While I was perusing ESPN.com shortly after the Masters, I came across an interesting article about a Tiger Woods lookalike. The article was a bit dated, and was probably recycled because of Tiger’s upcoming Master’s appearance, but it sparked interest nonetheless.
My first question was, “How big of a market exists for the celebrity lookalike biz?” While I was unable to find any solid quantitative information, I was able to quickly find numerous agencies that deal in celebrity impersonators (see here). Frankly, I was startled by the number of impersonators that were available. Seriously, what kind of stage mom would turn her daughter into a Hannah Montana impersonator? And ironically, there are impersonators (who are employed to show up at parties and events) impersonating celebrities whose sole claim to fame appears to be showing up to parties and events, i.e. Paris Hilton. Honestly, the entire impersonator thing kind of creeps me out (like a wax museum) and makes me think of the Fleur-de-lis from LA Confidential.
After this initial reaction, my next question was, “What are the rights and liabilities involved with the celebrity lookalike biz?” (A great conversation killer, I know.) My first thought was that the lookalikes may need to pay some sort of licensing fee for exploiting the likeness of the impersonated (a right of publicity issue). However, when I recalled the elements for a right of publicity claim from one of my earlier posts, I figured the impersonators were probably okay. After all, they aren’t really appropriating the likeness of the celebrity, they’re merely highlighting their good fortune in looking like someone famous.
My next thought was that celebrity impersonators have to be deceptive advertising claims just waiting to happen. This could arise from the impersonator passing himself off as the original; for example, this impersonator was presenting himself as the actual Robin Williams. Alternatively, the authentic article might allow the public to think that the impersonator is the real deal. Apparently, this may not actually be considered deceptive. The Tiger Woods article above seems to imply that commercials (or portions of commercials) actually depict a lookalike, rather than the original. Frankly, I find that deceiving. While I don’t put a great deal of stock in celebrity endorsements (as Forest Gump noted, they’re just little white lies), I at least feel like the celebrity should care enough about the product or service to show up and tape the commercial. The fact that we can apparently have celebrity endorsements with little to no involvement by the actual celebrity seems misleading to me. Am I the only one?