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Obama lookalike in demand for inauguration season

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 00:17

Chantilly (US): The lanky man has the security detail, the prominent ears and the US flag pin, but substitute teacher Larry Graves is no Barack Obama. He`s a professional lookalike for the president.
They have something else in common, too: a frantic schedule leading up to the inauguration.

"It`s definitely a busy time," Graves said in an interview. "Between the campaign season and the inauguration, it`s been prime time. Barack Obama is a respectable guy. People want to have him at their parties."

Recent weeks have seen a flurry of events for Graves, from corporate gatherings to special appearances and photo-ops.

In a Marriot hotel in Chantilly, Va., a security detail with earpieces worked the crowded rotunda, hotel guards whispering into their sleeves. Necks craned, and there were gasps as Graves emerged through the door.

"Whoa. That`s not ... Is it? Obama?" someone asked. A smattering of cheers, a few boos, and a fusillade of camera flashes greeted him.

"Are you fired up?" Graves shouted in mock-Obama voice. He worked the crowd, flanked by two other actors dressed as Secret Service members, shaking hands and posing for cellphone pictures.

It`s been a busy four years for the Montgomery Village, Md., resident, who realized during the 2008 primary campaign he had a peculiar resemblance to the Illinois senator who was running against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. He submitted a photo to a management company called Cast of Thousands and has since been augmenting his income as a substitute art teacher by appearing as Obama.

Graves` preparation goes beyond a physical resemblance and a nice suit decorated with the flag pin. He adds makeup, darkens his eyebrows and lips, adds a prosthetic mole to the side of his nose and even dusts a little white paint into his hair.

"I find people want to believe, and so they go along with it. And there are other people who want to judge and say, `Oh, he`s not Barack.`”

Graves stresses he`s not an Obama impersonator but strictly a lookalike, though he tries his best to mimic the president`s manner and speech.

"That voice, that voice -- Barack has a very distinctive voice. He has a very loud voice, a very distinctive vocal pattern, and I have to really think about conserving and using (it)."

Not all events go smoothly for the faux-Obama.

Graves once travelled to Hong Kong to film a commercial for Kentucky Fried Chicken. In the ad, "Obama" delivered a speech when an enormous sandwich landed on his head. It was later deemed controversial and pulled off the air, according to Graves` manager, Jan Kearney.


First Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 00:17
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