During the day, Norco resident Corey Lee, 32, works at Gre’aud Fine Foods. But on the weekends and at night when he puts on sunglasses, a black pair of pants, a white undershirt, a red button up shirt that he leaves open and a shiny glove he wears on his right hand, he transforms and takes on the stage name ‘Supa Bonafide.’
Lee is a Michael Jackson impersonator and over last weekend the attendees of the River Parishes Festival got to see the man they usually see working at the grocery store in a different light.
"I work for Gre’aud Fine Foods and the customers they love me," Lee said. "I talk to them all the time and as an impersonator they saw pictures of me and videos I had performing and they liked that about me. It was real big because for the first time they asked me to physically perform."
Under the bright bulbs on the platform at center stage, ‘Supa Bonafide’ captivated the crowd with his dance moves as New Orleans-based band Karma covered songs by the ‘King of Pop.’
"Not too many times had people seen me locally and it was a big thing. Especially in this area, I have a high concentration of people who really like me," Lee said. "The energy they gave me was electrifying."
Lee, who is originally from Reserve in St. John Parish, ended up in Norco after Hurricane Katrina and has been working at Gre’aud since 2009.
He began dancing as a child and worked on improving his moves through junior high and high school.
"I’ve always been doing that since I was a child. I always wanted to become a Michael Jackson impersonator. So growing up I’ve perfected it pretty much," Lee said. "I performed in school at East St. John High School and I was the mascot in Reserve at Leon Godchaux Junior High School."
Lee said it was not until the 2009 death of Jackson that he began impersonating the icon and that only recently a big part of the costume came together when he received the glove as a gift.
"Ms. Shirley Jones actually gave me the glove for getting my GED last year," Lee said.
Similarly, with the help of another local resident, sign-maker Ken Hill, Lee said he has been able to get gigs across the region. Performing at the River Parishes Festival was his first time doing the entire show locally.
"The best part of the whole experience was to be on stage so all the people who supported me knew what was going on," Lee said. "I went from Baton Rouge to New Orleans an in-between to a lot of places. Not too many times had people seen me locally."
Lee said the sign Hill made for him helps get his name out there.
"Sometimes I have slow times. Sometimes it picks up. Sometimes I have so many in one weekend," he said. "For instance, this weekend I had four shows to do, I had eight originally, but I had to cut it down."
When performing at private parties and other events, Lee said he often gets recruited for future events to show off the performance. Other times he just puts on the outfit and turns into ‘Supa Bonafide’ for his own benefit.
"Sometimes I get paid and sometimes I just go out for fun," Lee said. "Say I want to lift myself up and get ‘Oh, look it’s Michael Jackson.’ So I just go out and have fun."
As for the stage name ‘Supa Bonafide,’ Lee said it was an evolution of sorts.
"I always tried to pick a name and people have said ‘you are unique, you are one of a kind. There isn’t really anybody like you. You are a really bonafide person,’" Lee said. "And then when I was dancing it was like ‘no, you are better than bonafide you are super bonafide.’ So that’s how that name came about."
Outside of working at Gre’auds and impersonating Jackson, Lee said he also plays piano, draws, attends church and helps out in the community.
"I’m always helping people around the neighborhood. If I can help someone that will be nice," Lee said. "I pretty much just like to do things to put a smile on people’s faces. That’s what God wanted us to do, was just to show the love."
|Carl Bordelon Photography|
|Corey Lee takes to the stage under the name 'Supa Bonafide' for his Michael Jackson impersonation performance.|