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