Spitting image, dead ringer, chip off the old block. Doubles, twins and doppelgangers have a funny way of tricking us.
When I encountered Anne Zahalka’s photo portrait of Nicole Kidman at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, I assumed what I was looking at was a straightforward representation of the Hollywood actress.
Then I discovered that the portrait was, in fact, Kidman’s wax double at Madame Tussauds. By photographing a wax double, Zahalka reproduced a copy, intensifying the duplication of an already replicated image.
Beyond Zahalka’s portrait of Kidman, my encounter with Madame Tussauds had been nil. Truthfully, the global tourist attraction had never been on my bucket list, until now.
In October 2021, Madame Tussauds Dubai revealed a life-size wax figure of my brother Kristan Fahd, known for the past 16 years in the United Arab Emirates as radio entertainer Kris Fade.
My other brother
My brother hosts the UAE’s number-one morning radio program, The Kris Fade Show, on Virgin Radio. His breakfast show can be heard across Australia on Sunday mornings on KIIS FM. Last year, he also joined the cast of Netflix’s Dubai Bling. And if that’s not enough to keep him busy, he founded a Dubai-based healthy snack company, Fade Fit, in 2018. All this made him endearingly popular enough to attract his own wax figure.
With his family in Sydney, Kris shared photographs of his wax effigy online. We were excited by this public recognition of his contribution to culture in the UAE. In our family group chat we collectively celebrated this illustrious milestone.
But it wasn’t until I visited Madame Tussauds Dubai with him and my family in March 2022 that the strangeness of such an encounter set in.
Encountering Lady Gaga, Posh and Becks, Taylor Swift and Tom Cruise registered the typical expression of “Wow, aren’t they so lifelike!”
But encountering a sibling – a person I love, the brother whose face feels and looks like my face – is an altogether different experience.
At first, I watched as fans came and went, posing with his statue in a replica radio studio and feeling lucky because they happened to come on the day the real Kris Fade was there.
I watched my parents turn the corner and enter the room to encounter their son. It appeared like a slow-motion scene from a romantic movie, deaccelerated for my benefit, the artist daughter with the watchful eye.
My father spontaneously wept. It was as if my brother had been resurrected. My mother, also in tears, could not keep her hands off him. She stroked and touched and blessed him. When she tried to kiss his face with her Chanel red lips, my brother had to stop her: “Mum, you’re not allowed to touch me.”
“I love you,” she whispered to the statue.
Then, our London-based relatives approached and took photos with the two of him. I listened intently as they chatted and laughed, amazed by the realism of the statue and the fame that a Madame Tussauds wax figure gestures toward.
Then, it was my turn to approach. I didn’t touch. I got right up close and looked straight into his shining black eyes. It was these tiny details that moved me most. I took a photo with both my brothers and left.
I returned a year and a half after my first encounter for a private visit. I wanted to study the statue without my brother and family in tow.
It was quiet, and the statue was in a new setting. From an Arabian desert scene, he appeared to be welcoming visitors to Dubai.
I got to work studying the statue the way an artist does. I saw that every hair on his face and head appeared in the right place. His stubble appeared just like the one that scratches my face when we hug and kiss.
The big gothic punk rings on his fingers, so idiosyncratic, were exact. The open chest stance, the tattoos peering out from under the clothes, the muscle shirt – all his signature style. His long hair and man bun, the curl of his lip, the size of his nose, his diamond piercings and his affectionate posture perfectly resembled my brother.
Then I turned my attention to myself. What was I, his big sister, an artist, bringing to this encounter? I felt nothing in front of the other statues. In front of him, I felt love. I placed my hand on his hand and thanked him for the ease of our affection.
Seeing resemblances is easy. But it was at the level of feeling that I understood the most. This wax figure was displaced by sibling attachment. It was not a Madame Tussauds wax figure of a celebrity. It was my brother. Not a replica, but him. At the level of feeling, they were one and the same.
Kris and I discussed his wax double. I shared my personal experience, and he expressed a fascination with the unavoidable reversal of the Picture of Dorian Gray. In contrast to Dorian’s perpetual youth, my brother contemplates the mortal experience of growing older while witnessing the everlasting shine of his immortal self.
This article is republished from The Conversation is the world's leading publisher of research-based news and analysis. A unique collaboration between academics and journalists. It was written by: Cherine Fahd, University of Technology Sydney.
Kris Fade is the author's brother.