Leaving Neverland: Saying Goodbye to Michael Jackson

The Moonwalk is what set my career in motion.

I knew that if a gawky, awkward, dweeby, girlfriend-less kid like me could figure out that incredibly beautiful, other-worldly move, it was game over.

For an entire summer I wore out my VHS tapes of “Motown 25 Special”, “Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller”, “Moonwalker”, and every MTV performance I could capture, rewinding and pausing each magical movement Michael Jackson did with his feet, legs, shoulders, neck, head, arms, hands…sometimes dancing in my basement for 12 hours a day.

My parents eventually made me put a piece of plywood down as there were scratch marks all over the parquet floor.

I made money dancing on street corners in Utah (which dancing on street corners is not necessarily a thing in Utah), by performing in parking lots, as my friends and I put our cars in a circle, shining headlights my way, with “Billie Jean” and “Smooth Criminal” blaring at teens lined up for their Friday summer night sno-shack snow cone.

We made enough money to go to the movies…the dollar movies, but still!  It changed my teen years.

The career-defining moment came when I was on stage at a religious university in my State at a talent contest, did the perfect MJ dance routine and impression, moonwalking my way to the shrieks of audience members, and then doing a few of those other moves a boy shouldn’t do, thinking it was harmless, and ending the show with a 720-spin, fell to my knees, while ripping off my shirt.

Standing ovation.  The crowd went bonkers.

And then…

Disqualified – the routine deemed “inappropriate for someone raised right and who should know better.”

It was in that moment that I erased a few of the infamous MJ dance moves from my repertoire and made a promise I would only perform a routine of him that was G-Rated, and thus would be the path of my career: Family-Friendly First.

When I got my first real job as a performer, working for the Las Vegas “Legends in Concert” as a full-time impersonator, every friend from my past figured it would be as the Michael Jackson impersonator…they didn’t realize you had to look just like him to work there.  Thus my simple transition to dancing like and channeling Ricky Martin, who does many of the same moves as MJ.

Leaving Legends I put together a One-Man Show of music & comedy impressions.  It was very successful very quickly – and, most importantly, my promise was to keep it family friendly – always.

If you know my headlining Las Vegas Casino story then you know family first is what it’s all about when it comes to my performing.

And while Michael Jackson has remained the very singular, most prominent character in my arsenal of impressions (while classics such as Jim Carrey, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and others have been retired due to physical injury), even the very crux upon which I base my entire presentation due to his legendary Moonwalk, helping others consider their own “Signature Moves” with the question, “What is your Moonwalk?” (I mean goodness, it is my entire new promo reel for 2019 starting at :22! ), then you may realize I have a situation staring me in the face as of this very moment!



I guess I’ll once again quote what naturally comes to mind, since it fits perfectly:

“I’m gonna make a change, for once in my life…it’s gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right.”

The Promise of Becoming a Legendary Leader isn’t just something I coined and created – it’s the basis of my existence.

I believe all of us have the ability to make something of ourselves with our unique gifts and can all become effective leaders as we discover our Signature Moves.

Utilizing the dancing of Michael Jackson in my every performance for over 3 decades has taught that principle masterfully, as everyone has tried The Moonwalk and failed at it, which helps us realize we are all individual and uniquely gifted.

With the latest allegations and controversy, and in respect to those that have come forth now a decade since MJ’s passing, the new movie, interviews, and backlash, it is with much sorrow, and equally determination to do what’s right, that I say goodbye to presenting Michael Jackson in my performances.

Is he guilty?  Is he innocent?  It’s not for me to judge or determine.  If what has come to light is the case then it’s despicable and I choose to distance from it by association.

I know my actions on stage, as a speaker and performer, and my promise, is to always do what I feel is intrinsically right, even if it means a very uphill challenge for me to replace and start over.

For the past week I have been working overtime to erase YouTube videos, hire editors to re-edit my new videos to make them appropriate as to this decision, changed my entire web site – you name it, this is a problem for me on a very large scale, and yet something very necessary to face head on immediately.

For my audience, for those learning, listening, trusting me with words that evoke emotion, inspiration, laughs, and even tears, it is to inspire each individual to moving up and never to suggest insensitivity or callousness.

I apologize to any I have unknowingly offended in my having performed the Michael Jackson routine for so long, and for using him as an example in leadership.

His music, dance moves, and memory remains.  He created quite the legacy as an artist, and it is up to us whether or not to enjoy his artistry in private and with our own need for the emotions he brings.

My promise to every audience is to bring joy, and in that promise the glove has now gone from it’s permanent place in my travel bag to the moving-on bin.

It’s hard to say goodbye to something I have worked so hard to be good at, but it’s necessary.

That is The Promise.



UPDATE: Favor to ask of my Friends – To those that read and resonated with this post about Michael Jackson you know we are going to great lengths and changing all kinds of things, even on my videos. We have just uploaded my NEW Demo Reel with no MJ, and it’s in need of some favorable comments and thumbs up on YouTube. If you are so willing to help me out at this time I would be so grateful. Thank you!



