Impersonating an Impersonator
Maren Wade’s Confessions of a Showgirl: Impersonating and Impersonator
In Vegas, there’s a first for everything. I remember being a little girl, jumping on my bed and singing Madonna songs at the top of my lungs. I wanted to be just like her. In fact, I wanted to be her.
Fast-forward just a few years later (notice I said just a few, to be clear), I was going to be Madonna! Okay, I have a confession to make: It was more than a few years but I was really going to be Madonna! It was for a corporate event that needed a Madonna impersonator but couldn’t find one, so they asked me to do it!
I couldn’t wait to be Madonna. I was back to dancing to her music in my living room and watching all my old Madonna videos. I realized pretty quickly it’s challenging enough trying to impersonate someone, let alone the Queen of Pop. I can sing and dance, but could I do it all at the same time while making it look like Madonna instead of like … me?
It wasn’t until well into rehearsals that I realized I was on a bill with some of the best impersonators in town. I was in way over my head. Donna Summer, Michael Jackson and Britney Spears would watch me rehearse and I suddenly felt self-conscious and completely inadequate.
Some of these impersonators had been honing their craft for almost 20 years and they even looked like the subjects they were impersonating. Here I came strolling in, looking nothing like Madonna, sounding nothing like Madonna. I bet they were all wondering, “What’s up with that Madonna?”
I felt like such a fraud. It was bad enough I wasn’t the real Madonna, but to not even be a real Madonna impersonator? I was ashamed. I was an impersonator of an impersonator! I felt like the “special” Madonna. The kind of Madonna no one wants to sit at the table with at an impersonator luncheon.
By the way, do they have those? If so, I’ve never been invited.
Anyway, I had to convince myself that I could do this. I could be Madonna. I went over all the music. It’s funny, you would think you know all the lyrics to Madonna songs after hearing them all your life. I was surprised to learn that my lyrics were wrong. You’re telling me the lyrics to “Vogue” don’t go: “Come on Vogue, let your body go with the flow, you know you can do it … Greta Garbo and Monroe, hmmm hmmm and hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm?”
The time had finally come to be Madonna. I had a full hair and make up team (like Madonna) to get me ready for the performance. The crowd was roaring, all 5,000 of them. This was a huge event! They introduce Madonna. I got so excited!!! OMG Madonna is here?! Oh wait, that’s me!
I danced out onto the stage. I could see it in their faces. They were thinking, “That girl doesn’t look like Madonna.” But they were cheering, so I was still in the game.
I’m going strong! I’m singing. I’m dancing. I’m running out of breath! I need to stop dancing so I can sing, but if I stop dancing I won’t know what to do! Madonna always dances. She never stands still. What would Madonna do?!
I had a mild panic attack. While trying to figure out what Madonna would do, I quickly discovered what Madonna wouldn’t do. She wouldn’t forget the words to her own song. Which is what I did.
My mild panic attack turned into a big one as I searched deep within myself to find the lyrics. What did I do, you ask? Well, I did what every singer does when they forget the words: I asked the audience to sing it for me. Lucky for me, the diehard Madonna fans got me back on track and I was able to finish the performance. But not without forgetting the words a few more times to make me feel extra humiliated and unworthy of being Madonna.
I think it’s safe to say, my career as an impersonator of an impersonator isn’t going to blossom anytime soon.
Follow Maren Wade on Twitter @marenwade