Normally, celebrity impersonators are fairly easy to identify when compared to the real deal. But that’s not quite the case with Sergio Cortés, who bears a quite incredible resemblance to Michael Jackson. And while numerous conspiracy theories have cropped up in the years since the King of Pop’s death, an entirely new one came to light after Cortés posted a video on Instagram in October 2019.
Following decades in the spotlight, Jackson suddenly passed away ahead of his highly anticipated “comeback” tour. The performer was just 50 years old at the time of his death in June 2009, and a special service was staged in Los Angeles, California, a few weeks later for mourners to celebrate his life.
More than 1.6 million people attempted to secure seats for the service, with apparently in excess of 30 million in the U.S. alone having live-streamed the event at the Staples Center. However, after the dust had cleared and fans had time to accept the news of Jackson’s passing, conspiracy theories began circulating.
For example, some speculated that Jackson may still be alive. And that theory was seemingly strengthened when Cortés posted his social media clip in fall 2019. With “Thriller” playing in the background, he shared a message to his followers – and after seeing the video, a number of people called for Cortés to undergo a DNA test.
But before we dive into all of that, let’s take a closer look at Jackson’s career. As fans know, the pop icon was welcomed into the world in August 1958, joining his six older siblings and parents Joe and Katherine in Indiana. Then, barely five years later, the young Jackson was given his first taste of the music industry,
It all started in 1964, when Jackson became a member of his siblings’ group. The band were known simply as the Jackson Brothers at the time, but this changed to the Jackson 5 after Joe and Katherine’s eighth child joined the ranks. And despite his youth, the future megastar was placed front and center as the lead singer.
Then, in 1969, Jackson and his brothers finally got their big break. That year, the group were recruited by the Motown record label, which led them in turn to relocate to Los Angeles. And later that summer, another incredible opportunity would set the Jackson 5 on the path to musical stardom.
Luckily, the brothers landed a spot as a support act to chart-topping stars and Motown labelmates The Supremes. Then, following that appearance, the Jackson 5 laid down the now-classic track “I Want You Back.” And after the record reached store shelves in December 1969, it became a big hit.
At the turn of the decade, “I Want You Back” soared to the top of the U.S. singles charts, with follow-ups “I’ll Be There,” “ABC” and “The Love You Share” going on to mirror that success. Then, following his rise to fame, Jackson ultimately branched out with a solo career.
Jackson’s debut solo LP Got to Be There had its release in 1972, with his sophomore effort, Ben swiftly hitting the racks mere months later. But all the while, the young singer still carved out the time to produce yet more smash songs with his brothers.
And if anyone feared that Jackson’s popularity would wane after he reached adulthood, they worried for nothing. When Off the Wall was released in 1979, it sold by the bucketload; the record also earned the star his first Grammy win in the Best R&B Vocal Performance category.
Jackson followed that up with an even bigger hit in Thriller, which came out in November 1982. Incredibly, the classic album has now sold over 65 million copies across the world – a record that no other LP has ever matched. Thriller picked up eight gongs at the Grammys, too, setting a new benchmark.
But while Jackson’s fans had to wait another five years before he released his next album, he didn’t completely disappear from the public spotlight. Instead, the superstar began to hit the headlines for his changing appearance – which, as it later emerged, was partly down to a condition known as vitiligo.
This medical ailment essentially causes parts of your skin to lose some or all of its pigmentation, meaning Jackson gradually began to look much paler than he had been as a teen star. Yet despite all that, the King of Pop still went on to release another massive record in 1987. Remarkably, Bad hit the top of the charts in 25 different countries around the world.
Over the next decade and a half, Jackson made a further three albums – each unveiled to considerable fanfare and lapped up by adoring fans across the globe. But while, after that, the icon appeared to lapse into semi-retirement for a while, he was back with a bang in 2009.
In March of that year, Jackson revealed that he would soon be embarking on the “This Is It” concert series – and hinting that he would step away from the stage once and for all when the dates were finished. But, just a few weeks ahead of that first show, Jackson’s legions of followers were dealt a devastating blow when the shock news of the icon’s death emerged in June 2009.
Tragically, Jackson had suffered a cardiac arrest following an overdose of propofol and benzodiazepine. Then, after the authorities had examined the circumstances of Jackson’s passing, they ruled it a homicide. Jackson’s doctor Conrad Murray was held responsible, ultimately being convicted of involuntary manslaughter – a crime for which he was jailed for just under two years.
