How celebrity look-alikes are finessing their way through social media, as well as the real world.
Artwork by Jason Nuttall
Over the past few months, I’ve noticed a recurring trend of celebrity look-alikes going above and beyond the traditional Elvis-style impersonation. These people don’t just look the part, they live the part, and they’re capitalizing on the fact that there’s no blue check mark following them around IRL to stop them from hacking into the lives they desire. It dawned on me that we may be living through the real-time evolution of “wannabe” to “watch-me-be,” thanks to the social proof enabled by platforms like YouTube, Instagram, etc.
To be clear, this form of celebrity cosplay is different than when MF DOOM was employing body doubles to fulfill his contractual show agreements.
Hannibal Buress performing as MF DOOM at the Adult Swim Festival in 2019
It’s also a bit different from the time Eminem brought a flash mob of Slim Shadies onstage at the 2000 VMAs to perform “The Real Slim Shady.”
Eminem in a sea of Slim Shadies at the 2000 VMAs in New York City
What I’m talking about is more along the lines of Jim Carrey becoming Andy Kaufman for Man on the Moon, or Heath Ledger’s total transformation into the Joker for The Dark Knight.
Jim & Andy, a Netflix documentary, provides a look into Jim Carrey’s stubborn refusal to break character as Andy Kaufman.Heath Ledger’s commitment to the Joker character led to an addiction to prescription meds and his untimely death from an accidental overdose
The main difference in the performances is that they aren’t awarded with any honors from the Academy, but are rewarded instead with an artificially inflated form of social currency known as “clout.”
There are three unavoidable “clout clones” who have forced their way onto my feeds these past few months: IzzyyDrake (a Drake look-alike), Perkio (a Lil Durk look-alike), and Dawson Gurley (a Klay Thompson look-alike). Each has used their aesthetic adjacency to advance their own personal agenda, but what they all have in common is a deep understanding of how to use time and space to augment believability.
L: IzzyyDrake, R: Aubrey “Drake” Graham
Last November, the Fake Drake, also known as “Frake,” went on the popular podcast No Jumper to reveal a bit more about himself.
The 22-year-old Toronto native also happens to be a musician, and plans on using the momentum he’s gaining as Fake Drake for his own future gain. Izzyy is currently on a media tour where he mentioned that he now charges upwards of $10K for performances and appearances (in character as Drake). This level of finesse could only be topped by Dawson Gurley’s performance at the Chase Center two weeks ago during the NBA Finals.
L: Dawson “Big Daws TV” Gurley, R: Klay Thompson
Dawson is a popular YouTube personality and professional prankster who was spotted in the Bay Area during the NBA Finals dressed as a fully uniformed Klay Thompson (headband included). This man was literally parked in a top-down convertible taking selfies with Warriors fans, even signing T-shirts with a Sharpie. His next act was an unthinkable one that would soon make him rich in clout coin. The Fake Klay drove straight into the players’ parking lot, walked right through team security, and found himself on the hardwood floor where he would have a 10-minute private warm-up.
The closest parallel I could draw to this is when New York Mets superfan Michael Sergio jumped out of a moving airplane and landed on the field at Shea Stadium during the 1986 World Series.
Michael Sergio skydives into Shea Stadium during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series
Both stunts happened during championship games, but one was required to jump out of an aircraft to land the point while the other casually walked in through team security with a cameraman to chronicle for all to see.
Soon after, Fake Klay would find himself banned for life from the Chase Center, losing his $10K investment in Warriors season tickets in the process.
Now that we’ve seen what success looks like for a celebrity look-alike on social, let’s talk about the not-so-bright side. Perkio, the Lil Durk impersonator with 355K followers on Instagram, recently found himself inheriting a rap beef that belongs to the real Lil Durk when rap’s biggest troll, Tekashi 6ix9ine, decided to play into the performance art. He and his crew closed in on Perkio while the cameras were rolling and forced him to wear a jacket that featured a photo of the slain rapper King Von, who was a close friend of Lil Durk.
Fortunately no one was hurt during the incident, but new battle tactics like these raise the stakes for feuding artists today. The traditional diss track in rap has taken the backseat to a more visual and viral form of victimization.
This random world of celebrity look-alikes kept pointing me back to one key question: Why? Is it for the dopamine rush and vision of going “viral”? Is it a new form of escapism that allows people to roam the world in the shoes of their celebrity idols? Maybe it’s a combination of both, or maybe it’s deeper. Multiple studies show direct links between social media usage and feelings of depression, narcissism, and body image issues. Social media constantly reminds us how different our lifestyles are from our favorite celebs and may naturally have us questioning whether we are [insert adjective] enough.
Social comparison, paired with the advent of social filters that let you alter or augment your physical appearance, has led to a phenomenon called snapchat dysmorphia, where people, mostly under the age of 30, become desperate to resemble their filtered selfies, driving many young people in recent years to seek plastic surgery.
It’s no wonder we see countless versions of celebrity look-alike filters pop up across social platforms. They introduce a lower barrier to escapism than becoming your celeb idol full time, and still allow the user to step out of their skin and into someone else’s even if just for a fleeting moment.
While the relationship between stans and their celebrity idols is evolving daily, there are some tangible takeaways for us to make note of now:
- Celebrity co-signs can pack power or peril — be ready for both. We’ve seen the rise of Fake Drake after being covered by Complex, Akademiks, No Jumper, and Anthony Fantano. His ability to monetize the persona has him planning to open a talent agency specifically for celebrity look-alikes in the future (!). We’ve also seen Lil Durk co-sign Perkio onstage, which led to a public threat and humiliation by the real celebrity’s archenemy. It’s a mixed bag of outcomes when it comes to a celebrity’s stamp of approval.
- Avatar juggling isn’t just reserved for Web3 . We’ve entered a new age where the idea of being a multi-hyphenate isn’t just limited to diverse skillsets and passion points. Today’s youth have evidenced the ability to seamlessly juggle multiple identities ranging from burner accounts online to celebrity impersonations IRL. This may result in new targeting paradigms that go beyond singular audience profiles based on the way people currently self-identify on social. This is a space to keep an eye on.
- Followers can be fake, but mental health is real . The standards of social acceptance can have harmful effects, especially on young people just as they are discovering who they are. Pair that with youth’s ability today to juggle multiple identities at once, and the concoction can result in a diagnosable mental health issue like Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which is a classified type as a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. Contact a mental health professional to find out more about teen treatment for Snapchat dysmorphia, social media addiction, and other mental health disorders.
In closing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the old “fake it to you make it” adage. It had me thinking, what next? After you’ve “made it” and risen to the top of the fan chain and become your favorite celeb — does it keep going once the audience is in on the joke? Do you become a “period piece” once the real celeb switches up their image and you can’t keep up? Do you start doing birthday shout-outs on Cameo as a full-time job?
IzzyDrake and Perkio collab on a remix rendition of Drake and Lil Durk’s “Laugh Now, Cry Later”
Who knows what the future holds, but one thing’s for certain. The next time I ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, there’s one answer I’m selfishly hoping to hear: myself.
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