For former security guard Xiao Jiguo, a Chinese Barack Obama-lookalike who commands as much as $1,000 per performance, the future is looking uncertain as the US president prepares to leave office.
Xiao now worries whether he will still get calls to shows where he copied Obama, speaking in “fake English”, after the American leader completes his term in January.
The former Sichuan resident is 30, 168 cm tall and has a face that, well, does resemble the outgoing US President with just a happy stretch of the imagination. It doesn’t really help that Xiao’s English stumbles before barely beginning.
But add the short-cropped, greying hair and a practiced repertoire of gestures – there you have your Obama, even if in Chinese.
Back in 2008, when Xiao was a security guard in the southern province of Guangdong, a colleague said he looked like Obama.
Xiao’s career as an impersonator gradually took off as Obama stepped into his second term in 2012.
Then in 2014, a television act got him a burst of applause and the first brush with recognition.
In the meantime, Xiao watched Obama videos to pick up his array of gestures.
“I generally watched his videos on the internet. See, I don’t speak English so I made up some ‘fake English’ which sounds like real English to those who don’t understand,” Xiao told Hindustan Times at his spotlessly clean one-room home in a bustling Beijing neighborhood.
Last year, Xiao began getting offers to perform at shows, sometimes for as much as $1000 and often for more. “I have made around 1 million Yuan from the dozens and dozens of shows (across China),” he said.
What does Xiao think of Obama, a democratically elected leader?
“He is humorous and I’ve heard that he is well-mannered,” Xiao said, adding he doesn’t follow the US president’s politics.
Is his life as a mimic going to change when Obama leaves the White House?
“I think my prospect will change. I might focus on being an actor or a singer. I don’t deny that I will keep impersonating Obama, we resemble each other. His image is set here, he’s got a lot of fans all over China and in the world.
“Every President has a successor. Not only Obama, (Donald) Trump will also leave the White House four or eight years later. Every leader of a democratic country will have to have a successor.”
Xiao is now taking acting lessons at the Beijing Film Academy.
“I don’t think there’s a big market in this field (mimicry). It won’t be enough only to copy others, so I’ve been trying to expand my field. From taking performance lessons to shooting films, and now I’m studying, trying to be a real actor. I’ve also had my own song shot and released.”
In that song, I Am Oba, the Chinese Obama is shown having a good time with the Chinese version of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator. Evidently without a care about their future.