Do people tell you you look like a celebrity? Well, if you have the looks of a celebrity and the spirit of an entertainer, you might be able parlay that resemblance into a very well-paying job. I had the opportunity to discuss the look-alike industry with one of its foremost agents, Dot Findlater of Mirror Images Co. in Los Angeles.
Her agency supplies talent for television, films, trade shows and corporate conventions. She represents lookalikes in a wide range of the public arena, from movie and television stars to sports, historical and political figures.
Of course, as your WalletPop correspondent, my first question was how much could a good lookalike earn? Findlater said that for cinema and TV work, her people earn union scale, which is pretty sweet. The Screen Actors Guild minimum for a day performer is $782, and $2,713 for weekly performers.
For other gigs such as trade shows, however, they could earn as much as $600 for an hour's appearance, or up to $10,000 for a performance.
Why would a company lay out this kind of dough for a double? Findlater explained that, while the actors are never represented as being anything other than lookalikes, it gives those in the audience that moment of electricity where they can imagine themselves actually standing next to Angelina Jolie or Barack Obama. A good lookalike,she explained, can make an otherwise boring presentation exciting and memorable. And, of course, everyone in the room has to have their picture taken with the not-really-the-president.
Being a lookalike is not as easy as I'd imagined, however. While she does represent photographic doubles who limit their work to posing, most of Findlater's people not only craft their appearance to resemble the person they look like, but put in many hours of hard work capturing their speech, mannerisms, voice, and all those nuances that we would notice if they were absent. From Angelina's smirk to Brad's boyish smile to Bill Clinton's stubby thumbs-up, we identify well-known public figures by how they act as much as how they look. Some actors have taken years to nail their subject.
Who makes a good lookalike? Other than the obvious physical appearance, Findlater explained that it takes someone who embraces public performances; no wallflowers here. It also takes someone, she says, with a great deal of confidence, someone who is "comfortable in their own skin." In fact, she was once called by a psychologist who was looking for help with a client who so closely resembled a well-known figure that he was constantly being told of it. He hated,absolutely hated, that, because he wanted to be recognized for who he was.
Who's in demand? Findlater explained that requests follow trends, and people on top now, like Lady Gaga, are in great demand. However, she said that sometimes by the time an actor has put together the look and the performance of a Lady Gaga, depending on how long she lasts in the public eye, the lookalike could miss the crest of the wave.
Following up on the story that first piqued my interest, an AP report that Tiger Woods lookalikes have lost a lot of money since his disgrace, I asked Findlater how her Tigers had been doing. She told me that they too had seen work dry up, except for offers that she tactfully describes as "not in their best interest."
This is a volatile market, remember. Other figures could come onto stage in an instant, particularly in the political arena. So don't give up hope if you don't look like a god or goddess; who would have imaged two years ago that Tina Fey could make money by resembling the then-governor of Alaska?
If you really truly look like a popular celebrity, you can e-mail your portrait (posed and dressed to resemble as closely as possible the person you propose to emulate) to Findlater's agency, or one of her competitors. If you have show business in your heart, that's a skill that improves your odds, so be sure to mention it.
In the meantime, I'll be watching television from a different frame of mind; I don't care about the hero or villain, I just want to know if I look like anyone in the cast.
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