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Iman Crosson

Background information
Born March 27, 1982 (1982-03-27) (age 27)
Louisville, KY
United States
Occupations Actor, impressionist, dancer and singer
Years active 2005-present
Website youtube.com/Alphacat

Iman Crosson is an American actor, impressionist, dancer and singer known on various Internet websites under the pseudonym "Alphacat" and is best known for his impersonations of U.S. President Barack Obama, and for his use of the Internet to independently promote his own career.

Crosson's propensity for dancing, acting and comedy manifested as early as age 5, convincing his parents to enroll him in a school for the creative arts at age 12. Crosson showed intense interest in a broad range of performing arts.

Crosson found early work as an actor at an amusement park, a hip-hop dancer, and a runway model before entering college to major in dance, minor in acting. His experiences after being recruited into a dance company inspired him to move to New York City. There, Crosson worked as a waiter, finding occasional work as a dancer and actor. In 2005, he began promoting his talents on Internet websites, especially video sharing website YouTube, steadily garnering a respectable following. However, a career breakthrough remained elusive.

During the summer of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election campaign, Crosson won Denny's Restaurant's nationwide contest for the best impressionist of the then-candidate Barack Obama. Obama's election victory brought recognition for Crosson's comedy-, vocal-, musical-, and dance-laden video characterizations of a President during national crisis.

Within months of the election, Crosson was featured on numerous entertainment, culture, and news television shows, blogs and newspapers, earning a personal invitation to perform at Aretha Franklin's March 2009 birthday celebration. Crosson has engagements at corporate events, parts in national commercials, and voice-over parts on Newsweek.com's The District and on two prime time television shows in production in April 2009. He also spoke at the 66th Annual Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner, impersonating Barack Obama who was not personally present at the event.

Contents

Childhood and Education

Iman Crosson[1] was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the youngest of five children. From age 5, young Crosson showed aptitude for entertainment, especially acting, dance and comedy. Crosson's impersonations of childhood idol Jim Carrey and re-enactments of scenes from the In Living Color television series, convinced his parents to enroll the 12 year old in the School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. At SCPA, Crosson's broad creative interests encompassed acting, dance, musical theater, creative writing and percussion.

Professional career

The Early Days

After graduating from SCPA,[1] Crosson's first entertainment job was his portrayal of a self-created Romulan character at a Cincinnati amusement park. Crosson then landed gigs as a hip-hop dancer (The Nickelodeon Show) and a runway model (Essence magazine fashion show) before entering Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where he studied dance (ballet, jazz, modern, tap, African, hip-hop) with a minor in acting. The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company recruited Crosson into their student company. His experiences impelled the 20-year old to move from the Midwest to New York City.

Once in New York, Crosson practiced hip-hop dancing, performing on the set of MTV's Wannabe's show and during New York Rangers halftime shows. Crosson worked as a waiter while acting in student films and commercials. However, his lack of an agent limited his recognition, so Crosson took career promotion into his own hands.

Alphacat on the Internet

On December 14, 2005, the 23-year-old Crosson opened a YouTube account with screen name Alphacat. Crosson explained that "Alpha" means leader, "cat" being the slang expression for guy. Crosson later explained,[2] "The alpha part is about the fact that most guys are alpha males in their own right."

Crosson's self-produced YouTube videos ranged from comedic,[3] spoof,[4] and dance and physical comedy[5] to serious-issue discussion blogs,[6] Slice of life story renditions,[7] and autobiographical blogs.[8] His YouTube channel, whose videos originated from what he called "The Lion's Den," was at one time[9] subtitled "YouTube's most diverse channel."

In June, 2008, YouTube suspended Crosson's account in response to a copyright infringement claim from a foreign film production company. Crosson's counterclaim[10] caused YouTube to reinstate his account.

Crosson's channel steadily earned a respectable following, earning him an invitation to co-host an afterparty for YouTube's "7-7-7" Gathering[11] in New York.[12][13] However, a career breakthrough remained elusive. He had not earlier imagined where co-workers' remarks that he resembled Presidential candidate Barack Obama would lead him.

Breakthrough: From Denny's Breakfast to "I Can Do Whatever I Like"

During the summer of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election campaign, Crosson's 30-second video[14] won Denny's Restaurant's nationwide contest for the best impressionist of the then-candidate Barack Obama.[15] Feeling he needed more space to grow as an artist, Crosson moved from New York to Santa Barbara, California. He continued to post various Obama impersonation videos on YouTube.

A month before the election, a video[16] of Crosson spoofing Obama preparing for a campaign debate, was posted by one of the most already well-known YouTube video publishers, who herself was an impressionist of Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. A week later, Lisa Donovan, whose video description had called Crosson "The Best Barack," also posted Crosson's spoof[17] of Obama in debate.

