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Royal Baby 2: Why looking like Kate can be good for business

05/01/2015 11:00 EDT | Updated 05/01/2016 05:12 EDT
As well-wishers gather outside the central London hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge is expected to give birth, Heidi Agan is also looking forward to the arrival of the newest addition to the Royal Family — and putting away her own baby bump.

At first glance, it may not look like there are many differences between Agan and Kate Middleton's baby bumps, or between Agan and Kate at all.

But Agan's bump does not carry a baby.

"I had it made," says the central England-based Kate Middleton look-alike. "I went to my seamstress one day and I just said: 'Can you make me pregnant?' And she did."

The former waitress has worked as a full-time Kate Middleton look-alike ever since customers at the restaurant where she worked urged her to send her picture to an agency. Four days later, she had her first gig.

With her long, chestnut brown hair and high, full cheeks, Agan looks remarkably like Kate.

She can make between £600 and £3,000 ($1,116 - $5,580 Cdn) per appearance as the Duchess of Cambridge, often from a variety of photo shoots for magazines and tabloids or appearances at parties or events.

Corporate events are the mainstay, says Helena Chard, the celebrity casting director for Susan Scott's Lookalikes Ltd., the agency that was the first to sign Agan as a look-alike. Now she also works with other agencies internationally.

Lookalike luck

Most look-alikes have other full-time jobs, Chard says.

Because of the high demand for Agan's character, as well as Agan's availability, she is one of the two or three Kate look-alikes booked the most often, the casting director said.

"You really have to look like somebody that people want to use, so it's not guaranteed work," Agan said.

Agan considers it is the best job she's ever had.

The flexible work schedule means there's less pressure to be working "every hour under the sun."

And after she takes off the baby bump at the end of the day, the single mother of two gets to spend more time with her own kids, ages six and 13.

"That is one of the most important things to me," Agan said.

"I've struck it really lucky, being a royal [look-alike] and being probably one of the most famous royals that people want to hire."

In the royal look-alike industry, there's a group knows as the Big Seven, Agan says: the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince William and Kate, and Prince Harry.

"I think if you're in one of the Big Seven, you're going to do OK."

Follow the headlines

The look-alike business tends to follow what is in the news, said Chard, but royal look-alikes are always in demand. Kates especially.

While Agan was not a look-alike when Prince William and Kate got married in 2011, she was working when Kate was pregnant with their first child, Prince George.  

"I was the first Kate look-alike to be pregnant for George," said Agan.

"Everybody was so excited for George that sort of every little thing that I did was written about. It was an incredible time to be involved in the birth of the new king of England, or soon-to-be king of England."

Agan has various sizes of baby bumps so she was able to appear to grow as Kate progressed in her pregnancy.

"Sounds bizarre, but it's what we have to do."

The look-alike agency has had a surge of bookings leading up to the royal birth that is expected any day now, but not all businesses in the U.K. are benefiting as much as they did around the birth of Prince George in 2013.

In retail alone, William and Kate's second royal baby is expected to pump more than $148 million into the British economy during the two weeks before and after the birth, according to a study from the Centre for Retail Research in Nottinghamshire.

Not as much excitment

The centre's director, Joshua Bamfield, said there is a "significant difference" between the projected retail sales for this baby and for Prince George, whose arrival was touted for a potential $459-million impact.

"That sort of market isn't there anymore," said Bamfield, "because it's very unlikely that this new child, unless unfortunate things happen, is going to occupy the throne."

Prof. Pauline Maclaran says another difference that will impact the market is that there is not as much public excitement now compared to the anticipation before Prince George's birth.

"Certainly on a temporary basis, businesses are trying to tap into it," says Maclaran, a marketing and consumerism research professor at the University of London who studies consumerism in relation to the British monarchy.

"You have this sort of tying into the royal theme around the time, and expecting people to spend a bit more money. Some of the superfans you see queuing up already outside the hospital, they will have parties. There will be some, I imagine, but it won't speak to the same extent as before.

"I think for any longer influence on the retail side, it'll really need to be a girl."

Although she's hoping the new royal will be a girl, Chard suspects there will be more bookings in the look-alike business after the baby arrives, boy or girl.

"I think after the royal birth it's going to continue on a bigger level, because people are happy."

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