Regardless of the facts of the tragedy, though, alternative narratives went on to be peddled in some quarters. In 2010, for instance, songwriter Teddy Riley claimed that the King of Pop was still very much alive – an outlandish belief that was shared, as it turned out, by famous singer Akon.
Then, in 2016, a figure said to resemble Jackson was captured on camera by his daughter, Paris. And the superstar was supposedly photographed again when his nephew tied the knot the following year. But outside of those alleged and unsubstantiated “sightings,” some truly weird theories have also come to light.
One of these tales revolves around an individual known as “Dave Dave,” whose full name was David Rothenberg. And while still young, Dave Dave had been through a horrific ordeal. Back in 1983, his dad had set him on fire, and although the six-year-old ultimately survived the blaze, he was left with life-altering injuries. Then, in time, Dave Dave found an ally in none other than the King of Pop.
So, following Jackson’s death, Dave Dave joined all the other mourners at the funeral service. Yet even after the musical superstar had been laid to rest, one Reddit user seemed happy to espouse a particularly odd theory – one that hinted at another link between Jackson and his former friend.
Speaking to Vice in 2019, the Redditor explained, “I think Dave Dave and Michael are the same person. They look quite similar. Their voices are identical.” But while that view was questioned when the interviewer said there were photographs of the pair in the same place, the individual replied, “You can do anything with computers.”
And the Redditor revealed the reasoning behind their theory, touching upon what Jackson had experienced during his time in the public spotlight. “People like you hounded him all his life,” they told Vice. “Journalists. He had enough. He needed to get away. He ‘died’ and became Dave Dave, and now he gets to live a proper life.”
After doing some digging, Vice discovered, however, that Dave Dave passed away back in July 2018. Then, when this piece of information was relayed to the conspiracy theorist, they had no explanation to offer. But a fellow Reddit user was more accepting of the suggestion that Jackson was still alive – and claimed that the star’s financial situation was behind his alleged faked death. In the final year of his life, you see, the performer was said to have been in debt to the tune of about half a billion dollars.
So with that in mind, the Redditor claimed that Jackson had fabricated his passing. They explained on the website, “There [are] just too many coincidences. [Jackson] was too smart not to be able to work a way out of his financial problems. Dying really boosted his financial worth. There [are] rumors he’s either living in Gloucestershire or Bahrain.”
And yet another conspiracy theory emerged in the summer of 2017. This one was started by a man named Steve Erhardt, who had worked as a stylist for Jackson in the past. Then, years after the world had mourned the loss of the icon, Erhardt took to Twitter and made a somewhat mysterious post about his former employer.
“You heard it here first – an announcement of sorts,” Erhardt wrote on the social media site. “And in a couple of months, or latest at the end of the year, you will be receiving some very good news. Not even the family knows. But I do!” Then, close to 12 months later, the stylist finally delivered on his word – well, sort of.
In June 2018 Erhardt posted a photograph of someone wearing one of Jackson’s famous outfits – although the snap only captured the lower half of their body. Alongside that cryptic image, he also wrote a tantalizing teaser that read, “In a recording studio, somewhere in the world, in an undisclosed location, he’s coming soon.”
Speculation still rages that Jackson is alive, in fact. And, more recently, a number of Jackson’s fans have focused their theories on just one person: Sergio Cortés. Cortés is an impersonator of the King of Pop who notably sports eerily similar facial features to those of his late idol.
Cortés’ soft-spoken voice is much like Jackson’s as well – even if he does talk with a Spanish accent. This makes sense, as the performer is said to hail from Barcelona, Spain. And while Cortés regularly updates his social media channels, one particular Instagram post from fall 2019 has really stood out.
In the video clip, Cortés addresses his followers ahead of an event in Thailand. And while looking directly into the camera, he can be heard saying, “Hello to all Michael Jackson fans. Come and watch me perform at Pattaya on December 23. I love you guys, and I’ll see you there. I am Sergio Cortés. I’ll see you soon.”
That short piece of footage has since earned more than 190,000 views on Instagram, and it’s had people questioning whether Cortés is actually Jackson. In fact, two different people went on to put forward the same suggestion in the comments section: namely, that the impersonator needed to prove his real identity.
The first Instagram user wrote, “Oh my god, you’re not Sergio Cortés, you’re Michael Jackson. Someone get his DNA.” Those words were echoed by another commenter, who appeared a bit more apologetic with their response to the video on social media. They said, “I need a DNA test, I’m sorry.”