Crosson holding a newspaper headlining election victory for Barack Obama.

On election day 2008, Crosson posted a spoof of Obama singing a variation of T.I.'s song "Whatever You Like,"[18] a comedic portrayal of a President-elect facetiously gloating, "I can do whatever I like." That video was to "go viral," receiving over 10,000,000 views within its first five months. Despite their predominantly comical and musical presentation, Crosson's impersonation videos nevertheless raised political, racial, ethnic and social issues, especially as events developed in Obama's Presidency and Crosson's career.

Obama's election victory brought recognition for Crosson's vocal-, musical-, and dance-laden video characterizations of the President during national crisis. Within YouTube, Crosson's popularity was recognized by an invitation to perform at YouTube Live in November 2008.[19][20][21] Outside cyberspace, early jobs involved voice-over work for commercials.[2]

Within a month after Obama's election victory, Crosson said[22] that he had received offers from several agents. In January, 2009, less than six months after posting his first, 30-second Obama impersonation video[14] for the Denny's contest, Crosson was invited to be on the America's Got Talent television program.[2]

The day before Inauguration Day 2009, Crosson posted a comedic dance and musical video[23] spoofing Obama's assumption of the Presidency, its theme being "change is on the way."

Evolution after the Inaugural "I, Barack Obama"

After Obama's inauguration, Crosson's popularity on YouTube continued to grow: he attracted his 100,000th Subscriber on March 31, 2009, becoming the then[24] #83 Most Subscribed YouTube video publisher on the entire website, with his election day "Whatever I Like" video receiving over 10,000,000 views within its first five months. He was also to be featured on numerous entertainment (Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, New York Daily News), culture (The Atlantic) and news (Fox News, ABC News, CNN, Time.com) television shows, blogs and newspapers. Crosson was consistently praised for his impersonations, being widely called a "YouTube sensation", for example, by Fox News' Neil Cavuto,[25] who "had a feeling (Crosson) would go very very far." Crosson's exposure earned him a personal invitation to perform[26] at Aretha Franklin's sixty-seventh birthday celebration in March 2009, reprising his inauguration-day "change is on the way" spoof[23] using Beyoncé's "Single Ladies."

Crosson's post-inaugural work included voice-overs in newsweek.com's The District,[27] a video blog series in which Crosson narrates Obama's first months in Washington from the President's point of view. Crosson's restrained tongue-in-cheek narration of the didactic content contrasted with the predominantly comedic and energetic delivery of Crosson's own pre-inauguration YouTube videos.

Crosson's Presidential portrayals were not only musical and dance adaptations, but constituted editorials on the political, racial, ethnic and social issues of a critical time in national history. Two months after Obama's inauguration, one of Crosson's Obama impersonation videos[28] adopted a more serious tone, empathizing with the President's point of view: "Have you ever felt the weight of the future of a country on your shoulders?" That video, a musical collaboration with YouTube Celebrity Lisa Lavie, adapted T.I.'s "Dead and Gone" lyrics to support Obama in his wrestling a national crisis in which "so many things are wrong, dead wrong." This video also went viral, registering its 1,000,000th view on its twentieth day. Crosson followed with a satire of the personal and political "blame game," transforming Jamie Foxx's "Blame It (On the Alcohol)" into a collaborative[29] spoof[30] whose lyrics chide those who blame their situation on the economy (...and on the news, on taxpayer blues, on their loans, on Bush, and on Cheney).

Crosson also collaborated with other artists. After the late-2009 disagreement between the Obama administration and Fox News, Crosson's newly formed Tour de Force Entertainment LLC produced a collaborative acting, musical, and dance parody video,[31] fashioned after Michael Jackson's Thriller video, with Crosson playing the Presidential role sympathetic to Obama and humorously portraying Fox News viewers as zombies. In February 2010, Crosson sang in, and with Lisa Lavie co-edited, a YouTube musical collaboration video "We Are The World 25 For Haiti (YouTube Edition)"[32] for relief of victims of the January 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake. A collaboration of 57 unsigned or independent YouTube musicians, the YouTube video covered the celebrity version[33] We Are the World 25 for Haiti that was released the preceding week. The YouTube collaboration video received over 1,000,000 views in less than eight days and became the subject of worldwide media attention.[34][35][36][37]

The success of Crosson's YouTube videos, recognized by YouTube's "partnership" (revenue sharing) program, reportedly[38] gave him a degree of financial independence permitting him to focus on creative pursuits. Further, Crosson's recognition outside cyberspace earned him engagements at corporate events, parts in national commercials, and voice-over parts on Newsweek.com's The District and on two prime time television shows in production in April 2009.

