June 2011
Photographs by: 
Bobby Altman

Michael Jackson tribute artist has been playing the ‘King of Pop’ for 11 years



Michael Jackson may arguably be the most well-known entertainer to have ever lived. And though not without controversy and an undeniable sadness, Jackson, especially after his death, is just as popular as ever. It’s no wonder tribute theaters, including Legends In Concert in Myrtle Beach, often will include a tribute artist portraying the man with the voice, the moves, the one glove, and the legendary status. This summer playing at Legends in Concert in Myrtle Beach, ladies and gentleman, Ice as Michael Jackson.

Q: Ice? That’s a stage name?
A: Ha, well my name is Isaiah Mercado, but I go by Ice.

Q: How long have you been a Michael Jackson tribute artist?
A: I’ve been doing this for 11 years. I started doing this in my church when I was around 11. I was doing the moonwalk before I knew what it was. I’m 25 [years old now]. I was born in Fayetteville, N.C., grew up in Gary, Ind., went to college in Chicago, and now I live in Las Vegas.

Q: You look remarkably like Michael Jackson.
A: When I put the makeup on, which takes about an hour and a half, I do resemble the [grown up] Michael Jackson. I often wear a scarf, hat and sunglasses because I get a lot of stares.

Q: You’ll be working in Myrtle Beach for a while?
A: Yeah, mid June to mid August. This will be my first time in Myrtle Beach. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve worked for Legends many times. I love them.

Q: If you had to guess, how many Michael Jackson impersonators are out there? Is it a handful? Dozens? Hundreds?
A: That’s a tricky question because any time someone passes, like with Elvis, people come out of the woodwork to make a few extra bucks. There might be thousands. But then you have people who have a genuine appreciation for what Michael Jackson did, and work to get the costumes, the moves, the makeup just right—they sing to get the vocals right. So if you’re asking about the people who do it well—less than a dozen.

Q: Legends’ policy is to not use lip-synching, and they require their artists to sing?
A: Yes. I started off as a singer, then learned the dancing, then the whole musician thing. I play five instruments. Everything is 100 percent live.

Q: Are there competitions for MJ tribute artists, in the same way Elvis artists compete?
A: Not that I know of. I don’t do it for the competitive value. … From my point of view it’s about me delivering an experience to help people remember. A lot of people never got to see Michael Jackson live—it’s about carrying that on.

– Paul Grimshaw