Elsewhere, there were a few other fans who couldn’t help but marvel at the physical similarities between Cortés and Jackson. “I love you Michael, my Michael has come back,” someone wrote. “We love you.” Alongside that, a fellow fan weighed in by saying, “I am convinced you are Michael Jackson himself.”
Despite all of the attention that came Cortés’ way, though, he has since confirmed that he isn’t the real deal. And it should be known that the lookalike has actually provided some background on how he first got started as an impersonator. According to a post that Cortés made on Facebook, his intriguing career began when a reporter noted similarities between the pair.
Cortés wrote, “When I was finishing high school in 1987, a journalist observed that I was similar [to Jackson]. And [he] asked me why I didn’t put on makeup like [Jackson] did in a report for a magazine. I found it fun. Then, two weeks later, some Swiss producers who promoted Michael Jackson perfume called me to use my image.”
Cortés suggested, though, that only fate set him on the path to mimicking the King of Pop. He added, “It was all coincidental that my fanaticism has become my working life. Then [the Swiss producers] also weighed coincidences such as the vocal timbral. For the perfume, of course, [Jackson] had to give an approval.”
But when you look at Cortés’ facial features – his nose and chin, for example – you may assume that he’d had some cosmetic surgery done. After all, Jackson himself changed considerably from 1987 onwards, yet his impersonator still looks just like him. The lookalike blew off those suggestions, though, and instead claimed, “Sorry, but I’m natural.”
And, interestingly, Cortés did actually get to meet Jackson back in 1997 – so, around a decade on from the start of his unique career. You see, the Barcelona native had been recruited to perform a very specific role. He revealed, “[I was] hired to be the [Jackson] double that waves from the hotel window.”
So, while Cortés may not be the real Jackson, he’s certainly built a large fan base on social media, with over 175,000 followers on Instagram and in excess of 58,000 people having liked his page on Facebook. And, most recently, the Jackson lookalike performed in Kiev, Ukraine, in February 2020 – proving, perhaps, how widespread his fanbase is.
Macaulay Culkin also has his fair share of admirers, of course – even though he’s not as famous as he once was. And the actor similarly has a link to the late King of Pop, having been buddies with the icon when he was younger. But just what went on between Jackson and the Home Alone star back then?
Yes, while Jackson may have died in 2009, some aspects of his life are still up for debate. Many serious allegations of child abuse were made against the pop icon when he was alive, for instance, with these claims continuing to taint the star’s legacy to this day. And perhaps one of the most famous names embroiled in the controversy is former child actor Macaulay Culkin.
Culkin became friends with the much older Jackson when he was still just a boy. Back then, the Home Alone actor appeared in a music video with the singer and even went on vacation to Bermuda with Jackson alongside his own family. And the young star also slept in the same bed as his fellow celebrity – something that raised eyebrows even at the time.
Then in 2019 a new documentary about Jackson debuted that alleged the singer was a sexual abuser of children. And the claims made in Leaving Neverland led to a huge backlash against the late singer, with some radio stations boycotting his music as a result. In the midst of the furor, however, Culkin decided to speak out.
It seems, too, that Jackson and Culkin had a lot of things in common; both had been child stars who had seemingly had issues with their parents, for instance. Jackson’s father, Joe, once admitted that he had whipped the young singer in order to maintain discipline, while Culkin has alleged that his dad had also been abusive in the past.
And Culkin and Jackson first met in 1986, when the four-year-old actor was performing in a New York production of The Nutcracker. The pop star even went behind the scenes to meet the little boy. “[Jackson] loved dance. He was a dance man,” the actor told WTF with Marc Maron in 2018. “He came backstage with Donald Trump because they were friendly back then.”
At that point in Culkin’s life, he had already appeared in a few movies. “I remember [Jackson] looked at me like, ‘I know you from somewhere. Oh, Uncle Buck, yeah. You’re funny,’” the star explained to Maron during the podcast. “Then after Home Alone came out, he reached out to me and my family.”
And Home Alone not only turned Culkin into a household name, but it also made him extremely rich. In fact, the star was making millions of dollars before he had even reached his teens. Culkin’s father, Kit, actually controlled the money, however, along with the young actor for whom he was responsible. As a result, then, in 1993 Premiere magazine named Kit as Hollywood’s 48th most influential player.
