doing this interview and I am looking forward to seeing you on the rest of the season on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Coco: It’s great! You need to come to Vegas. And when you come to Vegas you come and see me in Divas.
Abby: I will and I will see you on the Drag Stars at Sea cruise.
Coco: Yes it’s going to be a blast on the cruise. I can’t wait! If you’re cruising with Coco it’s going to be really classy. Lots of classy gifts and fun things to do. You know my version of classy.
Abby: Classy with a flair!
Coco: Yes, I like that. Classy with a flair. I’m going to use it. Next time you see it pop up on a T-Shirt don’t get mad.
Abby: I won’t get mad. It will make me smile.
Coco: That’s me. Classy with a flair!
For more on Coco Montrese you can find her at: http://cocomontrese.com/ and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/cocomontrese?fref=ts