Being Donald Trump: the life of an impersonator
John Di Domenico appears nothing like Donald Trump: He’s 17 years younger, numerous inches shorter and a natural brunet, although currently, he maintains his head shaved to make placing on the copper wig easier, and his eyebrows bleached to suit. Becoming Trump calls for a full hour of hair and makeup. He tapes three large photos of the president, one in profile and two immediately on, to any replicate he’s the usage of, and then uses Ben Nye CoCo Tan foundation to show his pores and skin the considered necessary coloration of atomic tangerine, dabs on wrinkles, lengthens his nose, and so on. Trump has “pretty a large head,” but there’s now not much every person can do approximately that.
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Even with the complex costume, Di Domenico’s bodily resemblance to the president requires a touch imagination – but of the various those who “do” Trump, his take is the maximum uncanny. It’s the voice. He recreates the uncommon manner that Trump, to apply Di Domenico’s phrase, “speaks from his enamel”; the wild fluctuations of nasality; the inconsistent New York accessory; the sibilant “S”s and exaggerated vowels. He has additionally mastered the neck jerk, the squint, the off-tilt swagger. When Conan O’Brien and Chelsea Handler wished a Trump for their late-night talk indicates, they called Di Domenico, and he has additionally turn out to be an every day on Fox News’s morning talk show.
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Di Domenico enjoys the appearances on Fox and ABC, the cameos on Glenn Beck’s radio show, the invites to do adverts and spoof films, but he makes his living at corporate activities, change suggests and private parties. He’s the guy executives rent to hold middle control amused at national income meetings or to offer a bit excited at the launch birthday celebration of a flu-reduction medicinal drug. He’s the booth decoration that receives passersby inquisitive about your carpet agency. He is the entertainment. He can do Guy Fieri and Jay Leno and Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, however for the last decade his trademark influence has been Trump. At the peak of the 2016 marketing campaign, that one impact earned him as lots as $forty,000 a month.
Whenever Di Domenico appears in public in dress, humans flip and gawk. They pull out their phones to take video, or they snicker spontaneously. “Oh my God,” they are saying. Or, breathlessly, “Donald!”
One afternoon in March, exiting a New York hotel, the sight of Di Domenico-as-Trump sent the front desk manager into a healthy of giggles that verged on a panic assault. “Oh my god,” the man stored saying, seeking to capture his breath. “No way.” Faux Trump squinted, aimed a presidential finger within the guy’s course, and agreed to a selfie.
In the picture, Di Domenico has his chest and intestine thrown out, as though he’s main from the widest factor of his red sateen tie. The wig crests low over his brow. He’s flashing a presidential thumbs-up with one hand, his head is cocked to one aspect so his eyes squint erratically, and his mouth has that protruded, half of open look of an aggravated orangutan. It’s all accurate.
Di Domenico exceeded the person his enterprise card, with info on the way to locate him on social media. “Tag me,” he said, “You’re fantastic.” And left.
Two university-aged guys putting round stared after him, vaguely stricken. “It’s virtually true,” stated one. His pal nodded and appeared across the foyer, probably for Secret Service marketers, or a hidden digital camera group. “What the fuck is going on?”
As a professional impersonator, Di Domenico makes his living in an America where, because the historian Daniel J Boorstin wrote in 1962, “Fable is extra actual than fact”. We have become, he wrote, the “first humans in history to were capable of making their illusions so vibrant, so persuasive, so ‘sensible’ that [we] can stay in them”. By the time Trump started to appear on the front pages of New York City tabloids within the late Nineteen Eighties, politics, religion, information, athletics, schooling, and commerce has been “transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business,” as the cultural theorist Neil Postman famously wrote in 1984. Under this new dispensation, celebrities emerged because of the unpredictable “actual-life” stars of an in no way-ending display unfolding in real time. Thirty years later, Americans stay so forced through the energy of superstar to make lifestyles sense enjoyable and meaningful that we’re pleased by the mere facsimile of a well-known person, as long as he conveys a hint of the identical magic.
When Trump declared his candidacy, he became himself into the most seen celeb within the world, and Di Domenico’s career exploded. By Di Domenico’s estimation, height demand for Trump impressions came for the duration of the election cycle, whilst Trump’s political aspirations could nonetheless be seen as a shaggy dog story that hadn’t but arrived at the punchline. Di Domenico worked every day for greater than a year. He turned into soon joined by way of a cadre of different Donalds: the comedian Anthony Atamanuik, whose work Di Domenico admires (“Trump is all identification. Anthony’s Trump is the identity on steroids,”); the prolific impressionist Frank Caliendo; Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon; and, of direction, Alec 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley on Saturday Night Live. Di Domenico, although, has been doing this for thirteen years – longer than every other foremost Trump impersonator – which no longer simplest lends him a chunk of godfatherly cred, but also gives his affect singular nuance.
The dating among the impersonator and the impersonated is a weird form of intimacy. Apart from its lopsidedness, the connection is sort of spousal, marked through the closeness that comes from residing with someone every day for years and years, memorizing their gestures, assimilating their speech patterns. There are admiration and infection, conjecture about the other’s intentions and internal lifestyles struggles to maintain a separate identity and the feel of ownership that comes from believing you know a person higher than absolutely everyone else. It’s a parasitic homage.