These days, Culkin no longer sees his father. “[Kit] was a bad man. He was abusive. Physically and mentally,” he alleged when talking to Maron. The actor also claimed that prior to his appearance as a host of Saturday Night Live, his father had threatened him with violence if the then-11-year-old didn’t do well.
Then Jackson walked once more into Culkin’s difficult life. According to Culkin himself, the singer simply called him up one day and asked to be his friend. And it worked, too. For the next few years, the young star would stay at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch and go on vacations with him – although other adults were sometimes present during these occasions.
And then came the first accusations of child abuse. In 1993 a dentist named Evan Chandler alleged that a friendship between his 13-year-old son and Jackson had turned into a sexually abusive one. The Chandler family subsequently filed a lawsuit against the pop legend, and the media frantically reported on every twist and turn in the case.
Culkin also came up as a possible victim of Jackson’s. A maid who worked at Neverland, for instance, claimed to police that she had seen Jackson “kissing” the young star and that the older man “had his hand on [Culkin’s] leg – kind of by his rear end.” Other people sold stories about the pair to the media, too. Nonetheless, the actor absolutely denied that anything abusive had happened in his relationship with Jackson.
And while the Chandler investigation was ultimately closed due to lack of evidence, the fallout was massive. Jackson’s public image came close to being ruined in the process, with his deal with Pepsi being canceled as a result. The ramifications of the case may not have ended with the star’s death, either, as five months after the pop icon passed away, Evan Chandler took his own life.
Meanwhile, Culkin started to come out of his strange life as a child star. “After I did Richie Rich in ’93 or ’94, my father and mother called it quits, which is one of the best things to ever happen to me. I was able to walk away from the business. I was able to say, ‘I hope you made all your money, because there’s no more coming from me,’” the actor told Maron in 2018.
Culkin also remained friends with Jackson, and this relationship saw the singer subject to an interrogation on camera by lawyers in March 1996. “Jesus said to love the children and be like children. Be youthful, be innocent, [and] be pure and honorable. He always surrounded himself with children, and that’s how I was raised: to be like that and imitate that,” the pop star said on the tape, which was later acquired and released by the now-defunct News of the World.
Then in 1998 Jackson’s daughter, Paris, was born, and Culkin ultimately became her godfather. And the actor appeared to continue to maintain a relationship with Jackson even after that. In September 2001, for instance, Culkin was spotted at Jackson’s 30th anniversary concert in Madison Square Garden.
Yet questions about Jackson’s conduct continued to circulate. In early 2003 documentary Living with Michael Jackson aired, and in the film the pop star claimed that he had “slept in a bed with many children” – including Culkin and his brother Kieran. “Kieran Culkin would sleep on this side, Macaulay Culkin was on this side, [and] his sisters [were] in there. We all would just jam in the bed, you know. We would wake up at dawn and go in the hot air balloon,” Jackson explained.
And Jackson’s reputation would once again take a hit at the end of 2003, when the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office charged the star with multiple counts of molesting minors. The media would focus intensely on the case for the next couple of years, with Culkin ultimately giving his own take on the matter.
Yes, in 2004 Culkin was asked by Larry King if he would participate in Jackson’s criminal trial. The actor answered, however, “Probably not… It’s crazy and I don’t really want to be a part of it. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do something like that, [but] it just hasn’t been brought up to me. And I don’t think [Jackson would] want me to, either.”
In the end, though, Culkin did take the stand at the 2005 trial, where he spoke out in defense of Jackson. And when asked if he had been molested by the singer, the actor answered, “Absolutely not.” Culkin claimed instead that he had only participated in innocent pursuits such as video gaming sessions and water balloon battles with Jackson.
And while Culkin also explained that he had occasionally bedded down for the night alongside Jackson, he emphasized there had been nothing sexual about it. “I’ve fallen asleep in the same bed with [Jackson]. I’d just flop down,” he said. Culkin’s parents were apparently fine with it, too. “They never really saw it as an issue,” he added.
Prosecuting attorney Ron Zonen then asked Culkin whether he had ever suspected that Jackson had touched him while he slept. “As far as I know, he’s never molested me,” the former child star answered. “I find that unlikely. I think I’d realize if something like that would be happening.”
And Culkin also testified that his brothers Shane and Kieran sometimes joined him and Jackson when they met up, after which the group would embark on adventures. “I’d be staying at a hotel, and [Jackson would] come and pick me and my brothers up, and we’d sneak into a movie theater, like, in the middle of the night,” the actor said.
