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Celebrity satirist Alison Jackson: “I hide behind plant pots when celebrities see me at parties”

Image: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Alison Jackson

In a world of Fake News, it has never been more important to tell the truth. The increasingly blurred lines between truth and fiction inspires the work of provocative artist Alison Jackson, who creates fake images of celebrities so convincing (and, depending on your viewpoint, so hilarious) they have been commissioned by the likes of Elton John, and at the receiving end of multiple awards. Her shocking imagery feels so disturbingly real, Jackson has had to keep her distance from some A-Listers she’s satirised for fear of backlash.

Her lifelike images often display likely scenarios - Kim Kardashian flaunting, Trump partying - but within each image lurks a darkness, a ballsy critique about these often most desired people on earth. Jackson’s photography disarmingly exposes celebrities with blatant disregard for social norms.

“I try to avoid the celebrities just in case,” Alison told Run-Riot ahead of her upcoming live show, Shot to fame which runs at the Leicester Square Theatre for three nights in March.

“I hide behind the plant when I see celebrities at parties. One celebrity, who I won’t name, got so angry and hit the wall where his photograph was hanging, and it fell and broke – I sent him the bill”.

Despite the sensational storytelling, there’s only been the odd hoo-ha. “Most of the celebrities think it’s fun,” she says - although having fun, it becomes clear, isn’t Jackson’s driving intention. “My work helps explore why we are so absorbed and obsessed by celebrities and public figures. We can’t tell what’s real or fake any more, it’s a dangerous position. Truth is dead. Incidentally that’s the title of my next Gallery Exhibition.”

Image: Alison with her contribution to the Cure 3 exhibition. She made a cube featuring the Queen and Elton John, with proceeds from the exhibition going to The Cure Parkinson's Trust.

The talk of Fake News is nothing new but Jackson’s art is - it feels overwhelmingly fresh. Working across two disciplines, film and photography, Jackson’s work is diverse, oscillating between social media-style images of, say, a pregnant Meghan, Duchess of Sussex in bed surrounded by junk food, and more granular, paparazzi-modelled frames of Trump at a distance, flanked by strippers and Champagne. For each celebrity, Jackson employs a different styling tactic, to bring these people we read about but rarely meet or properly get to know to life with her “crack-team of hair, make-up, prosthetics, lighting and camera assistants”.

When directing a photo or film shoot, Jackson instructs her models to adopt the name and persona of the celebrity they're portraying. “It becomes a confused chaos of identity crisis – you really can’t tell what’s real and fake anymore on set. Everyone gets confused: the lookalikes become divas in 30 seconds once they look like the real star.”

Jackson describes the live show as “anecdotes from behind the scenes of my ‘celebrity’ films and photographs. What it’s like working with lookalikes, then the second half is live transformations on stage and amazing lookalikes come on stage for a live photo shoot, including ‘President Trump’, the ‘Queen’, her corgis and Meghan Markle.”


Audience interaction is a seminal part of the show. So much so, guests will be plucked out of the audience and actually dressed and made up into celebrity subjects to grace the stage. “It’s great fun, rather manic, and culminates in a naughty photoshoot,” she says.

Though it is clearly not naughty enough. Jackson has her eyes on dropping more mischief in 2019. Who’s in the firing line next? “I like the conflict with our two new Duchesses, Meghan and Kate,” she snarled. One cringes at the thought.

Alison Jackson

Alison Jackson: Shot To Fame
5-7 March 2019
Leicester Square Theatre
Tickets and info: leicestersquaretheatre.com

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