HONG KONG - A haircut and some makeup was all it took for a Hong Kong musician to transform himself into one of the world's most notorious dictators, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
When Kim inherited power from his dead father, friends teased the Australian-Chinese musician about his resemblance to the world's youngest leader.
"We joked back and forth 'Maybe I should get dressed up and do some gigs with it'. After all, I'm a musician, so it's about the performance," said Howard, who declined to give his surname in order to keep his music and impersonation careers separate.
He turned heads and drew giggles this week when he paraded down the streets of a popular shopping district in Hong Kong. During the arranged media shoot, he jokingly waved at wide-eyed passersby and posed with a pornographic magazine for photos. "Is he the real one or is he just impersonating? I can't tell them apart. He really looks like him," said Hong Kong resident Ada Ho.
At 34, Howard is older and taller than 30-year-old Kim, but they share many facial similarities. Howard has bushier eyebrows and weighs less, but he joked that he would work on that.
On April Fools' Day, the drummer-turned-music producer chopped off his hair and, realising he could make something out of the resemblance, set up a Facebook page.
Within weeks, an Israeli production company contacted him and flew him to Tel Aviv for a hamburger commercial to rival a competitor's ad that featured an impersonator of US President Barack Obama.
The clip, in which the imitation Kim abandons his plan to bomb Israel after enjoying its delicious burgers, got 400,000 online views in a country of 8 million people, Howard said.
Then came more job requests. Howard said he was asked to do an ad for a pistachio company with Dennis Rodman, a retired professional basketball player who calls the reclusive North Korean leader his friend, but the plan fell apart when he could not get his US work visa in time.
Howard, who charges HK$5,000 ($645) for party appearances, said being a Kim doppelganger can be a funny experience but he also hopes to stir up dialogue about North Korea and its human rights issues.
"I don't really have to do anything to create awareness. Just my presence," he said. "It brings the issue up in a light-hearted way. It's important to know about this country ... If they launch a missile, it could start World War Three."