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The hardest thing to mimic is the hair, says world’s most famous MJ impersonator

Michael Firestone discusses his double life, doing the moonwalk, and why he thinks the Michael Jackson legacy should live on.

music Updated: Mar 16, 2019 18:49 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
Michael Jackson,impersonator,Dangerous
Given the allegations of Jackson’s sexual misconduct, how does Firestone (above) reconcile the man with the music? ‘If MJ had done the things they say he did, it would be fair that he not be celebrated at all. But he has been proven legally to not be guilty,’ the performer says.

Bille Jean is not his lover. He’s Bad. He’s Dangerous. He can remember the time. And he won’t stop till you get enough. Who is it? It’s Michael Firestone, perhaps the best-known Michael Jackson tribute artist of the moment. On the streets, the American artist is often mistaken for street magician Criss Angel. But when the costume comes on — black shoes, white socks, silver glove, white T-shirt, metallic jacket, curly wig, hat — Firestone transforms into the King of Pop.

Like most impersonators and MJ tribute artists, Firestone grew up obsessed with the superstar. “As a kid, the ‘Billie Jean’ video, where he is walking and the sidewalk was lighting up, really hits you,” he says. “I wanted the floor to light up when I walked.”

Didn’t we all? Firestone however, honed his skills enough to mimic Jackson at talent shows by the age of 12. He uses a lot of makeup to create Jackson’s pasty, sculpted features on his own face. Still, “the hardest part to copy is the hair,” he says. He’s been a sell-out attraction in Las Vegas and created several tribute shows. He performed in Mumbai this week and performs in Bengaluru on the I Am King tour this weekend. In the words of the Michael, he honours: Will you be there?

Tell us about your earliest Michael Jackson memory. What captivated you about the artist?

It was the [1983 US television special] Motown 25 performance, with the first moonwalk, that made an impact. The ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Beat it’ videos were also my favourites. Everything about MJ captivates me.

‘I have had people tattoo my autograph on them. I also get people crying and fainting,’ says Firestone, who performed in Bengaluru over the weekend.

Michael Jackson fans remain fiercely devoted to the legend. How do they react to your performances?

I love the fans! They are the reason I do what I do. From the US to Israel, we have some fans that we will see at every single show. They come dressed up and ready to dance. There are also those older fans who have seen MJ perform or met him. They usually come and share stories after the shows. I have had people tattoo my autograph on them. I also get people crying and fainting.

What other music do you like to listen to and / or perform?

I listen to Coldplay while I get ready for a show. It calms me and psyches me out too. I also love Aerosmith and Prince.

With allegations of Jackson’s sexual misconduct regularly resurfacing, how do you reconcile the man with the music?

I don’t separate MJ the artist from MJ the person. He was the perfect artist and perfect person. MJ talked about helping kids. He spent over half a billion dollars on charities for children.

If MJ had done the things they say he did, it would be fair that he not be celebrated at all. However, the fact remains that he has been proven legally to not be guilty. And his music, fans and legacy should continue to live on.

First Published: Mar 16, 2019 18:46 IST