Ask Margarita Perez who she is and she won’t skip a beat. “I’m a native Houstonian and proud Latina, lesbian, and aspiring philanthropist.” She’s the second of four children with most of her family residing in Houston and Mexico.

She graduated from the University of St. Thomas and has dedicated herself to “helping make this city a better place. Through my work, I'm astounded to say that I have been a conduit of more than $4 million given back to local organizations as small as the Parents of Murdered Children - Houston chapter and as large the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering where I currently work.”

Perez also serves on the board of the Hollyfield Foundation and is a committee member of the Out for Good event by the Montrose Center and of the AIDS Walk Houston by AIDS Foundation Houston.

She lives in the Heights with her fiancé, Jessica Frinsco, and Jules Grayson Frinsco, their “furry child.” The two are slated to wed in October and Perez can’t contain her enthusiasm whenever the subject comes up. “I can't wait for the day to finally come!”

Margarita Perez was an easy pick for this month’s Vocal Local. Here’s what she has to say about the Bayou City.

How long have you lived in Houston?
Basically all my life except for a short 10-month stint in Baton Rogue, LA. after college.

What do you do?
I could share my title (Director of Advancement, Cullen College of Engineering) with you but I'm not sure most people outside the industry knows what it actually means. I like to think of myself as a personal resource for alumni to help them fulfill their philanthropic interests and passions.

What’s your favorite thing about Houston?
The access to culture. You don't ever have to go farther than a few miles (albeit in traffic, it may feel like hours) to experience art, music, language and traditions from all around the world. It's such a treat that I've taken for granted all of my life but it's such a treasure.

What never ceases to surprise you about Houston?
The generosity of Houstonians. Who we are as a city, is a welcoming and generous people (and with our share of terrible mistakes like the failure to pass HERO) but with successes like stepping up after Katrina and the first major city to elect an out mayor.

Where is your favorite place to eat in Houston?
This is a hard one, because I love the Houston taco scene and coffee scene. There's nothing better than the taco truck outside of JR's after a night out on Montrose. But, I'm going to have to go with Revival in the Heights. The coffee is bomb. The food is amazing but it's their people and service that take the gold.

What is your favorite thing to do in Houston?
Dancing, I love going out dancing. Dancing at FPSF (Houston Free Press Summer Fest), dancing at a Zumba class at the Y in downtown Houston, doing some two-stepping during Rodeo, or heading up to Pearl for some fun. Definitely dancing.

How would you describe the queer community in Houston?
Rowdy and ready to play. That's not exclusive to night outs either. The Houston queer community is pretty powerful. We have some heavy hitters who have blazed a trail for young, up and coming individuals and community organizations. Heavy hitters like Jay Hollyfield, Marion Coleman, Ray Hill and Monica Roberts and young leaders like Aurora Harris, Colt Keo-Meier, Melanie Espinosa Pang and Ron Goines.  

What is your favorite queer event in Houston?
My absolute favorite is the HDU Annual AIDS auction. Full disclosure: It's my baby. I've coordinated the fundraising event for the past 6 years with the help of some fabulous ladies and raised more than $87,000 benefiting AIDS Foundation Houston. This next year we'll be rounding out that number to reach a whole $100K raised to support the cause.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to a queer person coming to visit H Town?
Plan for traffic, enjoy the food and explore as much as possible! 

Photo credit: Biyani Photography