WHEN Amanda Large tragically lost her beautiful baby boy Thomas at just three months old her whole life fell apart.
Having had some existing health problems since birth, Thomas’ death was classified as “Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy” (SUDI) and still to this day Amanda, 43, hasn’t been able to find out why.
The mother of three, now living in Belfast, was a publicist and entertainment manager up until Thomas died.
After the tragedy she decided it was time to re-evaluate her life and she left her career behind to return to working in the family computer business.
But there was always something missing for Amanda who moved to Belfast from Drogheda in 2009.
Then at Christmas last year she watched Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time and her life began to change.
While watching the film Amanda felt connected to the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, so much so that’s she’s now Northern Ireland’s only female impersonator of the character.
She explained: “I have always loved the sea, collected antiques and had a fascination with ships but when I watched Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time, I loved it, both the historical and mythical elements in the storyline.
“But it was the character of Captain Jack Sparrow that totally fascinated me his style, attitude and how he is quite feminine in ways but still very much masculine.
“After watching the film I went on to read the books where his character and background is far more detailed and portrays him as someone who is loyal, admirable, has strong morals and really is a pirate and a good man as touched upon in the first film Curse of the Black Pearl.”
Amanda’s fascination with the film led her to research pirates across the globe and eventually she realised there was a real aspect to the lifestyle that she could connect with.
“I did quite a lot of research into pirates and discovered that the pirate lifestyle is actually a ‘thing’ just like being a goth or an emo” she said, adding: “Having always been a little eccentric in my dress and thinking I have never really felt like I fitted in to what is considered ‘normal’.
“Then I discovered this and I finally felt ‘this is it, this is me – I’m a pirate’ and it totally fitted in to what fascinated me and the connection I felt with Jack Sparrow.
“It is a lifestyle of freedom, doing what you want to do when you want to do it, being independent and not relying on others for your happiness, experiencing different lifestyles and cultures, living in different places but never really settling in one.
“It’s about living your dreams, having fun and enjoying each day and moment of your life.”
For Amanda, losing her son just heightened all her feelings about living in the moment.
She said: “After losing someone very close to you it really brings home what a precious and fleeting gift life is and one not to be wasted.
“Pirates are open minded and non judgemental, so beliefs and values vary from person to person, I consider myself to have strong principles and morals so again
Jack fitted in to that ‘role model’ so to speak.”
Eventually her decision to live with pirate ideals made it easy to pursue a career that fitted in with her new lifestyle.
Amanda said: “I also love Jack’s sense of style. I already wore dreads so I began to add beads and antique trinkets to them as he does and dress in my own interpretation of what a modern day pirate would wear.
“It was fun coming up with my pirate style. In the past I do vaguely remember a few people had reference to the fact that I looked a bit like Johnny Depp but I didn’t pass much heed to it at the time but after I began to take on Jack’s look it was said to me many times on a daily basis so it kind of started from there.
“The first few times I went to events it would have been as Jack’s ‘sister’ – those who are familiar with the film will know that Captain Teague is his father, it is suggested that Captain Teague may have had an Irish background hence not beyond the realm of possibility that Jack may have had a half sister somewhere here.
“Then when I was confirmed to be in the Belfast Pride parade I decided it would be appropriate to go all the way and actually be a man and it was such fun getting the whole costume, the facial hair done and other elements.
“It was a huge success and from that point on I wanted to be a Jack Sparrow Impersonator.
“Again I turned to Google in my search of how to make it work and to see if there were more female impersonators out there when I stumbled upon a lady called Denise Pearson who has been an impersonator of Johnny Depp for 15 years.
“We talked and she convinced me it was a great idea.”
Now Amanda is taking classes to help her perfect her act.
She said: “I have begun voice coaching and acting lessons so that I will be able to not only have the look but the speech and mannerisms also.
“The mannerisms are coming along well but the voice is proving difficult as not only do I have to try to neutralise my strong accent but also try to disguise the fact that I am actually a woman but my coach seems quite convinced we will get there.
“I myself am very conscious of the voice issue but at events no one really seems to mind.
“On a couple of occasions I have had the experience of someone actually thinking I was the real thing until I speak of course.
“When I go out to do photoshoots or on my way to events I get so many people wanting to take pictures with me, taking videos at traffic lights and things – it’s like being famous for pretending to be someone else famous – very strange.
“I started my facebook page only a few weeks ago and someone has even commented on a pic saying ‘he’s gorgeous’.
“Other people have messaged me saying they have watched the films again after seeing me and I hope that it will introduce the franchise to those who have not already seen it and even spark an interest in the historical side of it.
“At present I mainly do community and charity events but I want to pursue it properly professionally and with the fifth film in the series out in 2017 I think that will provide many opportunities for me in the future.”
Find out more about Amanda Large’s Captain Jack Sparrow act at www.facebook.com/captainjacksparrowireland
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