“YOUR GENDER IS YOUR CHOICE”
Text: Paul Hofman
Foto: Remon van den Kommer
Video: Paradox Productions
Ambassador Paul Morris was born in Caracas where he also grew up. He is the child of a Dutch mother and Venezuelan father and thus has dual nationality. It comes in handy later in life. Latin and pop singer Paul on his homosexuality: ‘Gender is a choice you can make yourself’.
Paul looks relaxed. A striking three-day beard, shy eyes and a lilting tongue; his South American roots are clearly visible. He has just returned from a gig in the Bahamas, he says. I sang Latin pop songs, jazz, funk and classical music. He is not jetlagged.
Paul spent a wonderful childhood in the capital of Venezuela. As a child, he was fascinated by singing and dancing. It is not surprising that he has a boyhood dream of becoming a singer and dancer. His dual nationality made it easier for him to fulfil his dream in the Netherlands. At eighteen, he decided to go there. It was a completely foreign country to me. I loved it. So different from Venezuela. After four years, his mother came to the Netherlands.
They are staying with his grandfather who lives in a place on the Bible Belt. Not really something for Paul. Certainly not when he comes out of the closet at eighteen. Not long after their arrival, he decides to follow his dream and study Performing Arts in Amsterdam. He could put all his energy into it. His talents were noticed and not long after his graduation he got the opportunity to participate in the TV programme DanceSing. It is a talent show in which the makers are looking for a pop star who can sing and dance. It was tailor-made for Paul. He makes a big impression with his voice, tough looks and irresistible smile. It turned my life upside down’. His videos on YouTube turn out to be a great success. Hundreds of thousands of viewers watch the performances.
Music is in Paul’s genes. His cousin Rolf Sanchez has several hits to his name. On stage, Paul is one lump of dynamite. In 2019, he performed at the Closing Party of the Pride. That was the highlight of my career. Ten thousand people partying to my songs. Overwhelming. The Pride crowd is the most fun there is. They give you so much back. He is beaming from ear to ear. He was totally surprised when he was asked to become Pride ambassador 2022. It was a wow moment. Of course I said yes immediately.
His message as ambassador: ‘I hope to inspire people inside and outside the community to embrace all sides of their personality. Accepting and learning to love your light and dark sides is something that we as humans often find difficult, but which is incredibly important. One does not have to exclude the other. Ratio and emotion, enthusiasm and sadness, feminine and masculine energy – we may know that everything can exist together.
He remembers his first Pride experience very well. It was a big party that made a big impression on me. I thought it was great that so many people were there. This was the country I had come to. Very moving. He still gets cold shivers from that Pride. The police boat that sailed along made a particularly strong impression. This was impossible in my country of birth. Until today, there is still a macho culture. Did you know that Venezuela is one of the few countries in South America where gay marriage is still illegal? He falls silent. Eighty percent of the population rejects it. I don’t like this pigeonholing.
Does he miss his homeland? Absolutely! I miss the daily life with my friends. I’ve got mixed feelings about seeing them again, but I’m also sad that this happens only occasionally now. He sighs: ‘I don’t really feel home anywhere.’
The end of the corona measures did not come a day too soon for him. These were tough years for him. Not only were his performances reduced to zero, it also meant that he could not meet his friends. It has affected me deeply. Still, he sees a chance to release a single in 2021 with the apt title Cuánto Mas (which in Spanish means how long will it take). It is a translation of the Dutch song ‘Duurt te lang’. Between two lockdowns, something happens to him that turns his life completely upside down. I had signed a contract to perform at a dinner show on Mykonos for a longer period of time.
It is a success that ends abruptly, however. It seemed to be the summer of my life. On the evening before my birthday, a horrible accident happened to me. After a performance, I was riding my scooter back to my hotel. I drove too fast. On the way I suddenly had to brake hard and fell over. The consequences were serious. I had a fractured jaw, a bruised face, broken teeth and several bruises all over my body. He looks like a rag doll, but back in the Netherlands he quickly recovers from his injuries. It must have been an angel on his shoulder, he says. At the moment I am full of plans. A new song will be released later this year and I am going to sing in the cover band This is Beethoven.
He is eagerly looking forward to his ambassadorship. After two years without Pride nothing seems to stand in the way of a vibrant summer. I can be a good figurehead for the Latino community. How will he get his message across? Through my music I want to warm hearts, make people dance and enjoy life. I think it is important to keep the conversation going about sexuality and freedom of being. This is what I do and will continue to do. I would also be honoured if I could inspire my fellow Latinos to break free from the prevailing macho culture without shame. Then: ‘I won’t hide my love.’ Unmistakably, Paul Morris will be the star of Pride 2022.
Pride ambassador since 2022