Mitchel Paulson's secret is out.
During a recent Red Wing High School staff development meeting, the new student counselor unveiled his numerous tattoos before entertaining his tie-clad co-workers with a rap routine that baffled more than a few in the crowd.
Despite having performed throughout the Midwest — including at Rochester's One Night of Art— and having released four albums since 2008 under the alias Moxie, Paulson professed to having nerves during an a cappella rendition of his "The Kids are Okay."
"I used to really try to hide [my rapping] as much as I could," the 31-year-old Rochester resident told the Post-Bulletin . "I didn't even tell my family about it for almost a year. I never wanted my music to negatively affect my professional career, because counseling is very important to me. Now, it's totally turned. Now, it's something that can enhance my counseling.
"It's been really fun to break down some stereotypes — as much as you can as a skinny, tattooed, white rapper."
Paulson made no effort to hide his MC skills last year while working at the Rochester Alternative School. He even performed during the school's inaugural talent show. However, his lyrical exploits were never mentioned prior to being hired by Red Wing Principal Beth Borgen last spring.
Borgen wasn't aware of Paulson's lifestyle until this summer, when he showed up at the building in casual attire and visible tattoos. After hearing his personal story, which is detailed in arm tattoos called sleeves, Borgen fully endorsed Paulson's offbeat career — while simultaneously professing to be "old" and unable to comprehend it.
"They are two separate worlds," said Borgen, who requested Paulson's performance in hopes of showing staff members life from a different perspective. "There's the counselor world, and there's the outside world. Because of the life Mitch has had, he's been able to enhance his life as a counselor through rapping."
The roundabout path to an unlikely dual career began when Paulson was a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He was rushed to the hospital after experiencing heart palpitations, which he said increased his heart rate to 296 beats-per-minute. Two emergency surgeries saved his life while simultaneously changing his worldview.
The small-town Wisconsin boy transferred to Winona State University, where he worked to earn a counseling degree by day while diving into the hip-hop scene by night. The tattoos came next, with his left sleeve dedicated to his medical situation and the right pertaining to his burgeoning musical career.
"I don't need to live inside the box anymore," Paulson said of his personal rebirth. "Who knows what's going to happen?"
Paulson, who moved to Rochester almost four years ago, said news of his rapping career has spread "like wildfire" through the Red Wing student body. Intrigued pupils have dropped by to chat, while others have sought career advice.
That interest has prompted Paulson to organize a talent show for Dec. 18, where he plans to perform a new song with a couple of students. Borgen called Paulson's immediate connection with the youngsters "just awesome."
"Red Wing, as a city, has its own reputation of maybe not being the most accepting to outsiders and diversity — but for me it's been great," Paulson said. "I feel like you have to be true to who you are. I scribble all over the page, and that's OK. Everyone succeeds in their own way."
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