I recently watched a video of a man on YouTube. He was sporting a red, multi-zippered leather jacket, accented shoulders, and a fedora hat.
His baritone voice was heavier than I was used to, but his dancing was spot-on. He was doing a “Thriller” cover, moonwalking and sliding with precision. His shirt was untucked and I noticed white tape on three of his fingers. A top comment described him as “damn near perfect”. This man, Navi, has been performing as Michael Jackson for 25 years and calls himself the “World’s Number One Michael Jackson Impersonator”.
From the age of seven, Navi’s life was forever changed by his admiration for the King of Pop. His family had just moved from Trinidad to London and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” was topping the charts.
Navi quickly gained notoriety for his physical similarity to Michael and his dancing ability, and at fifteen, he was made the opening act for the Drifters.
His career skyrocketed with MTV commercials, Virgin Megastore advertisements, gigs on daytime TV, and a spot on the Oprah Winfrey Show. He even had the honor of performing for Michael Jackson on two separate occasions, with the King of Pop giving Navi a standing ovation.
On a Thursday afternoon, I phoned Navi during his fully-booked tour and was unsure if I would be speaking to him as himself or as Michael. He requested that I call him back in ten minutes as he was searching for a pair of shoes for a stroll while we talked.
True to his word, when I rang him again, he answered: “Hello, this is Navi.”
— Noah Pisner’s words
Noah Pisner expresses that it is important to take time to understand the complexities of life and unpack our thoughts and feelings in order to truly appreciate them. He suggests that it is only then when we can truly appreciate and grow from our experiences.
Badness is something that is often talked about, but here we will discuss the extent of it.
What does it feel like to be in the shoes of a deceased individual? How does it compare to being that person when they were still alive?
NAVI: Prior to June 25, 2009, I was a Michael Jackson impersonator, and I still am. However, after that date, my career skyrocketed. People were using me as some sort of comfort object, as they weren’t ready to accept the fact that Jackson was gone.
As a result, I was no longer performing in small venues, but instead I was being asked to play in huge concerts in front of thousands of people. In the space of ten days, I had more than 200 requests from 50 different countries.
This trend has not stopped since then; I have performed in Formula 1 events with 30,000 people, 8,000 with a band, in Dubai and Turkey, and tomorrow I’m leaving for the Caribbean. It’s clear that the legacy of Michael is still strong.
BLVR: Amazing! It seems that you have been able to take advantage of the absence of Michael in the market.
Upon hearing the news of Jackson’s passing, Google and Facebook both experienced outages. Even though opinions about him may have varied, everyone was touched by the sudden loss. It was difficult to put into words.
During a birthday party for a 6-year-old in London, the kid’s parents asked who he wanted to attend, and he said Michael Jackson. This child would have been one or two at the time of his death.
Have people ever assumed you were the reincarnation of Michael Jackson?
The other day, our show prompted tears from some of the audience members in the front. After that, someone came up to me and said they got goosebumps.
Even though I’m not Michael, a lot of people say I bring back the same type of magic. It brings back the feeling of being a fan, and when a Michael Jackson song was released it was a really big deal.
BLVR: It’s difficult to conduct this interview without being able to see you. It’s impossible to comment on the similarity between you and Michael. Furthermore, the sound of your voice is dissimilar to his.
N exclaimed, “Indeed!”
BLVR: Would you be able to help me out? Many years ago MJ sang an acapella verse of “Who Is It” on Oprah. I understand I’m not Oprah, but could you perform the verse for me? You understand [ singing, not very well ]: “I offered my money, I gave my time…”
N: [ Laughing ] I’m sorry, but I can’t. It’s like I require the makeup and the outfit to really get into the character.
When I put in the hard work of an hour and a half of preparation, I find I’m able to fully transform my voice and my movement. It’s difficult to put into words, but it’s absolutely true. I’ve been asked this many times on radio interviews: “Can you perform?” The answer is no, not without the makeup and the costume.
BLVR: Is it possible that wearing a costume aids you in separating the two identities of Michael and Navi so that they do not overlap?
N: People often ask me if I have lost my sense of self by being a fan of football, and later by portraying Michael Jackson. I don’t find this to be true. Instead, I’ve found that the journey I’ve had through performing as him has only added to my identity.
