Mariah Carey impersonator says pandemic killed bookings

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Jessie’s impersonator business has been badly hit by Covid (PA Real Life/Collect)

The pandemic hit the entertainment industry hard. 

From concerts to plays, it hasn’t been easy. 

And for impersonators, the road back to staging spectacles has been winding. 

One Mariah Carey lookalike could make more than £1,500 an hour impersonating the star before the pandemic, but says Covid has killed bookings. 

She added: ‘All I want for Christmas is parties!’

However, with the determination of a diva, former military policewoman Jessie Castro, 40, is taking matters into her own hands by producing an entire Mariah Carey Christmas show. 

The mum of one from Orlando, Florida says: ‘People are booking me for a few weeks ahead now, but I still don’t think that by this Christmas it’s going to be like it was before.

‘Mariah’s all about Christmas, but I don’t think people are ready to spend all that money on parties, when they can’t be sure how many people are going to turn up.

‘I love doing Mariah at Christmas, so it would be perfect, but Covid came along and killed it dead.

Jessie as Mariah at Christmas (Picture: PA Real Life/Collect)

‘But the dream is to pick this up again and hopefully put my plan for a Mariah Christmas show into action for next year.

‘Seeing people’s faces when I come out and sing Mariah as part of the festive celebrations would be a really nice Christmas present for me.’

Plans for the extravaganza were being made pre-pandemic when Jessie teamed up with a friend in showbiz marketing. 

Meanwhile, through her day job as an university administrator specialising in entertainment degree courses, she gained a ‘behind the scenes insight’ into how things work. 

It seems the show is destined to be a hit. Jessie’s YouTube channel holds more than 4,000 fans eager to witness her lip-syncing talent once more. 

A devout Mariah fan, Jessie recognised her likeness to the star and saw a business opportunity. 

But, while her performances before Covid were extremely lucrative, she says she is ‘not a natural performer’ and her Mariah work was only ever a ‘side hustle’ to her main job. 

Charging around £1,500 for an hour-long gig, Jessie was performing every three months, with two shows a week at Christmas. This number of performances could see her make £16,000 a year. 

Jessie says she emulates a younger Mariah (Picture: PA Real Life/Collect)

Luckily, salary rises in her day job meant less worries when bookings eased. 

‘Growing up, I was a humungous Mariah fan,’ she says. 

‘I loved her and would lip sync and dance around in my bedroom, recording myself singing to her songs.

‘I loved all Mariah’s old songs. Everyone wanted to be Mariah. She was like a little girl’s dream, especially when the song Honey came out – it was super popular.

‘I remember dancing to that and trying to do my own music videos with my friends using my mum’s camera and lip-syncing to the music.

‘In my late teens, I kept hearing that I looked like her, because she was a brunette and so was I. Then she went blonde and when I did too, it all started up again. People would do a double take when they saw me at the grocery store!’

While hard work has led Jessie to where she is, luck was involved too. 

Following a video call with the world number one Madonna impersonator, Chris America, she was catapulted into the spotlight. 

‘I had met Chris America over video call and she became kind of a mentor to me,’ she recalls. ‘She was amazing. She is a star amongst lookalikes.

‘There are a million Elvis and Marilyn Monroe impersonators out there, but there were not many Mariahs. So, without any real competition, I became the world’s top Mariah. I have to thank Chris for that.

‘When I left the military in 2014, I went to work in administration at Full Sail University and it ignited my interest in showbiz. I dyed my hair blonde and started making lip-syncing videos on YouTube, trying to mimic Mariah.

She has been a fan of Mariah all her life (PA Real Life/Collect)

‘They proved really popular and the first one had tens of thousands of hits within a month.’

Within two months of posting her first video in June 2014, Jessie was flown out to Los Angeles, California, to appear in a video with YouTuber and American Idol star Todrick Hall.

A parody of the film Chicago’s Cell Block Tango, it featured lookalikes for megastars including Rhianna and Nicki Minaj and received millions of views.

After that, opportunities landed on Jessie’s lap and she soon was hired for various corporate events and birthday parties, with Christmas being a particularly popular time. 

While she emulates Mariah in many ways, Jessie feels she represents an earlier version of the star.

‘I think I resemble the younger version of her nowadays,’ she explains. 

‘I use hair pieces and put the mole on and I do the makeup like she does. But I don’t dress like her unless I’m working, as I don’t want to be recognised.

‘Although, one day I was in Walmart and a man started singing this little tune and asking, “What’s up Mariah Carey?”

Surprisingly, Jessie does not want to meet her idol in the flesh.

‘I’m not sure she would take kindly to being impersonated,” she says. ‘I came to this as a fan first and if meeting her wasn’t a positive experience it would taint it for me.’

For Jessie, keeping Mariah on a pedestal is important.

‘I have admired her since I was a teenager and I always want it to stay that way,’ she notes. 

‘Now all I want for Christmas is some parties, so I can celebrate her with my very own festive tribute again!’

Follow Jessie on Instagram @mariahlookalike

Do you have a story to share?

Send us an email at metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk


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