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The Chinese Obama

Photographer: Wu Hong

 

When Barack Obama leaves the White House on 20 January, one of the people most affected is surprisingly a continent away in China. Xiao Jiguo, a Chinese actor who became famous in his country due to his resemblance to the outgoing US president may face the close of an important chapter in his life.

 

Born in 1986 in Sichuan Province, Xiao Jiguo was working as a security guard in a factory in Guangzhou when he accidentally chanced upon a portrait of Obama and a colleague told him that he has a close resemblance to the 44th President of the United States.

 

Xiao saw an opening to fulfilling his dreams as a singer and quit his job in 2012 to move to Beijing to pursue his new career. He started participating in local entertainment shows and traveling the country in search of acting jobs.

 

However, times were tough and jobs were hard to come by. It was only in 2015 when he started using the social media platform Wechat to advertise himself when things began to change. Announcing himself as the "first Chinese Obama", he immediately attracted the attention of advertising agents, who invited him to lead an advertisement in Canton.

 

This led to more opportunities and performances and finally Xiao got his big break when an international media interviewed him on the occasion of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the United States. His fame shot up from there as more media interviewed him and he was given more roles in movies.

Now Xiao, who does not speak English but spouts an unintelligible 'fake English' language when he imitates Barack Obama, has a score of films to his credit and a good number of projects in sight.

 

While he intends to pursue a career in acting by further studies at the Beijing Academy of Film, uncertainties lie ahead for Xiao as Obama leaves the White House and Donald Trump takes over.