Coco Austin would like to set the record straight about something. And no, it’s not her butt for once. “Listen, I don’t go to the grocery store with a bikini on,” she says in her sweet, breathy chirp of a voice, which has the endearing, little-girl quality of sounding awestruck by every word that tumbles out of her mouth. “I’m not, like, completely naked walking down the Strip!”
This revelation may come as a shock to fans flocking to Planet Hollywood to see Austin—better known simply as Coco—headline in Peepshow, where she has been filling Holly Madison’s former Bo Peep corset with her considerable assets since Dec. 3. After all, this is a woman known for posting nearly nude photos at least twice a week (for her delightfully alliterative Titty Tuesdays and Thong Thursdays) on her official Twitter account (@cocosworld), which entertains more than 950,000 followers.
Coco’s debut in Jerry Mitchell’s cheeky revue, a soft-core staple of the Strip since 2009, has won raves so far. The gamine Madison may have had Bo Peep’s wide-eyed, Disney-fied babe-in-the-woods act down pat, but she wasn’t able (or, perhaps, willing) to dance a single step, literally wandering around the stage as experienced showgirls showed her up. The buxom, diminutive Coco, by contrast, doesn’t shy from the challenge, and so the show has been changed to suit her talents. She’s been dancing since she was an elementary schooler in Albuquerque, N.M. (a true Renaissance woman, her personal website, CocosWorld.com, describes her as a television personality, glamour/fitness model, actress, dancer, author, fashion designer, entrepreneur, Internet sensation and dog mom—in that order) and has been happily posing nude since the late ’90s. (She’s 33 now, with a strong square jaw, piercing blue eyes, and waterfall of platinum blond hair that calls to mind a surgically enhanced Nicollette Sheridan).
“I’m out there when it comes to showing off my body,” she happily admits. This can work in her favor (see aforementioned Twitter following) as well as against her—Coco was taken to task by husband Ice-T on Dec. 10 for photos that showed her dancing provocatively with the rapper AP.9. But despite the trouble they can sometimes bring, Coco maintains that her fans would be disappointed if her 39DD breasts (which are fake, unlike her famously round rear-end) failed to make an appearance in Peepshow. She admits to feeling “so nervous” before her first performance, but not because of the nudity, the dancing or even making her grand entrance by sliding upside-down from the rafters, two stories above the audience. “What I was most nervous about was making my marks,” she says. “Because if you miss your mark, you might trip another dancer—or they might trip you.” She surprised even herself by turning out a perfect opening-night performance, for which she received a standing ovation. It meant even more to Coco because her entire family (minus Ice) was in the audience. “I did not mess up, not one time,” she says proudly.
Coco says that women and men often come up to her on the street wanting to take photographs with—and sometimes squeeze—her bodacious curves, but the fan response she’s had in Vegas since her Peepshow debut is overwhelming in a different way.
“People can pay for a meet-and-greet with me after the show,” she says. “And this guy came up the first night and looked so shaky I thought he was going to fall over. So I go up and say, ‘Are you OK?’ And the guy said, ‘I’m homeless, but I just wanted to see you.’ You know, he said ‘I have nowhere to go, but I had to come see you onstage.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, give this guy his money back, you know? Put some food in his stomach!’” Another fan wrote her a letter telling her that she is “an inspiration to all women.” Coco tracked down the woman in the lobby and took more than a dozen photos with her.
Meanwhile, she’s being treated like a local hero. “Everywhere I go—restaurants, clubs—they go, Coco Bo Peep’s in the house!” she exclaims.
It would be easy to assume that Coco, whose lovably trashy persona is on display every week in E!’s reality series Ice Loves Coco, is just in this gig for the stunt casting, since she’s only signed on to headline the show for four months, but it’s clear she takes all aspects of the job seriously, not just the eye-popping splits and kitschy burlesque that display her figure and flexibility.
“I don’t want people to look up onstage and go, ‘Oh, that’s Coco,’ you know?” she says. “My character starts out as a businesswoman who’s unconfident about her body and is looking for a man and can’t find one. She’s shy at the beginning.” If you think that sounds like a stretch for someone who has competed in something called the Booty Olympics, you’re not the only one. “People ask me, ‘How are you gonna play the shy part?’” she muses. “But that’s what acting’s all about.”