Campus character: Christian Morel

By Middlebury Campus

Photo by Cha Tori

Once upon a time there was a boy in the Bronx. He kept his hair trimmed low and his shirts crisp. His pants resembled nothing of the skinny jeans style he would come to marry a few years later. He had two liberal families headed by artist parents. He often broke out into dance, but he had yet to discover sunglasses that would make him feel like he was “staring through Gaga’s legs,” as he puts it.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Christian Morel ’11 was not always a hipster. Actually, Christian Morel emphatically declares that he is not a hipster except where the term’s historical connotation defines those who would go to underground clubs to listen to jazz music during the Harlem Renaissance when jazz was still taboo.

“I love me some jazz, so if that makes me a hipster then yes,” said Morel. “However, in the contemporary sense of a hipster which is someone who is mean and smokes cigarettes and blah blah blah, that’s just something that people saw and people told them that’s what a hipster is so now they call it a hipster, so they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Morel says the Mill, to which he belongs, has lost their hipster-isms over the years because the population that comes to the College is changing and who the house attracts has changed accordingly.

“In the jazz sense they’re not hipsters whatsoever, [and in the contemporary sense,] nobody smokes anymore, I’m pretty much the only one who wears all black in the house, and everyone is real accepting,” he said. “When I first got here the Mill was very exclusive, but now we invite everybody in.”

Overall Morel is happy to have watched the campus climate move toward greater awareness of sexual orientation during his time here, but he worries about the vanishing of other diverse voices that he has noticed since the economic downturn, particularly international and minority voices.

Talking about the air of exclusivity that follows him from the old days of the Mill, Morel says, “Sometimes people are distracted by the Christian Morel that they think they know and people put up walls when I’m just trying to hang out with people. I can feel the tension in their bodies. I’m not going to bite. People find me to be very intimidating as a character. I don’t think people know what to think about me, to be honest. Therefore they just find me to be this mysterious character that they need to watch and not really talk to. When people meet me then they find out I’m really just the nicest person in the world.”

Whether it’s his air or his physique that distances people, Morel‘s style is definitely part of his image on campus.

“Since I came from a Catholic school I was so used to wearing the same thing and having a more restricted sense of style,” said Morel. “Once I got here I came to the realization that there were no more rules in the Catholic school sense, so I just went crazy. Sometimes I would change clothes twice a day.”

Readers, do not be fooled by Christian’s lies. He finally admitted through a fit of laughter that estimates of three to four costume changes per day more accurately describe his transition to fashionista. Furthermore, legend has it that when his dad first dropped him off at college it took two cars to get him here: one for his shoes and clothes and another for everything else.

“That’s one thing that’s changed over the years,” he said. “I don’t change as much during the day. I’m a one style-a-day dude nowadays. Unless there’s an event that night, then I have to change.”
Morel was always a dancer.

“Ever since I was really young I was always the kid in the family who would get up and dance” said Morel. “Not to say that I knew what we call technique. Either way I was always a mover. My mom had to sit on my hands and feet while doing homework because I just couldn’t sit still. People know I love to dance. It’s my thing.”

Already a member of the College’s dance department and Riddim, next on the agenda for Morel is a foray into the world of music videos, either as a dancer or choreographer. Eventually Morel hopes to open his own dance school and form a dance company where he envisions hip hop producers will compose original scores for his dance pieces. That is the plan for the next three years.

“Gaga did it in three. I can do it in three and a half,” said Morel.

Though he loves our current popstars, according to Morel, he would never be one of them.

“I would be something else,” he said.

He would be Christian Morel, and this phenomenon would be]Casanova Cosmos — the stage name and persona that he invented this winter.

“It’s kind of my alternate ego in the performance sense,” he said. “I was inspired by Nicki Minaj because she has so many alternate personas. Casanova Cosmos is from an alternate universe and she is a she; she’s a girl. She doesn’t take it from anyone and she’s really really attractive and she knows it. It’s me as a woman, kind of, with a really cool name.

“However, I will say though that when I am performing I do get into an alternate mindset. This is just a name. This is a way to package it. It’s a way to identify a separate being on stage. That’s not necessarily Christian on stage. Christian is the creator of all you see on stage, but me on stage is someone different. I’m an entertainer for you and everything that I do is for the sake of the artwork. It’s not really indicative of who I am as a person necessarily. I might be an asshole or look like and dance like someone promiscuous on stage, but that’s not who I really am. I do it for entertainment’s sake. I do it because I think that it’s funny. I think that people laugh at it and I think people enjoy it. I’ll do whatever I have to do to entertain people.”

The alter ego is part of Morel’s larger plan to nurture a pop artist persona that will help him to “turn [his] hobby into a career. This summer Morel will attend the American Dance Festival intensive at Duke University Dance and begin auditioning for professional gigs.

“If I don’t get anything there I’ll just move to California with my partner while he goes to school and make connections there.”

That’s right: take note crush list hopefuls, male and female alike — Christian Morel is taken. And it is more than serious.

While at Middlebury, Morel feeds his pop side through his role as lead hype man and dancer for Ignite the Sound, an independent production company started by Emmanuelle Saliba ’11.5, who has been an inspiration to Morel for four years. The production company was born of the radio show that Saliba DJ-ed during her freshman year and parties at Red Door on Shannon Street during the 2008-2009 academic year. It has since grown to be a huge force on campus with a nearly a dozen members on campus who DJ large weekend dance parties and pay to bring other artists to campus.
Through all of his adventures Morel has always stayed true to himself by making sure to keep it crazy and embracing the belief that one should.
“Just be. Just be a human being — like a human being a human,” he said.
He advises everyone to “stop apologizing” for being who they are and to talk to each other. Criticizing the underlying silence that prevails on this campus around issues such as social class, Morel said, “People are who they are because of the circumstances of their birth and their lives. Let’s talk about that because what’s going on here is that no one wants to talk to anybody because everyone feels so different and feels like they can’t relate, but we all should hang out. Don’t feel separate or different. Don’t feel separate from the different. Embrace the different.”