Candice Breitz's multi-screen video work, King (A Portrait of Michael Jackson) features sixteen Michael Jackson fans performing their interpretation of MJ to the entire Thriller album. Breitz’s work looks at interpretation and influence of pop-culture on our identity.
When we heard that the world’s number one Michael Jackson tribute performer, Navi, was coming to Wellington we wanted to ask a few questions about his amazing career, which saw him working alongside MJ for many years.
Navi's career highlight came in 2003 when he was invited to perform at Michael Jackson's 45th birthday party in Los Angeles. Michael not only applauded Navi but went on to give him a standing ovation and a thumbs up.
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Trinidad in the Caribbean. We moved to London when I was seven, around the time that Michael dominated the music scene with his Thriller album. My influences were Jackson, Marley, Elvis and a little Axl Rose (Guns & Roses).
2. When did you first see Michael Jackson perform?
I remember being mesmerised by Michael's performance on Motown 25. It was the first time that Michael did the moonwalk on live television. From that moment on I wanted to have a performance that people would admire so I kept working at it.
I never imagined I would end up working for him, or even meet him. He was so larger than life that he seemed untouchable.
Then I was given the chance to open for The Drifters (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), which was amazing. One thing led to another. I opened the Virgin Megastores across Europe and then ended up working for MJ as a decoy and promotion of album/concerts.
3. How did you teach yourself to interpret Michael Jackson?
It took A LOT of time, and dedication. When you love something it doesn’t seem so bad the time spent, but it has well been worth the dedication. I spent years running the street at night to keep fit and dancing in my parent's kitchen night after night. Learning to do make up and get into character. I never had make-up, dance or singing classes. I feel that we all have natural ability, classes help but you should never rely just on them. You have a natural ability to achieve something.
4. You worked alongside Michael Jackson for a number of years. What are some highlights?
It’s been approx nineteen years working in association with MJ. There have been so many highlights and some low times. I have to say being requested at his birthday parties in New York and Los Angeles was special. So was the time he invited me to Neverland (his home).
But a special time for me was when I stood outside the courthouse dressed as MJ holding up a sign saying ‘Smooth but NOT a criminal’ . MJ passed in his car into court and gave me the thumbs up. He knew I was loyal but more importantly believed in him and his innocence.
5. How many hours a week are you MJ? And do you switch entirely between Navi and the persona of MJ?
It difficult to say, I have my own personality but part of my persona is MJ related. I’ve been portraying him for so long I naturally have some similarities. I do however have my own style and character when around close friends and family.
6. Have there been any effects on your own person, any traits or mannerisms developed, that you can identify as a result of ‘being Michael Jackson’?
Yes definitely. But I guess a lot of it was originally me anyway. MJ and I have similarities and that’s why it worked so well portraying him.
7. You’ve travelled the world with, and as, MJ. What are some of the most memorable times with fans?
Too many to list, but I was just saying yesterday about the time I was at Madison Square Gardens dressed as MJ at his concert and the main spotlight came on me and the whole crowd started cheering believing I was him. I was rushed and people kept handing me gifts. Security had to take me out the back.
8. You are performing on Saturday 9 May in Wellington. What experience do you hope the audience takes away?
I cannot wait to visit this beautiful country. I've heard so much about New Zealand and was even more excited about the trip when they included Wellington in the tour.
I hope to share the magic and memory of MJ with the audience. I don’t believe that the audience is there because of me, but only that we are all there to celebrate Michael. I will perform a series of classic hits such as Billie Jean, Thriller, Beat It, Man in the mirror etc but also some well known Jackson Five hits such as I want you back, ABC, Can you feel it.
It will be an evening of celebrating the Greatest Entertainer Of All Time – MICHAEL JACKSON.
Olivia Lacey, Publiciist
The King of Pop, The Legend Continues takes place on Saturday 9 May, Opera House, Wellington