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Teen Michael Jackson dancer returns with new moves, 'Smooth Criminal' video

Brett Nichols' life these days is crazy. Until recently, he was just another performer at his high school’s talent show, one with a show-stopping and show-winning Michael Jackson dance impersonation. But then the video of the dance (with an extended look at his moves) went viral at the end of May (to date it’s been viewed nearly 16 million times) and nothing’s been the same for him since.“
Image: Brett Nichols
Susan Cozzitorto-Ormonde

Brett Nichols' life these days is crazy. Until recently, he was just another performer at his high school’s talent show, one with a show-stopping and show-winning Michael Jackson dance impersonation. But then the video of the dance (with an extended look at his moves) went viral at the end of May (to date it’s been viewed nearly 16 million times) and nothing’s been the same for him since.

“This is something you only see on TV,” he told TODAY.com of his new-found fame. “I didn’t think it would be me. It’s incredible and tiring — it has its ups and downs. My parents were pretty speechless that I was getting so much attention for something I’d been doing for so long.”

Saturday, Nichols and his family drove from their home near Turlock, Californina, to San Francisco, where his brother filmed a new dance video, set to “Smooth Criminal.” The family released a first look exclusively to TODAY. 

Brett Nichols.Today

“It’s not like we have extensive production values,” Nichols said. “It’s just another thing to put out there, to show I’m more than ‘Billie Jean.’ It’s probably my favorite song of (Jackson’s); it has so much energy to it.”

He's not done yet, though; his manager says they will have a much more involved remake of the "Thriller" video, complete with props and wardrobe, that they hope to have ready by the end of this month.

Thanks to the "Billie Jean" video, Nichols has secured an agent and been contacted by Jackson’s estate, which sent him a grab bag of goodies, a note of congratulations, and an invitation to see the live Las Vegas performance of “Michael Jackson ONE” on Jackson’s birthday. He’s been so busy that he hasn’t even had time to listen to “Xscape,” the newly-released Jackson album also sent to him by the estate.

“I’ve been waiting for this album ever since I heard it was coming a year ago, and now I don’t even have time to hear it!” he laughed.

A viral video may be a quick way for most people to pass a few minutes, but the subject of the clip lives with it a lot longer than that. Nichols said that he began dancing the first time he saw King of Pop perform in a video in 2001, and underwent razzing for his devotion from his peers.

“That was junior high for me, and pre-talent rally,” he said. “I just take it; I don’t try to make it negative so they’ll talk rudely to me. Now, people come up to me: ‘Can I have your autograph?’ and I’m like, ‘You slurred me last year but whatever you want, thanks for the support.’”

Ultimately, that may be the biggest life lesson Nichols will take from his insta-fame: The ways in which it changes how the world sees and treats a person. But for now, he’s happy to be on the ride, and plans to attend film school.

That said, he has no interest in becoming anything less than a multi-hyphenate talent, like his hero.

“I feel like maybe everything can be possible in your career,” he said. “Become an enigma of entertainment. It’s good to have some kind of variety with what you do in the entertainment business. I’d like to direct, dance, everything. Why not just try and do it all?”

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