When I’m on stage, I feel like a different person than when I’m off stage and I feel that I’m able to have both sides of me.
After 25 years of performing, I’ve seen a lot of impersonators who’ve been completely taken by their character, but I believe that when you’re passionate about something, such as fitness or religion, it doesn’t mean that you’ve lost yourself. It just means that this is an important part of who you are.
BLVR: Do you concur with the assertion held by many that you are the most accomplished Michael Jackson impersonator in the world– MJ numba two?
I never proclaim myself to be the top Michael Jackson impersonator in the world, but I can say I am the only one chosen by Michael himself. I was asked to perform at his birthday parties for seventeen years.
Everyone who imitates Michael brings something to the table. He was a great dancer, singer, and performer. I don’t think it’s right to say any one of us is the top. I’m a fan of Michael first and foremost.
I don’t believe myself to be more significant than any other fan with a t-shirt or poster of MJ. We are all equal when it comes to being fans.
But yes, among impersonators, you will find politics of who’s the best. I’m the only one recognized by Michael and have performed for him, but that doesn’t mean I’m the best at moonwalking, singing, or costume.
I put in my best effort, and I appreciate those who make a similar effort even if they are not considered the best.
BLVR: It is humorous to observe that Elvis impersonators usually are performing much later in life than the King himself ever did–older than the time he was living, that is. So, how old are you currently?
I’m entering my forties.
BLVR: What occurs when one surpasses the age of 50–the age Michael was at the time of his passing?
N: You have been excellent. I did not anticipate this. I don’t want to become like that Elvis caricature who is unable to fit into their clothing and is not in the best shape for a performance. So, I have been searching for alternatives.
I have been teaching an understudy for almost two years and he will be taking my place for a few engagements if I am requested by the Jackson family, the estate, or Sony Music.
In the next five years, I am hoping to take a step back from performing. Michael Jackson performed until 50, so I am aiming to reach the same milestone. Additionally, I manage other artists.
BLVR: You have a protege; does this bring with it any sort of responsibility to keep Michael Jackson alive, or to ensure that his music is performed as near to his own standard as possible?
N: With over two hundred and fifty live performances annually and more than three hundred abroad, the demand for Michael Jackson is clear.
His music has earned more than one billion dollars in the last year alone, even more than Elvis and The Beatles combined since the King of Pop’s passing. To keep the momentum going, I’m looking for another artist with the potential to live up to the Jackson legacy.
BLVR: What is your racial or cultural background?
I was born in Trinidad and Tobago, the home of many descendants of Indian workers that were employed by the British. This makes my origin Indo-Caribbean.
BLVR: Michael had a paler complexion than the average Indo-Caribbean individual; how did that come to be?
N: Applying cosmetics.
Do you wear make-up?
When I arrive at venues, some individuals are taken aback by my appearance on the promotional material. They expect something different than what they see. Specifically, they take in my skin color rather than the made-up face that I am wearing.
But when I finally present myself in full costume, there is a palpable sense of relief.
BLVR: If your complexion is on the deeper side, why not take on the persona of ’80s Michael Jackson rather than the lighter-skinned version?
N: That’s correct. I could have easily been a dark-skinned Michael Jackson, if we’re being honest.
However, I chose a more recognizable image. Although Michael’s greatest songs were released when he was dark-skinned, up to the Thriller album, I wanted to portray the Bad album and later stuff, so I settled on an iconic look.
While anyone can be dark-skinned and have curly hair, it doesn’t necessarily make them look like Michael Jackson. I was aiming for the 1995 Michael Jackson, when he did the HisStory tour. It was a more mature look with long curly hair.
That was the image I wanted and I worked on it for years. If you’re wondering, I did get surgery to change the structure of my face in certain ways, but it doesn’t bother me.
The importance of being faithful is undeniable. It is essential for any relationship to survive, as it allows for trust and confidence to be established between two people or groups.
This trust is a cornerstone of any successful partnership and is necessary for a healthy and balanced exchange of values. Having faithfulness in place also creates a sense of security and reliability, as it is a sign that each party is committed to the relationship.
