Every night Gustavo Hernández gets up on stage at the Aquario restaurant in the Playa Inglés resort, Gran Canaria, to impersonate his idol. When the show is over, members of the audience approach with tears in their eyes and remarks such as: “Michael lives on in you.”
The first time Paula Lendon, a 50-year- old British tourist, saw him in 2011, she couldn’t believe her eyes. “He’s returned!” she said at the time. Seven years later, it is her who has returned, with a front row seat to watch the 42-year- old local who has spent 25 years at this game. “I’ve seen a lot but he’s the best,” she says.
Paula’s excitement is totally understandable. Gus is exactly the same height and weight as Michael was before he died in 2009, and his facial features are practically identical.
Even his manager, Jaume Morgó, gets confused between his client and the real King of Pop when faced with photos. Gus’s grandmother, meanwhile, has also mistaken the star for her grandson on TV.
But it’s not just the physique, it’s also the dance moves and gestures. “When you watch Gus for 20 minutes, you end up thinking you’re watching Michael Jackson for real,” says Morgó. The impression is reinforced by the non-stop changes of wardrobe and interjections between songs made by the singer himself, such as “I love you!” and his signature “Aow!”
Gus is exactly the same height and weight as Michael was before he died in 2009, and his facial features are practically identical
Gus does not, however, dare to perform any of Michael Jackson’s songs as his voice is quite different. He even declined an offer to star in the musical Forever King of Pop that was staged in Madrid, as well as turning down the chance to do a season in Las Vegas. For now, he is sticking with his Monday-to-Friday slot in Gran Canaria, with weekends doing gigs on mainland Spain and in Europe.
Surrounded by Michael Jackson paraphernalia in the Las Palmas apartment he shares with his partner DJ Juan Carlos Santomé, Gus explains he has been passionate about music and dancing since the age of eight. His shelves are stacked with hundreds of Michael Jackson vinyls, CDs and DVDs in various languages, including Japanese.
Photos, concert tickets, paintings, dolls and even sand from Jackson’s former Neverland ranch are just some of the memorabilia he has accumulated over the years, either on trips, via the internet or donated by fans.
The first time Gus realized Michael Jackson would play a large role in his life was when he dressed up as the star for the Las Palmas carnival in 1993 and was stopped at every turn for photos. Subsequently, he was asked to perform in town fiestas, clubs and birthday parties across the island. But it wasn’t until Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, that he realized where his destiny lay. Though he had only seen the singer in the flesh once in a concert in Zaragoza in 1996, Gus felt as though he had lost a brother.
While he grieved he was also fielding calls from all over Spain asking him to perform. What began as a bit of a lark turned into a vocation, and he has been professionally impersonating the singer ever since.
Twenty-five years later, Gus’s Michael Jackson wardrobe consists of 180 shirts and jackets that are identical to those worn by the singer. Aside from one that cost him €500, all are run up by a seamstress. He also has a dozen wigs and 20 pairs of shoes.
In 2007, he starred on La Sexta’s reality show I Know What You Did Last Summer, which featured a number of Michael Jackson impersonators. Gus recalls being taken across the center of Madrid in a limo with tinted windows to shoot one of the sketches. A school bus pulled up beside him at a red light and he rolled down his window so the children could see him. Believing he was the real deal, they rocked the bus, hammering on the window.
Gus says that he has, on occasion, taken fright at the reaction of his followers. After a recent performance in Fuenlabrada, Madrid, an avalanche of fans descended on the stage to take photos and get autographs, shouting “Michael! Michael!” Gus’s partner Santomé couldn’t believe his eyes. “Don’t they realize it’s not Michael Jackson?” he wondered.
But, whether they realize or not, it doesn’t appear to detract from Gus’s popularity. He has just been voted by 30,000 Michael Jackson fans on the mjvibe.com site as the best Michael Jackson impersonator in Europe while also being recognized as the second best in the world. On Facebook alone, he has 10,000 followers.
Gus himself realizes that what he is doing goes beyond impersonation and believes he is more of a wizard than a dancer. A child offered him this vision after one of his shows when he tugged on his arm and said, “Hey Michael. Do you think next month they’ll let you leave heaven to come to my birthday party?”
English version by Heather Galloway.