Calling all MJ fans: this is going to be a week to remember. Not only has BAD 25 come out with some previously unreleased tracks but you can now go see highlights from Michael’s wardrobe up close at The Getty Gallery (until Nov 4). And as if that wasn’t enough to get your shades steamed up, anyone who’s still upset that they never got to see the King of Pop perform ‘This Is It’ in 2009, will go wild to hear that he’s back! Well not actually him, of course, but the next best thing. Almost. Having already reincarnated the music of The Beatles and Elvis through acrobatic endeavors, Canadian company Cirque de Soleil have turned their attention to the gloved one for their latest extravaganza ‘The Immortal’, which is coming to the O2 Arena from October 12-21.
As if this wasn’t enough to get you crotch grabbing, on Sunday October 14 there’ll be a Michael Jackson Spectacular afternoon fan event featuring Britain’s Got Talent’s nifty movers Signature and none other than Navi, the world’s number one Michael Jackson impersonator. We caught up with Navi before the big show…
What can we expect from the Cirque de Soleil show?
‘Cirque du Soleil are at the top of their game. It’s like being pulled into MJ’s world: like a Jackson explosion with two hours of Michael’s best music. For a fan, it’s like being a kid in sweet shop.’
Hold up, but why aren’t you in it?
‘They have set the standards very high, and they’ve done Michael real justice here. If I was invited to be in the show, it would only be a small part, a Michael visual. They don’t need to do that though. There are no impersonators in the show’
How did you get into impersonating Michael?
‘I love MJ. I’ve loved him since I was very young. I came over here when I was seven from Trinidad and Tobago when ‘Thriller’ came out in 1982, and it dominated. He was the biggest, a real life superhero. I chose him ahead of everything else because he gripped me, the rest didn’t. I’m a fan before an entertainer always. I remember standing at a hotel looking at him among masses of people when I was a young boy, and then several years later standing next to him and looking down at the masses of people when I was a decoy. I chose him; it was immense.’
At what point did it turn from a hobby to a fulltime job?
‘When I was 15, I started opening for The Drifters as a Michael Jackson impersonator. I was also studying construction at college, because my parents wanted me to, so I was always back and forth between my studies and being Michael. My family adopted four more children when they came over here and we used to rehearse together. They actually ended up performing with me onstage as the Jackson 5 and one of them is now a Michael Jackson dance teacher at Pineapple Studios.’
What was your relationship to Michael?
‘It was truly professional until I got to know him, and then it became professional except that we traded pleasantries; I spoke to him on the phone a few times, performed at his birthday party a few times (see above), once in New York. And I was invited to Neverland.’
Wow! What was Neverland like?
‘Imagine taking Disneyworld, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ – put them in a blender that’s what it like: the gates open and there are real elephants and giraffes walking about; you go to a sweet shop and get any sweet you like and not pay; there’s a cinema where you can watch any film you like and a train that takes you into the valley. Before, I loved him and I had worked for him but I never really understood him until then.’
What work did you do for him?
‘As a decoy and for promotion: I would go take pictures with people and start the Jackson mania wherever I was. Also, when an album came out, I would go down and perform because Michael couldn’t always be there himself.’
He must have trusted you…
‘I always say that Michael was the type of person who, if he didn’t trust you, would let you know. He wasn’t a fool. I was his only impersonator.’
What was he like?
‘Off stage he was quiet, shy and gentle. On stage he was a nut, the boss.’
How did you learn to dance like him?
‘I’m not a dancer, it was just my love for him that kept me trying to be like him. I loved his image the most. You’re now probably going to ask me if I’ve had plastic surgery… yes, I have had surgery to look more like him.’
How many operations have you had?
‘A few… several… numerous, you can use numerous if you like. But it’s all facial. They say the things that look most Michael about me are my eyes and smile. They’re both mine! I’m a perfectionist, so if I’m going to do things I’ll do them properly. It’s the same with clothes, if I don’t have the correct item, I’ll fly over to wherever they have it.’
Where do you get your costumes from?
‘I have around 200 costumes. Think of the ‘Thriller’ jacket; I have 20. Honestly it’s like ‘Cribs’ – you open my cupboard and it’s sick! I’ve had my house in Essex expanded: it has 5 bedrooms and I have a flat at the back with a studio. Everything is taken up with Jackson.’
What effect has his death had on you?
‘It has been massive. Professionally I wasn’t any busier, but I began opening much bigger events. Recently I was asked to close the Formula 1 race in Bahrain. Personally, I felt like a part of me closed up.’
How did you become the world’s number impersonator?
‘My show is called ‘Chosen by Michael’ as I am the only one ever actually chosen by him. I’ve also been to 57 countries to perform as him over the last 25 years.’
What do you do when you’re not Michael Jackson?
‘I watch a bit of TV but I don’t have time for anything else. I’ve missed so many things in my life because I can’t cancel shows. Work takes priority.’
Are you constantly in character?
‘No, that would be a little insane. Can you imagine me dressed up watching Eastenders?! I like to go to the movies, I go out to the supermarket – normal things.’