June 24, 2021
Sarah Cooper, the merciless Donald Trump impersonator who almost drove the former United States president to ban TikTok from the US, has won Adweek’s Digital Creator of the Year 2020 award, Hollywood Reporter said Monday.
The publication also reported that the Jamaican-born satirist, comedienne and author was selected by the Associated Press as one of the year’s five breakthrough entertainers, after the 44-year-old copped a Netflix comedy special titled Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine last October.
Since going viral in April 2020 for her Trump impressions, Cooper, who left Jamaica at age three and grew up in Maryland, has won a huge social media following. Among the biggest names to have retweeted and praised her are entertainers like Ben Stiller, Halle Berry and Cher.
Cooper’s do-it-yourself videos, shot at home in Brooklyn using TikTok, the social media network service during the novel coronavirus pandemic, featured her lip-syncing and acting out then President Trump saying ridiculous things, Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter magazine said.
“The Washington Post described her as ‘just about the only good thing in a year mired in isolation, racial unrest and political conflict’,” the magazine said of the Jamaican sensation.
Although Trump told Fox News that he had never seen any of Cooper’s videos on Tiktok — the most downloaded app from Apple’s App Store in each of the last two years, with 80 million US users — Glamour magazine suggested it was the reason Trump threatened to ban the Chinese-owned network service.
Trump said he had national security concerns about American users’ personal data on TikTok. But the ban was never carried out, probably because Microsoft was pursuing a deal to acquire the app from Beijing-based ByteDance.
“Many social media users believe he’s using the TikTok ban to silence Sarah Cooper, the prolific comedian who rose to fame throughout quarantine by mocking Trump with his own words,” Glamour wrote.
Speaking to Hollywood Reporter about her life and career, Cooper said she was drawn to the arts at an early age but explained:
“It’s really hard to go to your parents, who are Jamaican immigrants who work very hard, and say, ‘I want to act’. It’s just not what they want to hear because they want you to own a house, get married, settle down and be financially independent.”
Instead, she pursued a first degree in economics at the University of Maryland, then a master’s degree in design at Georgia Tech, before landing a job as an interactive designer at an ad agency.
“I was a creative director in Atlanta at 25/26. Even after I left that job and went to Yahoo and was designing there, acting was always in the back of my head. I had just tried stand-up comedy for the first time, and then I was at the Stella Adler Conservatory for summer study and got a job at Google…”
She wrote an article called “10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings” which went viral and became her first book under the title 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, which came out in October 2016. A month after that, Trump was elected president.
“As a woman of colour who immigrated from one of the places he was soon calling ‘sh***ole countries’, you had some things to vent about, and I did so on social media. Yeah. I was always replying to his tweets and telling him what an idiot he was,” the publication quoted Cooper as saying.
“In October 2017, I tweeted something like, ‘Fake news: Trump is not fit for presidency. Real news: Trump was never fit for the presidency’. People started liking it and retweeting it, and he saw it, and then he blocked me. It was just like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been blocked by the president of the United States!’ Which was a huge claim to fame at the time.”
None of her videos was as viewed as the one now known as “How to Medical” which she put out in April 2020, mocking Trump telling the press that people should inject bleach to deal with COVID-19.
Cooper said she uploaded the video on a Thursday night, went to bed and when she woke up next morning it had a million views. “Oh, cool, yay! I made a viral video in the pandemic,” she said. It got bigger when Jerry Seinfeld started talking about it.
“But then the pandemic kept going on and Trump kept saying dumb things and I kept making videos because it was fun… At some point, Kamala Harris (also of Jamaican heritage, now the history-making US vice-president) got in touch.”
Cooper went from 60,000 Twitter followers to 2.3 million and not making any money but she was doing it for fun because people were demanding it. She said seeing Trump’s words coming out of somebody who is, in a lot of ways, “his exact opposite — man versus woman, old versus young, white versus black, idiot versus educated person”, had made for a different viewer experience.
Asked to reflect on what would have happened to her career if Trump lost in 2020, Cooper said: “There was no world in which I was going to be disappointed if he lost. I was so happy that he lost. I would give up everything for him to have never been president. I mean, it’s a tough thing because something magical did happen when I was doing those videos. Now it’s a thing of, How do I find something magical like that again?”
Her Netflix special was her first high-profile opportunity to show her range and was produced by Maya Rudolph, directed by Natasha Leon, with writers including Paula Pell who used to write for SNL ( Saturday Night Live) and is now on Girls5Eva. It attracted many big-name cameos, from Helen Mirren to Megan Thee Stallion.
Cooper said her ultimate goal is to have her own series and to be like Jerry Seinfeld, adding: “I want to play a blowhard too! What if a black woman was a blowhard? That would be a fun thing to do. So that’s one of my goals.”