Sunday, October 17News That Matters

YungBBQ Can Be Almost Anyone. Just Watch.

Alexis Feacher, 21, has built a following with her freestyle dance impersonations of pop cultural figures and fictional characters. Her improvised movements and elaborate costumes have helped her convey the essence of Tina Turner, Jimmy Neutron, Missy Elliott and so many more.

“People think when you’re on social media everything is an act,” Ms. Feacher said. But performing has been part of her identity since she was a child growing up in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Her mother, Patricia Bauford, said that Ms. Feacher started miming at a young age; by 8, she was a head mimer at the Royal Theater, a historic Black theater in the city. She was raised with four siblings — two brothers and two sisters — and the house was often filled with R&B, pop music or Nickelodeon playing in the living room.

In high school, Ms. Feacher created the persona YungBBQ (which stands for “Young Black Beautiful Queen”; it’s also her Instagram handle) and began dressing up as her favorite music artists and movie characters. She eventually started posting videos of her dances on Vine, Facebook and Instagram.

A turning point came in 2019, when Ms. Feacher attended a hip-hop summer dance workshop in New York City taught by her brother, Charles Smith, a professional choreographer who has worked with Lizzo, Jidenna and the Brooklyn Nets. Compared with dancers who had been training in classrooms for years, Ms. Feacher’s style was unrefined, but it made her stand out. It gave her confidence to keep leaning into her quirkiness, according to her brother. (He’s now her manager.)

That year, an Instagram video of her dancing in the background with friends quickly gained an audience online. “I noticed that when you go viral, it’s good for a week or so,” Ms. Feacher said. “So I started creating a lot of videos during that time. I was more focused on, ‘People are watching me now. I don’t want to just leave it.’”

As Ms. Feacher’s audience grew, followers became familiar with her living room, where she would record videos in her high school uniform before the homeroom bell. “School didn’t start yet. And I wasn’t at work, so I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to dance to a couple of songs,’” she said. It soon became her dance uniform. For videos in which she recreates looks from shows or music videos, she shops at thrift stores and her mom’s closet.

On a day in the fall of 2019, when it had just stopped raining, Ms. Feacher recorded a video of herself with a bright orange wig lip-syncing and dancing to “Rain” by K. Michelle. Her neighborhood was the backdrop. K. Michelle reposted it, Ms. Feacher said, “and I was like, ‘Wait, I might be on to something.’”

Since then, Ms. Feacher has styled herself as Whitney Houston; each of the five members of Jagged Edge; Jason Derulo; Raven-Symoné in “That’s So Raven”; Zac Efron in “High School Musical”; and Powerline in “A Goofy Movie.” At night, she sometimes sets up her phone in the middle of the street she lives on and “battles” other dancers on Instagram Live.

Independent artists and record labels have also reached out, asking if Ms. Feacher could make dance videos to their songs. So far, she has worked with Footaction, Spotify and Atlantic Records. Netflix teamed up with Ms. Feacher to recreate the opening scene of the sitcom “Girlfriends” when the show debuted on the streaming platform.

Ms. Feacher has also created content around the premiere of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion” on HBO Max and for the 35th anniversary of the Janet Jackson album “Control.”

So, what’s next? These days Ms. Feacher makes her living by dancing professionally and through brand partnerships. Her videos are recorded in her mother’s living room or just outside the house.

“It’s a stool, two phones and my Beats Pill,” Ms. Feacher said.

By now, the neighbors are used to it.

“What’s really great is they don’t bother her,” Mr. Smith, her brother, said. “And when they see her, they move away — but then you may see people come by if they see her doing a video.” Sometimes, people in the neighborhood will ride by to see if they can catch a performance in real time.

Ms. Feacher hopes to have a career in acting or dancing.

One thing is certain: She is already camera-ready. “Honestly, I’m going to take these lashes off, because I thought it was a Live,” she said as she sat down for the interview for this article. “That’s fine? I don’t want to be weird.”