In fact, Culkin implied that he, his siblings and the singer had all acted like young friends at Neverland. And while Zonen then questioned Culkin as to why a child would treat an adult as a peer, he replied, “I wasn’t friends with a lot of 35-year-old men who understood me.”
Ultimately, Jackson was declared not guilty of all the charges brought against him. “We expected better evidence – something that was a little more convincing. It just wasn’t there,” a juror announced at a press conference after the verdict. But regardless, the pop star’s reputation was once again smeared, although he still maintained many fans.
And Jackson’s admirers mourned the star in droves after his passing on June 25, 2009. The news of the pop icon’s death naturally made huge waves, with websites crashing from the attention, while television channels played marathons of Jackson’s music videos for hours.
Then a memorial service held for Jackson was live-streamed, allowing millions of fans to watch online. Multiple celebrities and people of note turned up for the event, too, including civil rights activist Al Sharpton. At one point, Sharpton took the stage and told the singer’s children, “Wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with, but he dealt with it anyway.”
Jackson’s more private burial service subsequently took place at California’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park on September 3, 2009. Culkin and his then-girlfriend Mila Kunis were among the mourners, and the two were photographed together at the cemetery. But even after Jackson’s death, allegations of wrongdoing continued to dog the star’s legacy.
In 2019, for example, documentary Leaving Neverland presented further allegations that the star had taken part in child abuse. In particular, two men named James Safechuck and Wade Robson accused the singer of having molested them when they had both been boys.
Robson had initially spoken up for the pop star during the 2005 trial. At the time, he had told a story similar to Culkin’s – that he had slept in Jackson’s bed on occasion but had never been sexually abused. Safechuck, too, had testified in defense of the star back in 1993.
And people connected to the 2005 trial also featured in the documentary. Indeed, Robson’s mother said to the filmmakers that, at that time, she considered her son “and Macaulay Culkin the only two people in the world who can save [Jackson].” It’s worth noting, however, that Culkin himself was not interviewed at all for the film.
Yet there was a reason for this omission. In 2019 Leaving Neverland’s director, Dan Reed, told Vanity Fair that he didn’t think Culkin would want to be involved in his film. “Macaulay has gone on the record many, many times – including recently – to say that his relationship with Jackson was innocent,” Reed explained to the publication.
And perhaps Reed was alluding to what Culkin told Maron in 2018. As a guest on Maron’s podcast, the former child star spoke warmly of Jackson, saying, “He was, like, my best friend growing up for a stretch of my life. It was a legitimate friendship.”
Culkin claimed that he had never felt “uncomfortable” around Jackson, either. “That was the way that [Jackson] was, down to his bone marrow. It never felt weird,” the actor added. “It was just the way that it was. I looked at him for who he was. At that point, I was pretty famous and I met plenty of famous people, [so] his fame did not [mean] a thing.”
Yet the Leaving Neverland documentary definitely had an effect on many of those who saw it – leaving a number of people to question exactly what sort of person Jackson was. Filmmaker Louis Theroux, who has tackled child abuse cases in his work, wrote on Twitter, “If you can’t see that Michael Jackson was a pedophile after watching @danreed1000’s film, you are being wilfully blind.”
But other celebrities did come to Jackson’s defense. Some who had known the pop star when they were young, such as Corey Feldman and Aaron Carter, announced that they, too, had never felt unsafe around him. Members of the singer’s family also denied the claims made during the documentary.
And just before Leaving Neverland’s release, Culkin made it clear just what he believed to be true about Jackson. Speaking on the Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum podcast in January 2019, the actor reiterated that the relationship he shared with the King of Pop was a “normal friendship” as far as he saw it.
Culkin said of his bond with Jackson, “It’s almost easy to try [and] say it was, like, weird or whatever. But it wasn’t because it made sense. At the end of the day, we were friends.” What’s more, Culkin claimed that people questioned the friendship “only because of the fact that [Jackson] was the most famous person in the world.”
The actor revealed, too, that Jackson had been there for him during a time in his life when he needed someone to rely on. “I was a peerless person. Nobody else in my Catholic school even had [a tiny] idea of what I was going through. And [Jackson] was the kind of person who’d been through the exact same frickin’ thing and wanted to make sure I wasn’t alone,” he said.
From Culkin’s perspective, then, it seems that the pop star was an adult man who innocently befriended children to help them out. And while other people are much more suspicious about Jackson’s motives for getting to know young boys, it appears the actor is adamant that there was nothing untoward about his relationship with the singer.