The Man In Mirror: What it’s like being the ‘world’s number one’ Michael Jackson impersonator

Navi comes clean

Navi, born in Trinidad and now based in Essex, claims to be “the world’s number one” Michael Jackson impersonator. He stars in Searching For Neverland, a new Lifetime biopic that depicts the last three years of Jackson’s life, and here reflects on almost three decades as The King of Pop.

Being Michael Jackson can be a terrifying experience

I used to work as a decoy, coming out of hotels, pretending to be Michael to distract attention away from him. Thousands of people chased after me in Thailand. I had 10 bodyguards and 15 police and people were trying to jump over the top of them; they would kill themselves to be near Michael. I was frightened, and they had to call more security to get me out of there.

I performed at two of his birthday parties

First in New York and then in LA the following year. He was on a balcony in the audience and there’s video footage of him applauding me, giving me a standing ovation. His birthday parties were not full of stars. In LA there was a band from up the road and a local dance group from down the road. An American football team performed ‘Beat It’. A tap school did ‘Smooth Criminal’. It was very much done for everybody. It wasn’t done for him.

A lot of people don’t understand how insecure Michael was

I met him backstage at his birthday party in New York and he said, “You’re an amazing dancer – do you practice every day?” I said, “Mike, you’re an amazing dancer. Everybody thinks you’re brilliant.” He replied, “Really? You think so?” I thought he was winding me up. I realised a couple of years later that he was really, really insecure offstage. But when he came onstage, he was a different animal. He would take control; he was in charge.

Neverland was the most magical place

There was yellow brick road lined with bronze statues of children playing. There was music playing [from speakers] in the trees, flamingos walking about and an eagle flying around up in the sky. I saw an elephant and a giraffe. It was surreal. You weren’t allowed money and you couldn’t take a camera. A full-sized train took you all the way down to his house. He created a magical dream world. Neverland was somewhere where anything and everything could happen.

I sensed Michael’s spirit while making the film

When we filmed the scene where he dies, a picture that no-one was near dropped off the wall. Another time, as I closed the curtain after depicting Michael’s final performance, the curtain and the set came crashing down around me. It was kind of spooky.

Being a professional impersonator is a strange job, but my family keeps my grounded

You’re defined by what you do in life. Your job defines who your friends are and perhaps even who you marry. Luckily I have a very good family foundation. I have a very good relationship. It comes down to one thing: I’m not Michael Jackson. I could never be that man. I tell myself that I’m not and could never be, and that I’m just going out there to celebrate him.

Searching for Neverland is on Lifetime UK at 21:30, June 25