Leadership Expert * Author * Speaker Hall of Fame * Award-Winning Entertainer

The Promise: Become a Legendary Leader and discover your Signature Moves


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31 thoughts on “Leaving Neverland: Saying Goodbye to Michael Jackson”

  1. Thank you for thoughtfully reflecting on your influence as a leader and taking the more difficult but appropriate path. I wish more leaders would take these types of actions.

  2. Patricia Godwin

    As a leadership expert, you know people are a mixture of personality, emotions, childhood trauma, and life experience. MJ is an amazing talent that was haunted by his destructive addictive behaviors. It takes a brave leader to show those they lead that we are all a mixture of imperfections. Children should never be harmed nor should adults, yet they are and it is tragic. How can we stop the harmful behaviors? We have to have a new kind of leadership. You putting away the glove and the glasses isn’t the answer. There are no perfect families. You have combined performance, family values, and leadership. What do those three words really mean to you? Maybe it’s time to take it to the next level of leadership. Maybe, we all need to think about the courage it will take to really stop the harm we do to each other.

    1. Not sure what you mean here Patricia, and yet appreciate you taking the time to comment. Leadership is all that you said, as well as doing our part where we feel something must be done. Continued success in your work.

  3. Your thoughtfilledness is refreshing and appreciated. In this, you are also a good roll model! Thank you for all you do and share. You always bring smile.

  4. “To thine own self be true…” your entertainment has evolved and you have all kinds of “new” in your repertoire. Go forward with that light in your eyes and heart

  5. Leaders are revealed by what they do when things are difficult.

    Having seen you perform a few times, I know this change is more than an emotional attachment to a favourite move a it means rewriting material, editing videos, resequencing segments of your show. It will take time, effort and money to do.

    Most leaders are good at articulating speaking what they believe; some are good at acting in accordance with those beliefs; fewer are willing make person all sacrifices to stay in integrity. Bravo!

    1. Wow Mark, love you man. Thank you for these great words. You are right – this will be a major shift, but needs to happen. Proud of all you are doing and have become.

  6. You are such an example of goodness and light. This was so well expressed and I applaud you as I always do. You never cease to amaze me with your gift to entertain, teach and bring so much joy to those who have the opportunity to see and be around you. You are true inspiration. Thank you Jason.

    1. This means a great deal coming from you Gayla, thank you for your light and the family you raised, they inspire me daily.

  7. At first I was a little sad, I mean you nailed Michael Jackson!!!! You have made a hard decision to go with what’s right and I think that just makes you who you are- an amazing leader, mentor, encouraging, confidence building, hilarious rock star whose moral compass is strong !!!! Keep being awesome!

  8. Thank you for your example of honoring your Promise, and your actions demonstrate integrity. Looking forward to seeing your own signature moves that others will imitate.

  9. Well, this may not seem much in the eternal scheme of things, but I personally think it qualifies as one of the \”small means by which the Lord can bring about great things\”. So, let\’s just watch and see. Keep up the good work. Love you.

  10. Ever since you spoke to our little youth group in Kennesaw Georgia many years ago I’ve never worried about your ability to succeed. You will do just fine through this transition as well. On to the next level!

  11. Jason,
    This is a great opportunity for you to step into your own light and out of the shadow of the luminous Michael Jackson. I didn’t see your earlier reel so have nothing to compare to. Well done for you moving into your new space. I had the privilege of sharing the stage once with Michael Jackson. Like you, I will take his legendary name out of my bio and marketing materials.
    One thing I saw is a short segment with people onstage in fedora hats. That made me think of the Smooth Criminal video. However, it’s possible that that is not what your video is in relation to. However, if it is, I’d cut/replace that short segment also.
    Not sure how you feel about Usain Bolt but he’s certainly got a signature move. Shakira has the hips don’t lie move but that might not be family friendly. You can look to people outside entertainment for signature moves as well. Again, your short video here is the first time I’ve known anything about you as a result of one of our mutual friends sharing your video on YouTube. Good luck to you. May your star shine even brighter now that you are standing in your own light.
    If you have not yet created your own legendary leadership signature move yet, I invite you to do that. Then teach that move or short dance routine to your entire audience to lock in the learning/lessons. Perhaps you have a move for “identify” a different move for “clarify” and another grander move for “magnify”. This will be come your own work and your own signature move. If you want my help with this, feel free to reach out to me.

    1. Thank you very much Deborah. Appreciate your great thoughts. Admire your career, and love your web site, branding, Sammy Davis – WOW! Continued success.

  12. Colleen Hewlett

    Fortunately, I’ve never had anyone say to me, “Is that guy who does a Michael Jackson impersonation related to you?” But I’ve had thousands ask, “Is Jason Hewlett related to you?” People love you for you, Jason. Your skills have evolved into something so much bigger than impersonations. Who would have thought your show would be as good without your “legendary” Jim Carrey routine? But it is! It’s just gotten better. You’re Jason Hewlett, not just the guy who does funny impersonations!

    1. Oh, I love you Colleen, you are too much, too kind. Thank you for taking the time to comment and lift me up my sweet Aunt!

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