(Time) These Professional Lookalikes Make Thousands of Dollars Just by Resembling the Royal Family
Caroline Praderio/INSIDER May 06, 2017
For years, Heidi Agan worked as a waitress at an Italian restaurant chain in the UK, making around $10 an hour to support her two young kids.
Then — right around the time that Britain’s Prince William announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton — her customers started to comment on her resemblance to the future queen. Some even asked to take photos with her. People told her she ought to get into the lookalike business to make appearances at parties and corporate events. But Again brushed off such entreaties at first.
“I just did not believe that you could make a living,” Again, now 37, told INSIDER. “It was something that just sounded really bizarre to me.”
Eventually she relented and sent professional head shots to a talent agency for lookalikes. Four days later, she got her first job. Two months later, she was getting enough work to quit waitressing altogether.
Agan had stumbled hard and fast into the fascinating, lucrative world of lookalikes — a world that seems almost unbelievable to those on the outside.
People love the British royal family. They line the streets to sneak a glimpse of Will and Kate and give flowers to the queen at every one of her public appearances. But do people love the royals enough to hire out lookalikes — and for prices as high as hundreds of dollars an hour?
They do. Real people really do make money because of their resemblance to the royal family and other celebrities. For some, it’s a full-time career.
INSIDER spoke with Agan and two other royal family lookalikes to learn more about the ups and downs of the job —from bizarre gigs to harsh criticism to celebrity encounters. Here’s a deeper look at their line of work.
Lookalikes do everything from TV commercials to weddings to theater.
In the United States, Agan explained, lookalikes just aren’t popular — Americans are more keen on musical tribute acts. But in Europe, China, and Australia, business is booming, and lookalikes are hired for just about any gig you could dream up.
Queen Elizabeth lookalike Patricia Ford, 82, has worked in the industry for more than a decade now. (She was “an ordinary married lady doing a secretarial job” beforehand.) On Ford’s website, she keeps a diary-style list of her appearances, with short but evocative entries like, “To be mobbed by youngsters at a nightclub in Hereford was quite an experience.”
In 2008, she was commissioned by the Jonas Brothers to make a handful of comedic sketches. She recalled these gigs with particular fondness.
“I made several videos with them over a year or so and they were such nice lads, with sensible parents, who always traveled with them,” she told INSIDER.
Simon Watkinson, 35, a Prince William lookalike, also boasts a diverse resume. Though he still holds a full-time job as a civil engineer, he’s done more 300 appearances as Prince William.
“Just before the royal wedding was my busiest time,” Watkinson told INSIDER.”Sometimes I would do a photo shoot at 4 a.m. or breakfast TV appearance before my day job, do interviews on my lunch break, and then make an appearance at a party in the evening after work. Luckily I could wear the same suit to both jobs and I’d simply throw on a tie to get into character.”
In one memorable appearance, he and a Kate Middleton lookalike rode a carriage through London just a few days before William’s real wedding, causing a media frenzy. In another, he and a Kate Middleton lookalike were hired to mime an opera while sitting in a bathtub in a theatrical production.
“There have been some gigs I have had to turn down,” Watkinson added, ” including underwear modeling, private one-on-one appearances at people’s birthday parties […] and the offer to star in a porn movie.”
They’re compensated handsomely for their performances.
Fees vary wildly based on the particulars of each job, but for the most part, being a lookalike pays well.
Ford charges roughly $780 (at current conversion rates) for a three-hour event. Watkinson said he’ll make $650 to $1,300 for a standard corporate event or party and up to $13,000 for a TV commercial, though these big ticket jobs are less common. He also does some appearances for free when working with charities.
Agan declined to mention specific figures, but she did say that being a lookalike has allowed her create her own work schedule — a freedom that’s plenty valuable in and of itself.