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Impersonators of Kim Jong-un (Howard X) and Donald Trump (Dennis Alan) during the 2018 North Korea–United States Singapore Summit
Patrick Knight as Boy George
An impersonator of George Michael
Theodore Roosevelt impersonator Joe Wiegand performs October 27, 2008 in the East Room of the White House, during a celebration of Roosevelt's 150th birthday.

An impersonator is someone who imitates or copies the behavior or actions of another.[1] There are many reasons for impersonating someone:

  • Living history: After close study of some historical figure, a performer may dress and speak "as" that person for an audience. Such historical interpretation may be a scripted dramatic performance like Mark Twain Tonight! or an unscripted interaction while staying in character.[2]

Celebrity impersonators[edit]

A Michael Jackson impersonator for the 25th anniversary of the album Thriller at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival with performers from Step It Up and Dance.
A Madonna wannabe, an impersonator of Madonna's 1980s looks and fashion style.

Celebrity impersonators are impostors who look similar to celebrities and dress in such a way as to imitate them. Impersonators are known as sound-alikes, look-alikes, impressionists, imitators tribute artists and wannabees. The interest may have originated with the need or desire to see a celebrity who has died.[citation needed] One of the most prominent examples of this phenomenon is the case of Elvis Presley. Edward Moss has appeared in movies and sitcoms, impersonating Michael Jackson.[3][4] Tom Jones has attracted his share of impersonators from different places around the world. From the United States, to South East Asia, to the UK, there are performers who either sound like him or imitate his act.[5][6][7][8]

Criminal impersonation[edit]

In England and Wales, the Poor Law Amendment Act 1851, section 3, made it an offence to impersonate a "person entitled to vote" at an election. In the case of Whiteley v Chappell (1868), the literal rule of statutory interpretation was employed to find that a dead person was not a "person entitled to vote" and consequently a person accused of this offence was acquitted.[9]

Although in a Colorado case, an immigrant was charged with "criminal impersonation" for using another person's Social Security number when signing up for a job,[citation needed] some courts have ruled that supplying this wrong information may not be criminal.[10] The ruling hinges on whether there was harm to the other person.[citation needed]

Impersonation using Deepfake[edit]

Audio deepfakes have been used as part of social engineering scams, fooling people into thinking they are receiving instructions from a trusted individual.[11] In 2019, a U.K.-based energy firm's CEO was scammed over the phone when he was ordered to transfer €220,000 into a Hungarian bank account by an individual who used audio deepfake technology to impersonate the voice of the firm's parent company's chief executive.[12]

As of 2023, the combination advances in deepfake technology, which could clone an individual's voice from a recording of a few seconds to a minute, and new text generation tools, enabled automated impersonation scams, targeting victims using a convincing digital clone of a friend or relative.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Impersonator". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  2. ^ "Town of the Living Dead". LA Review of Books. October 15, 2013. Retrieved December 17, 2023. He is a Ralph Waldo Emerson reenactor. This man gets paid to dress like, act like, and speak like Ralph Waldo Emerson. He's 63 years old and wears a black frock coat...'I use the term 'historic interpreter' or 'living historian.' But when people say 'impersonator,' that doesn't bother me.'
  3. ^ Baker, Bob (March 3, 2005). "King of Pop impersonator star of E! trial re-enactment". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on July 9, 2009.
  4. ^ John, Alex. "Damn Salvatore Rule". Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  5. ^ "Column: Golden Knights give Vegas a real sense of community". Los Angeles Times. 2018-04-12. Retrieved 2024-03-19.
  6. ^ Billboard, May 9, 1998 - Page 60 Newsmakers, Now The Real Thing.
  7. ^ MICHAEL, STUART. "Warren makes time for grandson". The Star. Retrieved 2024-03-19.
  8. ^ "Stars shine for Sam Sorono at hospice fundraiser - VIDEO - The Star". 2018-04-19. Archived from the original on 2018-04-19.
  9. ^ The Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission, The Interpretation of Statutes, footnote 66, page 18, published 9 June 1969, accessed 17 December 2022
  10. ^ "Using false S.S. number not impersonation". UPI. October 28, 2010.
  11. ^ Statt, Nick (5 Sep 2019). "Thieves are now using AI deepfakes to trick companies into sending them money". Archived from the original on 15 September 2019. Retrieved 13 Sep 2019.
  12. ^ Damiani, Jesse. "A Voice Deepfake Was Used To Scam A CEO Out Of $243,000". Forbes. Archived from the original on 14 September 2019. Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  13. ^ Schwartz, Christopher; Wright, Matthew (17 March 2023). "Voice deepfakes are calling – here's what they are and how to avoid getting scammed". The Conversation.