When faithfulness is present, each party can be sure that their best interests will be taken into consideration, as well as the interests of the other. As such, loyalty is a critical factor in any relationship.
BLVR: When you put on a performance, is it designed to imitate the persona of Michael Jackson, or to capture the essence of his artistry? Are you aiming to please the audience with an impersonation, or to recreate the style of Michael Jackson as an artist?
Navi expresses that when he portrays Michael Jackson, he aims to capture the spirit of the music and production through his performance. At fan events, he is more aware of the fact that he is not supposed to replace Jackson.
He emphasizes the importance of finding a balance between staying true to himself and giving the audience what they want – a show that makes them feel as if they are seeing Michael Jackson himself.
He states that the moment he puts on the iconic hat and starts playing ‘Billy Jean’ the audience starts to believe they are watching Michael Jackson live. He has even heard from people who never had the chance to see Michael Jackson in concert, but still enjoyed the show as if they had.
BLVR: Is it always serious and not meant in a humorous manner?
N: Absolutely not. A definitive refusal.
BLVR: Are there any tracks by MJ you won’t perform?
N: I have many songs that I’m not able to perform, and I do have my personal favorites–“I Can’t Breathe With No Air” and “Speechless”–that I never do.
But, I do cater to the audience, and pick songs that were big hits. For example, when I’m in a different country I research to find out which songs were successful and switch up my set list accordingly, like replacing “Man in the Mirror” with “The Way You Love Me.”
When did you first witness the release of the “Black or White” music video?
I was a college student when I remember bringing a huge boom box to the canteen and playing it non-stop. It was so funky and very popular. The video for the song was ahead of its time with the morphing face at the end.
Everyone remembers it. Michael was known for being ahead of the curve when it came to music. He was great at picking out important messages, like “Black or White,” which is even more relevant today than it was two decades ago.
He demonstrated that people of different backgrounds and skin colors can still be united despite having their own distinct cultures.
I understand the apprehension of moving to a foreign country and feeling unwelcome, but I think it’s more enriching when we bring a bit of our own culture to where we go.
BLVR: I wanted to inquire about some of Michael Jackson’s attire, particularly, why did he have adhesive tape on three of his fingers?
In the 1980s, Michael Jackson was known for wearing a single glove.
BLVR: A glitzy gauntlet?
N: His rhinestone glove was something special. Having it on made his performances come to life, as it reflected the light so well.
However, in the 1990s he decided against using the glove, since he had used it before. Thus, he chose something a bit more subtle, opting instead for finger tape. When he danced and pointed, the small white strips glittered, making the move look sharper.
Wasn’t Michael Jackson a stickler for details?
Michael was quite adamant about people sticking to his choreography without making modifications. When they were performing “The Way You Make Me Feel,” someone attempted to add their own spin to the moves and Michael immediately said, “No, do it as I wrote it.”
In my opinion, if you’re an artist, you should be free to use Michael Jackson as an influence, however, if you’re an impersonator of Michael Jackson, then you should strive to replicate what he created.
Do you think of yourself as a creative individual?
I see myself as someone who impersonates, that’s my only role.
Have you ever contemplated creating your own music?
N: My achievements have exceeded those of many entertainers. You could take someone with five number one singles in the UK and travel to ten countries and very few people would know who they are.
But, just by mentioning the name of Michael Jackson, people throughout the world would recognise him. Name an artist, apart from Madonna, that enjoys such global fame and can be welcomed and respected wherever they go. Why would I want to risk such a unique and brilliant situation?
BLVR: How did you begin working as a professional impersonator?
At fifteen, I was given a major career opportunity when someone from the well-known group, The Drifters, spotted me while I was performing at a nightclub. After that, I ended up opening for them and then went on to work with Richard Branson in Europe.
Eventually, I landed a job with Michael Jackson, which was the real game changer for me. Being associated with him meant that a lot of other doors opened for me, and that was all the recognition I needed.
BLVR: Despite all these opportunities, was it ever considered that you should be given your own chance to shine? Did people never think to let you make a name for yourself?
