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KM

Katherine Meizel

Katherine Meizel is an Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Bowling Green State University. She has published in Slate.com, Popular Music & Society, and other journals and collections. Her book Idolized: Music, Media, and Identity in American Idol (Indiana University Press) was released in 2011.

 

Abstract:

"Size Matters: 'Mini-Popstars' and New Dimensions of Celebrity Impersonation"

Las Vegas has long been a national hub of impersonator culture, from its abundance of be-jewelled and be-jumpsuited Elvii to its dozens of drag venues, to the perennial pop impressionists of the long-running show American Superstars. Theatrical transvestism in Vegas has performed and celebrated many permutations of difference (a black Elvis, a male Barbra), at once underlining and undermining the fluidity of identity. In 2007, a new production at the revamped Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino bore many similarities to the typical entertainments there—sequins and wigs, lip synching and vocal impressions—but its cast of Little People playing the roles of average-sized celebrities further complicated the dynamics of identity on the Vegas stage. Actress Terra Jolé, who introduced audiences to “Mini-Britney,” was the only Little Legends performer to sing live, and has gone on more recently to present personas such as “Mini-Katy” and “Mini-Lady Gaga” in her own company of “Mini-Popstars.”

Today, in the wake of the controversial Austin Powers “Mini Me” craze, and as Florida debates a bill to re-legalize barroom “dwarf-tossing,” Ms. Jolé’s still-rising career revisits and challenges persistent discourses of disability regarding agency and sexuality, and establishes new dimensions of diva-dom. This paper investigates the experience of “Mini” impersonators, and their place in the intricate system of authentic inauthenticity that characterizes the city of Las Vegas.