‘Why you so obsessed with me?’ Mariah Carey lookalike reveals she earns $2,000 an HOUR lip-syncing at gigs – and says the singer’s fans helped her perfect her act
- Jessie Castro, 39, of Orlando, Florida, first started impersonating Mariah in 2015
- At Christmas she will perform Mariah’s classic All I Want For Christmas Is You
- Performing work is just a ‘side hustle’ to her day job as a college administrator
An ex-military policewoman is raking in more than $2,000 an hour by impersonating her idol Mariah Carey at lip-sync gigs and in Youtube videos.
Now Jessie Castro, 39, of Orlando, Florida, is preparing for a full-on festive season, when she will come into her own lip-syncing to the singer’s Yuletide classic, All I Want For Christmas Is You.
And with superstar Mariah turning 50 this year and releasing a new book this month and album in October, lookalike Jessie is anticipating a lucrative few months ahead.
This is despite the fact that her performing work is just a ‘side hustle’ to her day job as a college administrator at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida.
She said: ‘I can’t say there’s an average amount I make each year because I can go for months without doing gigs, but it must be in excess of $20,000 (£15,640) annually, if I do a gig every three months and two a week at Christmas.’
Ex-military policewoman Jessie Castro (left), 39, from Orlando, Florida, is raking in more than £1,500 an hour by impersonating her idol Mariah Carey (right) at gigs and in Youtube lip-sync videos
Jessie bears a striking resemblance to the real Mariah, and has been mistaken for her in the street
It was after a video call with the world number one Madonna impersonator, Chris America, following a lookalike convention in 2015 that Jessie started to develop her career.
Jessie, who has a son, Arian, aged 12, had noticed a surge in people saying she looked like Mariah after album, Butterfly, went multi-platinum in 1997.
She said: ‘I had met Chris America over video call and she became kind of a mentor to me. She was amazing. She is a star among lookalikes.
‘She told me, “You need to charge what you’re worth.”
Now Jessie is preparing for a full-on festive season, when she will come into her own lip-syncing to the singer’s Yuletide classic, All I Want For Christmas Is You
‘And, while there are a million Elvis and Marilyn Monroe impersonators out there, there were not many Mariahs.
‘So, without any real competition, I became the world’s top Mariah. I have to thank Chris for showing me how to become the best.
‘I charge between $1,500 (£1,172) and $2,000 (£1,563) for an hour long gig.
‘It’s never been my main job, but it’s a great side hustle. I probably do a gig every three months or so.
‘I have to take time off from my full time job, so I need to make sure it’s worth it.’
As well as her gigs, Jessie has nearly 4,000 followers on Youtube and has appeared dressed as Mariah on the Wendy Williams show
With superstar Mariah turning 50 this year and releasing a new book this month and album in October, lookalike Jessie is anticipating a lucrative few months ahead. Pictured: Jessie filming scenes for a documentary about Mariah in London in 2018
Jessie’s performing work is just a ‘side hustle’ to her day job as a college administrator at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida
Recalling when, in the late 1990s, people first remarked on her resemblance to Mariah, Jessie – who lives with her boyfriend – said she was thrilled.
Jessie, who shares her pictures on her Instagram account, recalled: ‘I was in my late teens and early twenties and I’d get a lot of comments about how much I looked like her.
‘I loved all her old songs. I was a real fan back then. 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.
‘I was quite a shy kid, but I loved it when people said I looked like her. It felt really good.’
Jessie, who has a son, Arian, aged 12, had noticed a surge in people saying she looked like Mariah after album, Butterfly, went multi-platinum in 1997. Pictured: Jessie displays an award she received for her Mariah impersonations
Meanwhile, Jessie studied at film school and worked as a videographer at SeaWorld , before joining the military police in June 2010.
By then, Mariah had dyed her hair blonde and people stopped commenting on their likeness, as Jessie was a brunette.
She said: ‘When I left the military in 2014, I went to work in administration at a college specializing in entertainment degrees, which ignited my interest in showbiz.
‘I dyed my hair blonde and started making lip-syncing videos on YouTube, trying to mimic Mariah.
‘They proved really popular and the first one had tens of thousands of hits within a month.
‘Mariah’s fans were super supportive and gave me feedback and advice about what to do with my hands, telling me to open my mouth more. They helped me to mimic her properly.
Jessie has built up a profile as a lookalike and has been hired to appear at corporate events and birthday parties across the USA. Pictured: The mother-of-one at an event in Las Vegas
‘They’d tell me, ‘You should watch this video of her, It will help you’.
‘I was quite shy, but they encouraged me to be more confident and bring out more of the diva in me!’
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, called Cell Black Django, featuring lookalikes for megastars including Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, it has had more than eight million views.
