By dressing up as celebrities from Miley Cyrus to Taylor Swift, Liam Martin has become one himself — in the Instagram world.
For the last eight months, the 17-year-old New Zealander has regularly been recreating photos of Hollywood's biggest female stars using elaborate costumes and props — foil dresses, pink wigs, and cupcake bras! — all to make his readers smile. While he's inspired smiles aplenty, he's also built up an audience of over 1.5 million Instagram followers, including some of the celebrities that he playfully mimics. And this week, his photos have shown up on websites from the Today show and ABC News to Mashable.
"I just want to make people laugh," Martin tells Yahoo of the inspiration behind his project, which can be seen at the handle @waverider_. "It's for the entertainment. I figured, it's not really something other guys do, so why not try something different? The photos started doing very well, so I decided to continue it."
"I do love dressing up as Miley Cyrus," says Martin, who has channeled the twerker on several occasions. "At the moment, though, I really like Ariana Grande, who now follows me on Instagram."
Make no mistake, a lot of time, energy — and money! — goes into each one of Martin's photos. He posts a new picture pretty much weekly and it takes that much time to execute his vision as far as coming up with a subject and buying the supplies. The teen estimates that he spends about $45 on props for each shoot, which take place at his family home "against one wall we use all the time."
The hardest one to recreate so far? "The Katy Perry photo from her 'Dark Horse' music video. It took me three hours" to get just right. The headpiece was made out of "M&Ms and string," he reveals. The shirt? It featured hand-cut pieces of paper attached to the nude-colored top. Fortunately, all his hard work paid off — the photo has 439,000 likes.
"My mom and my nana were helping me with that one and it took hours," Martin recalls, adding that he often leans on them for assistance. "Most of the time my mom helps me get dressed up and she'll take the photo for me. If my [extended] family is over, my nana and my pops — my grandpa — will help me. The whole family loves it too. It's now become normal for them."
Among the photos tributes he thinks turned out the best, "Ariana Grande with the green background and polka dot shirt," he says, referring to the spot-on pic he created for the "Problem" singer's birthday in June. (It has 325,000 likes.) "Also, my recent one with Kim Kardashian, Effie from The Hunger Games with the butterfly dress and white wig, and Miley Cyrus with the pasta on my head."
Martin, who likes to keep a positive vibe on his Instagram and has called out cyberbullies for making mean comments, has received a lot of love from the celebrities he pays tribute to. In addition to Grande, Tyra Banks is one of his followers and even did a regram of the picture he did of her. "Cara Delevingne also liked a few of my photos when I dressed up like her. So has Iggy Azalea and she commented, 'You are next level.' I was like, 'Thanks Iggy!'"
His success with the project has really caught him off guard, especially with his follower count working its way toward 2 million. "New Zealand, where I live, has a population of just over 4 million people. So no, I never imagined it to get to where it is now," he says with a laugh. "Never."
Martin recently started a social media job at a New Zealand media company. And, yes, he landed it through his Instagram account. Next up? Visiting America. "It's a goal of mine," he notes.
Well, come on over! Fortunately, he can still post these great photos from wherever in the world he is.