Crosson spoke at the 66th Annual Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner on March 17, 2010, impersonating Barack Obama who was not personally present at the event.[39] He continues to post videos on YouTube, and actively and personally manages pages on various popular social networking websites.

Artistry and Image

Asked about his secret to mastery of impersonating Obama, Crosson explained[22] "It's all in the speech patterns and vocal cadences, and a whole lot of uhhs. I've learned to lower my register a little bit. He's very pensive." Crosson also studies Obama telecasts closely, focusing on his vocal inflections, catch phrases, word delays and other mannerisms.[25] Crosson’s delivery of Obama's vocal cadence has been reviewed[40] as "uncanny," his pauses and emphasis being "dead-on."

Crosson expressed[41] that it is his dream to "perform Obama for Obama," that is, to perform for President Obama himself. "My ultimate hope is that Obama will see it one day and laugh."[22]

About his creation of YouTube videos, Crosson explained, "I'm a one-man band. I write 'em, edit 'em, post 'em on YouTube. I come up with bullet points I want to touch upon and I just turn on the camera and sit there and ad-lib."[2]

Contrasting to entertainers who rely on blue humor, Crosson remarked "One thing that has been important to me is to make it funny without making it profane or obscene."[22]

Crosson's facebook page indicates his political views as "other" but Crosson characterized himself[25] as a "big Barack fan," wanting to "support him with humor and positivity."

Despite his Alphacat moniker, Crosson attests to being a "dog guy."[2]

Performances, Awards

  • National Winner, Barack Obama Impersonator Contest, Denny's Restaurants, August, 2008.[42]
  • Voice actor, Voice of Barack Obama on two prime time U.S. television shows (in production April 2009).[1]

Interviews, Articles, Reviews

(chronologically)

