Navi fell awestruck with Michael Jackson when he was just a boy, but he wasn’t to know then the obsession would shape his entire life. ’Bad was my favourite album – it has so many funky songs: Smooth Criminal, Man in the Mirror – I love the way it makes you feel.’
Fast-forward 25 years he’s clocked up thousands of gigs in 57 different countries and met numerous musical greats such as Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. ’I was at the Spike Lee premier for the Bad 25 documentary, and have pictures of me and him joking around. You can’t buy that stuff. It means a lot to me that I have lived the life of a tribute.’
Navi is open about the plastic surgery, having undergone several facial operations. ‘You can’t just roll out of bed and look like Michael Jackson – even Michael Jackson couldn’t do that. I have the most famous face in world and it’s not mine.’
Highlights include having performed at MJ’s birthday party and acted as his decoy. So what was it like to have met his hero? ‘Surreal,’ he says. ‘He wasn’t how I expected him to be, he was a very shy insecure person off stage. It was almost as if I was in charge of the conversation when I spoke to him. But he was completely different on stage, like something switched on. He suddenly knew what he was and where he should be.’
Navi also supported Michael Jackson through the lows – having stood outside the court room where he was being tried, holding a ‘smooth but not criminal’ placard. But his own darkest hour was undoubtedly the star’s death.
‘My one low point was June 25. I was driving home from a show when I heard the news and I couldn’t believe it.
‘It was as if something came into the car and pulled my heart out. When that happened part of me was silenced. I was very down, but eventually I came to realise I have my own calling and avenue in life. I have a great opportunity and it’s a blessing to go on stage and perform his work.’
Since Jackson’s death the amount of work hasn’t gone up but the size of shows has got bigger. ‘I did a Formula One event with the royal family. I wouldn’t have done that if he had not passed away.’ However, Navi is quick to point out it’s a labour of love rather than riches. ‘I’ve put in more than I have made over the years.
‘It has had a massive impact on my personal life. When I’m in a relationship they have to accept the whole Jackson thing. It’s physically tiring too, and I’m knocking on 40,’ he says. ‘I want to give myself ten more years. Michael Jackson was still brilliant at 50.’
But having lived his whole adult life as a tribute, it’s not something he can simply retire from. ‘I’ve got into management a bit and creating other tribute acts. I have an understudy that I’m training to possibly be the next me. I want to stay involved. I think that goes for whatever you love. Look at Seb Coe, he’s still involved in the Olympics.’
Off-duty time is spent catching up with episodes of Eastenders, and despite all the travel, Navi says there is no place like home. ‘I have travelled to so many countries, but London is the most beautiful city in the world. To know you live in London is a proud feeling. The people make it. I love just watching how cultures blend. In most parts of the world it’s not like that. In New York, for example, everything lives in pockets.’
So what can we expect from the gig? ‘It’s a fan event. The atmosphere is going to be buzzing, it will be Michael mania.’
Navi will be performing at The Michael Jackson Spectacular on 14 October at:
Tickets are available from Ticketmaster starting at £19.50 + booking fee.