The record industry is inclined to not embrace an artist who is heavily influenced by an already established icon; they view it as unnecessary. As a result, those who emulate an icon such as Michael Jackson will often find themselves compared to them and seen as a mere imitation.
BLVR: Could you please describe your studying technique? Are you frequently returning to the video clips and audio files?
N: I’m putting in as much effort as I can, but it’s quite exhausting and it requires a lot of traveling. For instance, I’ve been to Lebanon three times, yet I’ve never stayed there overnight.
The last time I was in Dubai, I had to leave right after the show. This leaves me with little time to do my research. I’m happy with what I’m bringing to the table.
Some may be better in dancing, singing, or production, but I’m content with my performance and that Michael gave me a standing ovation. I’m just going with the flow and I don’t know what could top Michael’s reaction.
BLVR: Is there any activity or feat you can do that you feel you exceed Michael Jackson in skill?
N: [Laughs] Of course not! I’m aware of my capabilities. Probably there are many who can do certain things better than me, but if you take into account the complete package–no one will be able to top Michael Jackson.
His accomplishments are beyond compare and still continue to be. It would be impossible to come across another like him in our lifetime.
In my view, what was the most incredible invention by Michael Jackson?
When people execute the iconic lean from Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” regardless of whether they are a fan of his or not, they tend to go wild.
BLVR: How would you describe him while he was still alive? What kind of person was he?
N: He was so hospitable, so modest, and so inspiring.
I was uncertain if he was playing a joke on me. He said to me, “You’re an incredible dancer, do you rehearse every day?” And I replied, “Mike, you are an extraordinary dancer.” And he went, “No really? Honestly do you think so?” And I was thinking, Is he really joking around here?
He appeared a bit doubtful about himself. And I encountered him later and I grasped, No that’s just his personality. He really does go on stage and become what he becomes, but offstage he is almost unlike himself.
BLVR: Comparable to you, isn’t it?
N: Yes, in a different manner. He once stated, “No person desires to pay to watch the boy from the neighbourhood.”
By this, I think he was implying that if you are like everyone else, no one will pay attention, yet if you are distinct, they will pay to witness it.
BLVR: What is the reason behind the title Navi?
My moniker is Navi.
BLVR inquired if the individual had a family name.
N: I’m often known simply as Navi. My full name is known, but I’ve made the name Navi my brand.
When you’re Navi, what activities do you engage in?
I’m a fan of football and cricket; I also like to play Scrabble on my iPad. Additionally, I enjoy watching TV soaps and listening to various artists.
As I’m quite occupied with work and travel, I don’t get to hang out with friends too often. I’m confident I’ll have more free time in the future, but at the present I’m focusing on other projects and businesses. Additionally, I take pleasure in listening to talk radio.
Have you ever encountered talk radio?
Yeah, when I’m travelling a lot I tend to opt for talk radio instead of music. Since I’m already exposed to music so frequently, I often find myself preferring to hear conversations on the radio–discussions of current events, news, and the like.
I invest a great deal of time in listening to news broadcasts, such as CNN, Al Jazeera, and the BBC. It is fascinating to me to hear their different perspectives on issues like Edward Snowden.
Additionally, I often choose to not listen to Michael Jackson’s music while I’m travelling, instead choosing to enjoy it in the moment as it happens.
I’m sure it can be quite boring to hear the same musicians over and over, though if I had to pick one to listen to on repeat, I suppose I could manage with Michael Jackson.
N: When you have some spare time, why not take the opportunity to listen to some of Michael Jackson’s classic hits, such as “Smooth Criminal,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Black or White,” “Beat It,” “Bad,” “Dirty Diana,”
“You Are Not Alone,” “I Want You Back,” “Can You Feel It,” “Shake Your Body,” “ABC,” “Billie Jean,” “Thriller,” and “Man in the Mirror?” It’s a great way to spend an hour or two, and you’ll be sure to love every song.
BLVR: If you had not taken up the role of a Michael Jackson impersonator, what would you be engaged in presently?
I’m not sure, buddy. I’m in the dark.
Using a different structure, the same concept can be expressed in the following way: One can remove plagiarism by altering the form of the text without changing the context and the meaning of the words.
Doing so will ensure that the markdown formatting is kept intact.
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