He’s cashing in on a viral hit — and not in the way you think.
A professional Will Smith lookalike from the UK claims that his popularity — and income — has nearly doubled following the Academy Award-winning actor’s notorious Oscars 2022 slap — with strangers even stopping him on the street to discuss the incident
“I get comments about it daily,” Shad Ellis, 43, told Jam Press of getting figuratively smacked into the spotlight. “I had a guy last week stop me to say how much I look like Will Smith. We spoke for a bit and he ended the conversation by jokingly saying ‘Don’t slap me.’ “
The Bedford, Bedfordshire native — who stresses that he “doesn’t condone violence” — has moonlighted as Smith’s doppelgänger for the last 25 years, performing at nightclubs, weddings and corporate events around the world. The part-time “Fresh Prince” imitator frequently uploads clips of his gigs to Instagram and TikTok.
However, since the infamous “Hitch” Slap — in which Smith, 53, smacked Oscars presenter Chris Rock onstage for making a bald joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia — his services have never been in greater demand.
Ellis didn’t disclose how exactly much cash he’s been raking in since the slap heard ’round the world — but he charges around $750 per gig. And the impersonator’s presumably gotta be doing ok seeing how his Smith-parroting side-hustle earned him enough to “drive nice cars” and buy his first house at 21.
Along with the boost to his bank account, Ellis has seen a spike in attention from bystanders, who are all too eager to ask him about the Best Smacktor incident.
“When I’m at my day job people always ask me about it and point it out to me,” the lookalike described.
However, Ellis says he doesn’t mind the quips as they’re “all in good humor.”
As for what he thought about the actual slap incident, Ellis says he can see “both sides” of the argument.
“I think we all as humans are capable of a flash point triggered by a raw emotion or feeling, and regardless of the situation, once you see red everything around you becomes blurred,” said Ellis. “I strongly disagree – he should [not] have slapped him, but how many of us do an action we immediately regret after doing it, driven by being caught in your feelings or the moment.”
While a near dead ringer for the Oscar Winner, Ellis has yet to meet Smith in the flesh — despite having the chance earlier this year.
“I was set to work with him earlier this year as his body double on a project, but while I was there filming, news came in that he had to reschedule his part in the shoot,” Ellis claimed. “That was a bit gutting.”
Not every impersonator’s beatdown benefits have been “secondhand.” In January, a “Bad”-ass Michael Jackson impersonator became an online sensation after epically whooping the butt of a belligerent man for “Starting Somethin’” in Las Vegas.