What’s it like to be the spitting image of the most photographed face in the world? When I caught up with Ilham Anas — AKA the US president — he can’t talk for long; he is on the back of a scooter in his home city of Bandung on Java, racing between “jobs” as Obama.
Since US President Barack Obama’s improbable rise to highest office in the US, 36-year-old Anas’s life has taken a similarly unlikely turn. The prominent ears that made him self-conscious as a child, he says, have become his fortune; a photographer by trade, Anas has found a new career as the leading presidential doppelganger.
Now he travels the world, lending his likeness to various charities and causes; he recently spoke at a Greenpeace rally in Thailand urging global leaders (including his own double) to do more to address climate change.
Anas has appeared in several TV ads, including a bizarre commercial for a Philippine heartburn medication, in which he is overfed by a woman impersonating former Phlippine president Gloria Arroyo.
Anas says he is a huge fan of Obama, and is careful with the work he chooses, refusing jobs he feels might be controversial or reflect badly on his famous twin. So uncanny is the likeness that he regularly gets stopped in airports by Obama admirers. He has taken to wearing a hat and sunglasses on the street to avoid the inevitable questions.
Obama’s rise has changed Anas’s life, and his view of himself, as he recounts in his autobiography, Because of Obama.
“I see my resemblance to Obama as a blessing,” he says. “I used to look at the mirror and I had a negative perception of myself.”
Anas has a similar heritage to his hero, being of Kenyan and US descent. He also shares the president’s love of a quiet cigarette, but there are differences too.
“One thing I could not mimic is his voice. Obama has a baritone voice; mine is like a child’s,” Anas said.
He is also a devout Muslim; he can be seen praying in a video on the Time magazine Web site. His faith, he says, guides his family and professional life.
Indonesians delighted in Obama’s election in 2008; he was seen as one of their own. Obama spent four years in Jakarta as a boy in the late 1960s, and his stepfather was Javanese, but two cancelled trips last year saw the ardor cool a little. A statue of a young Obama was removed from a central Jakartan park in February after a Facebook campaign by Indonesians who argued he had not done enough to deserve the tribute. The statue now stands in the yard of his childhood school.
Anas noticed that the demand for his presidential services waned in his homeland, despite the continuing flood of international requests, but was largely restored by the presidential visit last month, despite it being cut short because of fears that volcanic ash spewing from Mount Merapi could cause Air Force One to be grounded.
“Obama used Bahasa Indonesia [the national language] in his speech, and he got enthusiastic applause,” Anas said. “He talked about his experience in his village in Jakarta as a four-year-old and his deep feelings for our country. He showed us how humble he is, that he is warm and sincere.”
Anas, however, missed Obama’s trip to Indonesia. He was in the US ... playing Obama.
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
‘CHAPITOS’: An ex-DEA agent said the sons of the former cartel head are engaged in a battle for control, with the health of the man temporarily in charge a factor The fight for control of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s legacy spilled into the open on Thursday after a gun battle between rival Mexican gangs left 16 dead, authorities said. The 16 men, heavily armed and wearing bulletproof vests, died in a six-hour running shootout near the rural town of Tepuche in northwestern Sinaloa province. “A van with seven bodies was located” after an initial clash, while nine bodies were discovered following a second exchange, Sinaloa Minister of Security Cristobal Castaneda told reporters. Castaneda said that Wednesday’s clash near Tepuche, 25km from the capital of Sinaloa, Culiacan, was “part of a struggle