PATOKA - If Nancy Ansley asks you who your favorite musician is, there’s really only one right answer.

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Dressed as Michael Jackson, Ansley regularly impersonates the famous pop star at parties and charity events. But it’s more than just a performance. She truly feels a connection to Jackson and the impact he had on the world.

“I get real emotional about it. I put on a show and it’s inspiring, and it’s more motivated to do better in this world,” Ansley said. “We show videos, and it shows how inspiring he really was. And people feel it because when I’m performing, I don’t just do it. I feel. They come up to me and they tell me, ‘You did him justice.’”

Ansley never intended to be a performer. What started as a costume for a party “just escalated” into the full Jackson performances that she does now, often alongside her brother, who impersonates Elvis Presley.

“It’s fun because it’s the King of Pop and the King of Rock together,” she said, adding, “I grew up with Michael, but I wasn’t a big Michael Jackson follower at all until he died.”

After Jackson’s death in 2009, Ansley started reading about his life. She quickly found inspiration in his story and music, particularly songs like “Man in the Mirror,” “Heal the World” and “Earth Song.” She uses these songs in her performances, encouraging audiences to better themselves and help others.

And Ansley practices what Jackson preached. She has been surprised by the response she receives when dressed as Jackson, and she does what she can to help people who feel a strong connection to the pop idol. Many of these conversations have stuck with her.

“One guy was really sad, and I asked him what was wrong. I was Michael, you know, at the time,” Ansley said. “And he said, ‘I wish I could moonwalk,’ because he was in a wheelchair. And I said, ‘Well, you can.’”

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She told the man to close his eyes and picture himself onstage.

“I said, ‘Now just start moonwalking,’” Ansley explained. “And it gives me chills. He was so happy.”

During another performance at an organization for people with developmental and physical disabilities, a woman held up a sign inviting Jackson to her birthday party. Ansley followed up with the organization and tracked down the woman so she could surprise her at the party. She arrived in costume with a dozen red roses, because “Michael wouldn’t bring just one.”

“There are so many stories,” Ansley said. “There are so many stories about the different relationships that people had with Michael.”

Often, what starts as an audience member’s relationship with Jackson becomes their relationship with Ansley. The woman still calls Ansley every two weeks to inquire about upcoming performances. Many of these connections have started unexpectedly and lasted for years.

Ansley remembers a phone call she received not long after performing at a children’s party. The woman on the other end explained that her son had been at the event and greatly enjoyed it. He was 9 years old and had just been diagnosed with leukemia.

“I sort of took him under my wing. A lot of performances, if they donated me money, I would spend it on the family. They’re still [our] friends, and he’s 15 years old now,” Ansley said. “I’ve gone to his school before, and I had him and his friends be my zombies in ‘Thriller.’ I’ve stayed in contact with him and helped them through different things…A lot of it was due to Michael Jackson. And I told him — he just graduated from eighth grade — and I said, you know, God and Michael Jackson are the reason why we met.”

Ansley never expected to become a performer, or even a major Michael Jackson fan. But these days, she’s pretty happy when she looks at the man in the mirror.

“A lot of people feel good when they see Michael,” Ansley said. “But they make me feel better.”

You can learn more about Ansley and her other work, including how to contact her, here.

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