The April issue of the Blue and White is out and about! If you haven’t yet cracked open its new, glossy cover, here’s another preview of what’s inside: a profile of campus character Stephan Vincenzo.
Stephan Vincenzo, né Jose Stephan Perez, CC ’12, learned about Carman Hall in the sixth grade. Touring Columbia with his great uncle, he glimpsed his future: “It’s not the prettiest dorm, but if you want good times, live in Carman,” his sibyllic uncle told him. Later, while tending to his great uncle on his deathbed, Vincenzo swore to him that he would someday attend Columbia. Carman has been on his mind ever since.
Vincenzo takes dorm living seriously, as evidenced by the name of his party production company: 11th Floor Entertainment. Before he had even moved in, he became notorious for coordinating an orientation week party at a club downtown, for which 1,400 guests confirmed their attendance on Facebook— perhaps lured by his promise of “Open bar!!! srry no alcohol.” For such a bold move, Vincenzo achieved instant fame. His imposing social presence has already spawned caricatures in The Fed and is the inspiration for the character “Vincent Stephanzo” in this year’s Varsity Show.
Vincenzo’s 6’2” stature, mid-back length brown hair, and penchant for oversize beaded necklaces enhance his eccentric image, but the most enduring expression of his originality is his adopted name. “Jose Perez is the Spanish equivalent of John Smith,” he explains. “I don’t know anybody with the name Stephan.” (He added “Vincenzo” as an homage to Al Capone’s brother, James.)
Vincenzo is proud of his name and the cult of personality that he’s inspired, but not all of his classmates have been as supportive. After the Bwog posted updates about his infamous “Open bar” bash, the half-Colombian, half-Mexican Vincenzo read comments on the site that characterized him as an “affirmative action case.” “I’m from the South, so I’m used to racism… but [the Bwog comments] broke my heart. I’ve been discriminated against, but I’m not gonna lie, it still hurts just as much as the first time,” he says.
The monarch of social butterflies, Stephan is an intense communicator: he interacts with nearly everyone he comes across, grilling acquaintances with a million questions a minute about their various goings on, all while never breaking eye contact. Though fans sometimes ask him for pictures, few have recognized him for his loftier pursuits—for example, his poetry, which has been published in the Columbia Daily Spectator. “Even though you’re in the midst of all these people knowing your name… you can be really lonely,” he observes.
Indeed, the prevailing view of Vincenzo as a party animal has hindered his social savvy where it may matter most: with girls. He says that the Columbia women who catch his eye believe they “know all about” him as a “player,” and that the ladies who frequent the nightlife scene aren’t the ones he’s interested in anyway. “You can find a quality girl at a church, in a library, studying, Barnes & Noble—not at a club. Beautiful, glamorous club chicks, there’s a thousand of them. For a moment they’re cool, but I like individuals that I can engage with intellectually.”
According to Vincenzo, his cerebral tendencies made him something of an anomaly in his hometown of Atlanta. “A lot of my friends got involved heavily with drugs, a lot of my friends dropped out of school, ended up in jail, ended up in gangs.” During his first semester at Columbia, he struggled with both his “really humble upbringing” and his campus infamy. “I didn’t participate in class. It was intimidating as hell,” he recalls. “I just thought, ‘Oh my God, these people are just waiting for me to say something stupid.’”
And yet Vincenzo has no regrets. “If I could go back, I would throw the same party. I would’ve still done the same thing,” he says. “That’s just the price you pay.”
—Tony Gong, with illustrations by Maxine Keyes