For the past month, a two-story-tall President Donald Trump has kept watch over one of Seoul's trendiest shopping districts.
Or, more accurately, it's a billboard of Chicago suburbanite Dennis Alan Koppo impersonating Trump, holding a clear retainer in his hand and saying, "Shut up and get invisible braces with eCligner!" in Korean.
The 67-year-old Trump impersonator was selected to star in ads for an upscale South Korean dental clinic called Clean Clinic, which offers the clear retainers. He appears in a video commercial, the huge billboard along Garosugil (a street akin to Los Angeles's Rodeo Drive, and part of the Gangnam neighborhood—as in Korean pop sensation Psy's "Gangnam Style"), as well as prolific ads throughout the city's subway system.
The billboard remained up for about a month before it was taken down this weekend, though the subway ads remain, providing significant exposure during a time when many tourists will pass through the South Korean capital on their way to the Olympics in Pyeongchang.
This isn't Koppo's first Trump gig. The entertainer and substitute teacher says he has filmed a Twinkies commercial in Cairo, Egypt, and modeled sans clothes for Vanity Fair, both in his Trump persona.
For regular gigs, Koppo takes just 20 minutes to prep himself with tools from his own get-ready kit: an orange-hued powder foundation from Lancôme, a wig from a hairstylist in Plainfield, Illinois, and a custom-made blue suit and extra-long red tie from Sam’s Tailor, which has dressed the likes of Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton, and David Bowie, according to Forbes, and also Donald Trump, according to Koppo.
Sometimes professional hair and makeup artists pamper him on set, he says. The Clean Clinic crew took 45 minutes for its Trump transformation.
“When we first saw the draft [of the image], we thought the clinic’s ad was good,” says Chang Wook Oh, the account executive at Bull and Butterfly, which printed and installed the image onto the building. “We did worry about potential political backlash, but we felt that [the ad] was both bold and witty, especially during a sensitive time.”
But Koppo is such a convincing Trump that his company added the impersonator's name to the bottom of the billboard, to make sure people didn't mistakenly think Trump posed for the photo, according to Oh. The image loomed over Garosugil for a month before it was taken down; Oh says that most billboards of that size are removed after two to three weeks due to city regulations.
Clean Clinic considered the possible backlash, says Jin Young Lee from the clinic's marketing team. (Interviews with Oh and Lee were conducted in Korean and translated into English.) “We were worried that people could criticize us. As you can imagine, it couldn’t be an easy decision [to run the ad]. But our clinic’s president gave us the push to go through with it. So we did,” Lee says.
“As of now, we are seeing positive results,” Lee says, adding that the clinic did not receive any direct criticism about the ads. Comments on the YouTube video generally praise the impersonator and denigrate Trump, though a few criticized the ad as well.
Koppo, who declines to reveal his political leanings, says he likes the “humor and entertainment” part of the job. “I don’t under any circumstances use my resemblance to Donald Trump to make a political statement,” he says. He moonlights as a musician, a community TV station volunteer, and a Santa Claus look-alike. His professional Facebook page, called “The Ultimate Donald Trump Lookalike – Dennis Alan,” shows photos and links to his Trumpian appearances.
The impersonator hasn’t met or heard from The Donald, he says—yet. “There’s a part of me that hopes I never have to look the president in the eye and try and explain myself to him.”