Jessie said: ‘Todrick Hall called me and said, “I have this idea for a music video and I’d love to fly you out here so you can play Mariah.”
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. Pictured: Jessie as Mariah
Things ramp up for Jessie during the festive season, when people want to hear renditions of All I Want For Christmas Is You
I was like, “Holy cow!”, I had to actually act like I knew what I was doing.
‘Everyone was super nice and down to earth. I got to stay in a lovely hotel, and it was a really great experience.
‘It allowed me to build up a bit of momentum for my YouTube videos, too.
‘I started to get more traffic and would put up more videos of me lip-syncing and it went from there.’
Although not making an income from the YouTube videos, Jessie built up a profile as a lookalike and was hired to appear at corporate events and birthday parties across the USA.
But things would ramp up during the festive season, as people scrambled to hire a Mariah Carey impersonator, to perform All I want for Christmas Is You.
Jessie, who has never had any contact with the real Mariah, does not want to meet her idol in the flesh
‘I usually get two bookings a week throughout December, which is nice as it’s some extra money to spend on presents,’ said Jessie.
‘I have to admit I do get tired of All I want For Christmas. My favorite festive song of hers is Oh Santa. She’s got some great songs on her Christmas albums.
‘I always lip-sync. I did try singing live once and it was a disaster.
‘It’s not like you have to try and sound like a good singer, she is one of the best singers in the world with the most recognizable voice.
‘ I’m a good singer, but even a good singer cannot sing as well as her.
‘I was told by a lookalike friend that if you can’t sound exactly like her, you shouldn’t sing, as it ruins the illusion.
‘It’s better for the audience to hear her voice and see you there, so they get the feeling they are looking at Mariah and they have a great time.’
Jessie even stood in for the real Mariah – whose album The Rarities is released next month and whose book The Meaning of Mariah Carey is published this week – in a documentary filmed in London in September 2018, helping to recreate scenes from her life.
‘I flew to London for a “behind the scenes’ documentary,” she said.
‘It featured her brother and some people she worked with, so I was there to film some flashback visuals.
‘When I got that gig, I realised I’d reached a real moment in a lookalike’s career.
‘It’s what every lookalike dreams of and it doesn’t get any better.
Towards the end of the year, Jessie starts to practise in time for the Christmas season and has an agent who helps with her PR and booking gigs
‘You can’t get a better gig than actually playing that person in a documentary – it was the icing on the cake.’
But Jessie – who has never seen Mariah perform live – never goes out dressed like her idol, unless she is working.
‘I don’t want to be recognised if I’m not working. I’m not going to the shops dressed like her,’ she said.
‘I don’t really get recognised if I’m out as myself and if I haven’t got my make up on, although I was in a Walmart the other day and man started singing this little tune and asking, “What’s up Mariah Carey?”
‘As if Mariah Carey would be shopping in Walmart. It just made me laugh.’
Jessie wows viewers with her lookalike appearance and lip-syncing abilities
Jessie does not think that Mariah would appreciate her double act and thinks that if she had a negative experience when meeting her, it would ‘taint’ her feelings as a fan
But Jessie did once cause a storm when she went out deliberately impersonating her idol.
She said: ‘I went to the Downtown Disney store in Orlando with some friends pretending to be bodyguards and another pal shouted out, “Hey, there’s Mariah, can I have a picture?”
‘A whole crowd started to form around me. There were girls who really looked like they were going to cry.
‘They were all trying to take photos of me on their phone. They were so mesmerised that I felt bad, like I was a great deceiver!
‘That gave me a real insight into what it is like to be a celebrity. I would never want to be one. I know a lot of celebs love the limelight like that, but it’s not for me, personally.’
And Jessie, who has never had any contact with the real Mariah, does not want to meet her idol in the flesh.
‘I know some celebrities are really supportive of their lookalikes,’ she said.
‘I heard that Boy George sends his clothes for them to wear, but I don’t think Mariah would be like that.
Jessie, who has also modelled a high street version of Mariah’s wardrobe, says that impersonating the star has never given her diva ways
‘I’m not sure she would take kindly to being impersonated.
‘I don’t have a desire to meet her, because I came to this as a fan first and if it wasn’t a positive experience it would taint it for me.’
Towards the end of the year, Jessie starts to practise in time for the Christmas season and has an agent who helps with her PR and booking gigs.
‘I have to practice her songs,’ she said.
‘I like to lip-sync to the live versions, as it adds to the experience, so I have to learn all of the inflections, when she takes a breath and to memorise the words.
‘She has some awesome Christmas songs as well and I’d love to do more of that kind of stuff.’
Jessie, who has also modelled a high street version of Mariah’s wardrobe, says that impersonating the star has never given her diva ways.
‘It looks like a glamorous lifestyle, but it’s not really. I go and get the job done and then I go back to my ordinary life as a working mum,’ she said.
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