arts and cultureIssue 13

Brett Nichols: Moonwalking Toward Fame


You might not know his name, but you already know Brett Nichols.

When Nichols’ star turn in Pittman High School’s talent show this May went viral on YouTube, more than 17 million people saw the redhead bust out one of the world’s best ever Michael Jackson impersonations. Overnight, Brett became the biggest thing to hit Turlock since Kaepernick Fever.

The 17-year-old’s performance has been seen around the world from Turlock to the Netherlands, and has moonwalked into interviews and performances on The View, MTV News, Huffington Post and to live stage across the country. But even five months later, Brett Nichols still seems cool with his sudden burst of fame.

“I had no idea any of this would happen,” Brett confides. “I wanted toimpress my friends, I ended up captivating the whole world.” The video blazed across the internet, collecting more than 4 million views within a few hours the morning following the show.

“I went to first period, and a resource teacher of mine showed me a comment where someone told me I’m big in the Netherlands. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s really cool,’” said Nichols to HuffPost’s Live’s Josh Zepps. By lunchtime, Nichols was a star.

Brett is lightning on stage, but he’s a quiet teenager at home. He sits quietly at his kitchen table, slender and tall with his mop of red hair hanging nearly over his eyes while his mother Donna talks about the whirlwind of publicity the video has brought to their lives. Between Brett’s spate of high profile TV and stage appearances—including a massive tribute to Michael Jackson where fans begged to touch Brett’s clothes because, as they said, “you’re as close as I’ll ever get to Michael”—to an upcoming performance in YouTube’s yearly Rewind video, it seems hard to believe that the high schooler has even had time to do anything as mundane as attend class. But the now-senior isn’t fazed by the attention. With a future of almost unlimited brightness ahead of him, he’s still sweating the details of his performance and costume, just like he did before the talent show.

Brett picks through a pile of costumes that span MJ’s famous looks, from the black fedora and sparkling glove of Billie Jean to the red leather jacket of Thriller, pointing out ways he’d like to take the act even further, and striking poses that transform the lanky 6’3” Nichols suddenly into the King of Pop.

With help from family, friends, well-wishers and fans, Nichols is looking to parlay his single viral video hit into a brand. And aiming to make Brett Nichols a household name. And from the previews I’ve seen, you’ll want to keep an eye out: Nichols’ upcoming projects are going to be even bigger—and more impressive—than the performance you’ve already seen.

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