Chinese President Barack Obama Lookalike Xiao Jiguo Charges $1,500 Per Show

by Ed Flanagan /  / Updated 

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BEIJING — For the right price in China, you can have the leader of the free world attend your private event.

Just don't expect to understand everything he's saying.

Image: Xiao Jiguo
Xiao Jiguo charges around $1,500 for a 10-minute performance.Xiao Jiguo

Xiao Jiguo has spent the last several years making a living as a professional impersonator — using his resemblance to President Barack Obama to entertain at company openings, corporate parties and private functions.

The 29-year-old says he was first compared to Obama after the 2008 election.

"One day I cut my hair due to the hot weather and one of my colleagues who followed all the Obama stories at the time said to me, 'You look like Obama so much!'" Xiao told NBC News. "I didn’t even know who Obama was at the time!"

Soon after, colleagues started to call him "Obama."

Though he may share the look, the Sichuan native does not share Obama's flare for English speeches.

"I don’t speak English very well so I speak in fake English,” Xiao said. "It sounds like English to those who don’t speak English, but it's not English … even I don’t know don't know what I was saying!"

Asked to give a recite a few lines from his routine, Xiao began: "Hello, I am President Obama," before trailing off into gibberish. Xiao gets around the language barrier by having an assistant translate his speech into Chinese.

For a short speech in gibberish and then a few Chinese songs — his performances usually last around 10 minutes — Xiao is paid 10,000 yuan (around $1,500) per appearance.

While some may disagree about the likeness, Xiao claims people at events and on the street often tell him his facial features perfectly match the 44th U.S. president.

It was this encouragement that eventually led to his appearance on the country's television talent show, "Chinese Dream Show" in 2012, after which he found some online notoriety.

Image: Xiao Jiguo
Xiao Jiguo is a former security guard.Xiao Jiguo

That exposure allowed Xiao to realize his life-long dream of becoming an actor. He was recently cast as a low-level gangster in a Chinese-language comedy called "Funny Fellows," which is set to be released next year.

In the film, Xiao says his likeness to Obama is used to great comedic effect.

"In the movie I play a gangster where I sometimes talked like Obama," said Xiao, "For example I start my part by saying, 'Ladies and gentleman,' like Obama, when I try to educate people about not being violent."

Xiao’s new role as an entertainer is a far cry from his humble beginnings. Before taking to the silver screen, he was a security guard for almost a decade at a local factory.

When asked what he would say to Obama if he their paths crossed, Xiao's answer was simple.

"If one day I could have the chance to meet President Obama, I would say thanks so much to him," he said. "I think there is some bond between us as we share the same blood type and our birthdays are close."

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