To say Tracey Bell is one of the funniest ladies on the Canadian comedy scene is an understatement… mainly because the award-winning celebrity impersonator and corporate entertainer manages to transform into eight different female icons on any given night. The comedienne’s trademark one-woman show, 8 Divas in 44 Minutes, features Bell doing her best Cher, Marilyn Monroe, Celine Dion, Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, Liza Minnelli, and Madonna in a jam-packed stage performance of costume changes and diva attitudes. With awards for “Entertainer of the Year” (at the Canadian Special Event Industry Awards and the BC Event Industry Awards) on her resume, as well as notable appearances on The X-Files and in the Ben Affleck’s Reindeer Games, Bell’s over 25-year career shows no signs of slowing down, though we suggest checking out her one-woman, eight-diva show sooner than later. We caught up with the funny lady to find out more about her life as eight different divas in the limelight…
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m a big kid. Kindness is really important to me, although it’s difficult when I’m driving. I’m playful. I become famous icons to connect with people and get them to play along. I love improvising and making people laugh.
How did you become an impersonator?
I was working coat check at a night club in Edmonton called Goose Loonies. I was in my third year of university and had two other jobs. I did a Tina Turner routine and then a Marilyn number and within a few weeks they hired me to perform every night and manage the entertainment department. I left school and never looked back. The club was owned by Triple Five Corporation, who had just built the world’s largest mall. I performed at all of their properties for three years before becoming a self-employed entertainment entrepreneur.
Do you have early memories of knowing this was what you were born to do?
I was always putting on shows when I was little. I did a Sonny and Cher routine at recess with another girl. Sometimes I had to be Sonny. I still can’t believe this is what I do.
Are there tricks to impersonating famous people?
Posture and movement are important. I choose strong characters with distinct mannerisms and then I exaggerate the mannerisms and facial movements. I’m going for parody.
How did you come up with the concept for 8 Divas in 44 Minutes?
It was designed to be a corporate after-dinner performance. I was developing the show for years, touring clubs. There’s a formula to it. The energy builds as the audience cheers for their colleagues and for my characters. People want to shine on stage with the divas. They are inspired to be silly and play. Their involvement makes the show especially memorable. I designed quick-change costumes so that I can change in seconds and I had music edited to fit as many classic stars into the show as possible. I have customized longer shows with more divas and I’ve broken up the show before, but the 8 Divas classic show has the best results.
You do Cher, Marilyn Monroe, Celine Dion, Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, Liza Minnelli, and Madonna. Which diva would you have the most fun being if you had to stay in character for a full week?
I would have to be paid a lot of money to stay in character for a week! I would choose Marilyn Monroe because she’s very sweet and child-like. It’s easy for me to be her. She’s not as hyper as the others and she’s very funny. She’s a naive and charming character; a classic.
Do you feel like you sometimes channel some of their attributes in your everyday life?
I have an unconscious habit of talking to police officers as Marilyn.
What are some valuable tips you have actually taken and applied to your own life based on studying these divas?
Madonna taught me that business sense is more important than talent. Liza taught me not to marry gay men, as tempting as that may be. Marilyn taught me how to sing “Happy Birthday,” and Tina Turner has shown me that my career can go on forever, even when I’m in my 70s.
Who do you get asked to impersonate the most off stage?
When my friends are drinking, they ask me to be Celine Dion. I’m funnier when you drink.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Adoration, publicity, and lip balm.
How would you describe your personal style when you’re not in costume?
Mary Ann by day, Ginger at night. I garden and work out in the daytime and I glam up like a movie star at night.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
I eat for eight women, so It’s hard to decide. I’m one of those Westenders who never leaves the neighbourhood, so I mostly eat Asian food within blocks of home. Baoguette Vietnamese Bistro at Denman and Davie and Jang Mo Jib Korean on Robson are two of my favourites. I go to Denman Sushi often because it’s a block from my gym. Forage is my favourite brunch place because they make their own ketchup and jams, good eggs Benedict, and yummy fresh scones.