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Most early biographical facts are distilled from Crosson's biography "America's Leading Barack Obama Impersonator" on the Premier Speakers Bureau (event planner) website, downloaded on April 2, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e Dziemianowicz, Joe, "Obama's YouTube impersonator is a changer to almost believe in", (includes interview) Politics section, nydailynews.com, January 15, 2009.
  3. ^ "The ARGUMENT (My Neighbors)" video posted June 16, 2008.
  4. ^ " "Chocolate Rain" Original Song by Tay Zonday SPOOF!" video posted July 31, 2007.
  5. ^ "Alpha-Duck Ninja Master" video posted in "Comedy" category December 12, 2007.
  6. ^ "OJ Simpson in PRISON 4 LIFE!!!" video posted December 7, 2008.
  7. ^ "HAIRCUT NIGHTMARE!!!" video posted December 4, 2008.
  8. ^ "*I'M LEAVING, YOUTUBE. *" video posted August 20, 2008.
  9. ^ Early 2008.
  10. ^ See "What I Do Know..." video explaining the YouTube suspension opposition process, posted on "AlphaCatSuspended" channel on June 27, 2008.
  11. ^ "7-7-7" denoted the July 7, 2007 date of the event.
  12. ^ "777 Trailer - My Experience" video posted to Crosson's "Alphacat" channel on July 10, 2007.
  13. ^ "NYC - 7-7-7: My History, My Experience" video posted to Crosson's "Alphacat" channel on July 17, 2007.
  14. ^ a b "BARACK OBAMA's Real Breakfast (Video Contest Submission)" video posted on YouTube on July 18, 2008.
  15. ^ Denny’s press release of August 28, 2008 entitled "Americans Select Best Presidential Posers, Denny's 'Vote For Real' Contest Names Best Impersonators."
  16. ^ "Obama" video posted on YouTube channel "LisaNova" on October 8, 2008.
  17. ^ "Highlights from the Third 2008 Presidential Debate with Barack Obama and John McCain" video posted to YouTube channel "LisaNova" on October 16, 2008.
  18. ^ Crosson's “T.I. Whatever You Like SPOOF” video posted November 4, 2008 (U.S. national election day).
  19. ^ a b "Lisa Nova as Sarah Palin with Alphacat YouTube Live" video of Crosson and Lisa Donovan posted to YouTube channel "Live" on November 22, 2008.
  20. ^ a b "Backstage at YouTube Live '08 - 2nd Stream" video of Crosson and Lisa Donovan posted to YouTube channel "Live" on November 23, 2008.
  21. ^ a b "Alphacat-Youtube Live" video (mainly behind-the-scenes footage) posted to Crosson's YouTube channel "Alphacat" on November 26, 2008.
  22. ^ a b c d Gershman, Jacob, “Meet Alphacat, the Man Who Proved Obama Can Be Made Funny”, New York magazine, December 3, 2008.
  23. ^ a b “Beyoncé Single Ladies SPOOF” video posted January 19, 2009 (the day before U.S. Presidential inauguration day).
  24. ^ Within three weeks thereafter, Crosson's YouTube channel had moved up to #75 - Most Subscribed (All Time).
  25. ^ a b c "Hello, Mr. President? (Dancing Obama impersonator turning into huge YouTube hit)" video of Neil Cavuto interviewing Crosson on foxnews.com, February 2, 2009.
  26. ^ a b " "Obama" performs for Aretha Franklin!!!" video posted on YouTube on March 31, 2009, about a week after Crosson's performance at Franklin's sixty-seventh birthday celebration.
  27. ^ a b "The District Ep. 1 The Challenges We Face - Newsweek.com" video "aired" on newsweek.com on February 2, 2009 and was posted on YouTube's "NewsweekVideo" channel on February 4, 2009. The word "District" refers to the District of Columbia (DC), the U.S. capital. The District season finale "aired" on March 30, 2009.
  28. ^ Crosson's “T.I. Dead and Gone SPOOF” video posted March 26, 2009.
  29. ^ Crosson (Barack Obama) performed with YouTube contributors Vernetta Jenkins (as Michelle Obama), Lisa Lavie (Michelle Obama's singing voice), Richard Ryan (as Joe Biden), Lisa Donovan (as Sarah Palin), and Seth Hendrix (as Rod Blagojevich).
  30. ^ "Blame It - Jamie Foxx- BARACK OBAMA SPOOF" video posted to Crosson's "Alphacat" channel on May 8, 2009.
  31. ^ "Obama Does Thriller" video posted to Crosson's "Alphacat" YouTube channel on November 4, 2009. The video was previewed on the Entertainment Tonight television program on October 30, 2009, the day before Halloween.
  32. ^ "We Are The World 25 For Haiti (YouTube Edition)" video was posted to YouTube channel lisalavie1 on February 20, 2010.
  33. ^ "We Are The World 25 For Haiti - Official Video" posted to YouTube channel wearetheworld on February 12, 2010.
  34. ^ "Suben a YouTube un video musical amateur recreando We Are The World" ("Rising YouTube amateurs recreate 'We Are the World'"), impulsonegocios.com (Argentina based), February 23, 2010 (pictures Crosson specifically).
  35. ^ Smith, Mark W., "YouTube acts tackle 'We are the World'", Detroit Free Press (Michigan, U.S.), February 23, 2010.
  36. ^ "Less famous people remake 'We Are the World' -- and it takes off", USA Today online, February 25, 2010.
  37. ^ Additional citations to media coverage of this video are provided in Lisa_Lavie#Independent_Artist (see footnotes).
  38. ^ Pendleton, Tonya, "YouTube Sensation Alphacat is Obama’s Number-One Impersonator", "News" > "Moving America" section of BlackAmericaWeb.com, May 20, 2009.
  39. ^ a b Broadcast live on CSPAN2, recorded on cspan.org at "66th Annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner", March 17, 2010 (Crosson's spot begins about 39 minutes into the video, after Vice President Joe Biden).
  40. ^ Margolis, Kim "Ex-WSU student, Dayton dancer hits big with Obama impersonation" article on Dayton Daily News online (daytondailynews.com), August 9, 2009.
  41. ^ Entertainment Tonight television show, February, 2009.
  42. ^ Denny’s press release of August 28, 2008 entitled "Americans Select Best Presidential Posers, Denny's 'Vote For Real' Contest Names Best Impersonators."
  43. ^ "New Video: YouTube's Dancing Obama Takes the ET Stage!" Celebrities section of etonline.com, January 28, 2009.
  44. ^ "New Video: YouTube's Dancing Obama Takes Over D.C.", Celebrities section of etonline.com, February 3, 2009.
  45. ^ "Video: Lara & Samantha Dance with "Obama"  !" News section of theinsider.com, January 28, 2009.
  46. ^ "Insider Blog: YouTube's Dancing Obama!" News section of theinsider.com, January 28, 2009.
  47. ^ "Downloaded" Event at Highline Ballroom in New York, June 3, 2009. Click on "Menu", click on "Browse On-Demand Library", click on "DOWNLOADED" then select performances "Alphacat" (two segments available).
  48. ^ The newser.com article stated "the race to find a new comedian to impersonate president-elect Barack Obama on Saturday Night Live continues, reports ABC News"; however, a December 10, 2008 time.com article (Stephey, M.J., cited herein) reported that despite rumors to the contrary, SNL said that its incumbent Obama impersonator, Fred Armisen, "is here to stay."

External links

Crosson on YouTube, facebook, and Myspace.








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