Hey, Pitbull! Impersonator Ariel Tojo Hits Dolphin Mall (Video)
"He might not remember me," says a lumbering, bearded guy watching from a few steps back, "but I went to high school with that man right there." The real Pitbull's ex-classmate watches for a couple of minutes before calling out to Tojo, then walking off. A tiny abuelita eyes the photo session suspiciously. Soon she's trading heated strings of Spanish with an elderly lady, each more frustrated than the last. "She knows something," Tojo whispered before walking off with his entourage. "She's like arguing with her family."
Photo by Karli Evans Do you know this man? Or do you just think you do?
Every impersonator needs to live by a code, and Tojo is no different. He doesn't go out to purposely trick fans into thinking he's the original Pitbull."If a person is asking me directly, 'Are you?' I say, 'No,' " he says. "But if they're not asking me, I let it go."
Such is the moral ambiguity of being a celebrity stand-in. "I feel bad; I don't want them leaving confused," he mutters as he watches a group of teenaged girls run off after snapping photos. "They'll go post that online; then somebody will be like, 'He wasn't at the mall.' "
Still, the way Tojo figures, the joy he sparks is less about him than a tribute to the real deal. "Sometimes they know I'm not Pit, and they don't care -- they still want the picture."
Tojo's path crossed Pitbull's once, at a video shoot. The pop superstar greeted his look-alike, a sign Tojo took for approval. Pimpbull hopes that one day he'll get a more formal A-OK from Worldwide himself, therefore clearing the legal murk hanging over his impersonation business. "I don't care about him," Tojo says. "His personality, he wouldn't care. I care about his lawyers."
Walking the mall, browsing socks at the Nike store, putting on "I Heart Miami" hats at a kiosk, hanging outside Hot Topic -- his every move tapped into people's inner TMZ, forcing them to surreptitiously snap off cell-phone photos. While Tojo idled near the Gap Factory Store, two young Asian tourists pulled on a photographer's shoulder. "Is he famous?" Then the pair walked over to wordlessly pose with Tojo.
"Pitbull?" asked a Spanish tourist later.
"No," Tojo answered. "Bulldog."
Twenty minutes later, as the entourage made for the door, a heavyset African-American woman came rocketing down the crowded corridor at a dead sprint. Tojo swung around just as she placed a hand on his shoulder. She stared.
"Sorry," she said, her mouth curling into a wry smile, "I thought you were someone else."
Even when he tried to make his exit through the Neiman Marcus, two sets of mothers dragging three kids apiece begged for photo sessions. Once the pics were all clicked, Tojo waited at the curb. Then he waited some more. "People wait around to see what car I get into," he said. Sure enough, a half dozen people were standing in the parking lot, no doubt waiting for a stretch Hummer or blinged-out Benz to scoop up the superstar. After five minutes, the gawkers melted off, save for one couple.
Tojo shrugged. "Dale." With his white suit glowing in the last thin sunlight, he climbed into his Honda and buzzed away.
To contact Pimpbull, find him at @pimpbull_mr on Twitter, and MRPIMPBULL305 on Instagram.
Send your story tips to the author, Kyle Swenson.