BOWLING GREEN -- Anthony de la Torre doesn't mind when people mistake him for pop singer Justin Bieber.
The 17-year-old Bowling Green boy finds it amusing -- and profitable.
For the last two months, he has been impersonating the teen heartthrob at birthday parties for a cool $300 to $600 per one-hour appearance. He dances. He lip-synchs to Bieber songs, poses for pictures, and generally charms the crowd.
"Honestly, this isn't my dream job, but it's still fun because I do have a blast at the parties I go to pretending to be him," Anthony said. "It's just a lot of fun making little kids freak out."
His mother, Esther Garcia-Tio, has seen young girls swoon at her son's feet and their mothers flirt with him too. The little ones -- some just 4 or 5 -- ask for his autograph, and he obliges, signing "J.B."
"They don't want my actual name," he said. "They want who I'm pretending to be."
Anthony has been dabbling with acting and singing since sixth grade when he did well at a talent competition in Toledo and went on to a competition in Orlando, Fla. He came home with a slew of awards.
Some commercials and a brief voice role on Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer followed. He said he took several years off after that, spending his first three years at Bowling Green High School focused on basketball rather than the arts.
The performance bug began to bite again this past summer when Anthony and his family went on a Caribbean cruise.
"A lot of people on the cruise were looking at me really funny," he said. "When I walked by, people would start singing 'Baby' or they'd say, 'Bieber's on the boat.' I actually got to be on the cruise TV show, the morning show. They pretended I was Justin Bieber. It was pretty funny."
During a subsequent visit to New York City, he and his mom learned about an audition for Justin Bieber impersonators and figured, why not?
Two agencies that book Bieber impersonators get him work, which has taken him to Boston, New York, Kentucky, and Indiana.
He is enrolled in the Ohio Virtual Academy, taking online classes for his senior year. He's not sure what he wants to do after high school, although he loves writing music, singing, rapping, making films, and acting. He recently modeled for Toys R Us, holding a toy gun for a photo on the box.
"My goal is not to become really famous," he said. "I want to be a part of music or film or even modeling. I want to be part of things that inspire people even if I have to be the guy holding the camera or even if I played really small roles."
Ms. Garcia-Tio, who drives her youngest son to New York for auditions and appointments, said she thought acting might be a passing phase for Anthony, but she realizes now it has staying power.
"For anyone we love in our life, I think our job is to try to help make their dreams come true, and I think that's why I did this, because I want his dreams to come true and I would do it for any one of my kids," she said.
The Justin Bieber lookalike said he likes the singer's music.
"I do, and I respect him a lot because, even though he has a lot of people who really, really dislike him and question his talents, he's definitely done a lot," Anthony said.
"He's inspired a lot of people. He's brought hope to a lot of people, and he's been responsible in giving with his money."
He doesn't mind getting ribbed about his current acting role, and he sees the resemblance too.
"Except for the mole on my face, we're pretty similar," he said.
Anthony's parents are Cuban-Americans; Bieber is Canadian.
"Apparently I look Canadian," Anthony joked.
He added that his impersonation career might be cut short since Justin Bieber ditched his trademark hairstyle for a shorter cut.
"I am very disappointed in him, and I'm thinking about writing him an angry letter about the fact that he cut his hair because I could easily lose my job if he doesn't grow it back," he said with a laugh.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.