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“I love making people smile:” the face behind Milwaukee’s living statue

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MILWAUKEE -- Imagine standing as still as you possibly can...for hours on uncomfortable poses, clothes and layers upon layers of make up. It's a challenge few are willing to endure but one Bay View woman is constantly turning heads because of her amazing ability to stand still and remain in character.

Three years ago Alice Wilson decided to perform in public as one of the world's most famous paintings.

Alice Wilson is a living statue at many Milwaukee events

"I had done the Mona Lisa at Bastille Days," Wilson said. "My very first statue that I did was Willy Wonka. I believe my second one was a bronze pirate."

She's also dressed up as a witch, mermaid, court jester, Rosie the Riveter, and a character she calls "steam punk nanny".

"Basically the idea is you create a costume and make up and you make yourself look like a statue or a sculpture, like a marble or metal or bronze sculpture and then the whole idea is that you just stand there perfectly still until people interact with you or tip you and then you come to life or you move," Wilson said.

If you've seen a living statue in Milwaukee they've mostly likely hired to travel here to perform making Alice a rare find in the city of festivals.

Alice Wilson loves to entertain at Summerfest

She says, "I want to put it out there that I'm not homeless, I've actually had that a few times."

But why turn yourself into a living statue just to stand in the heat in crowds of people?

"I've always liked to entertain," Wilson said. "I love making people smile. My favorite thing is the reactions of little kids because it runs the gamut, everything from shear delight and then wanting to hug you to absolute and utter terror where they start crying and freaking out and they want to run away."

"It's funny because sometimes they comment that you're real and they know you're real but when you move they still have a startled reaction which is so funny to me," Wilson said.

Getting into character is a tedious and time-consuming event, but Alice always starts the exact same way.

"Pinning up my hair and putting on a wig cap and then in terms of the make up the very first step sunscreen because I`m not sure if I would burn through the make up but I'm not sure I want to find out," she said.

Followed by a layer of baby powder, the first layer of black make up, more powder, a second layer of make up, more powder.

Alice Wilson putting on her makeup

"And then a setting spray and then touching up in spots. There's usually spots where I have to add a little grease paint in the creases around my nose, like just underneath my eyes," Wilson said.

The process takes an hour and a half to two hours for most of them.

So what's the secret behind staying as still as humanly possible while performing?

"For me it`s just lots of practice," she said. "I can stand there for like an hour without moving if I absolutely had to. Anything with your arms up and away from your body is going to be more difficult. Something with your arms more down and closer into your body is easier."

But what if Alice has an itch or has to blink?

"Really the trick is just to do it when you're not looking at me. Sometimes when I'm doing the statues you know especially if it's a really hot day or whatever people will say like 'Oh my gosh I feel so sorry for you and I'm thinking to myself well don't I love what I do," Wilson said.

Wilson has dressed up and created many characters

And her booty, or treasure for performing like a pirate at Summerfest?

"Most people tip anywhere from some pocket change to I'd say the average is a dollar. Some people tip me five dollars," Wilson said. "I've even on a couple of occasions had someone give me a twenty and not make change."

Wilson loves to interact with people in the crowd

After a long day of being a living statue -- there's only thing on her mind.

"I'm usually pretty exhausted, pretty tired, hungry, sometimes my feet hurt," she said. "I can't wait to get home and take a shower."

Alice says she's only had a few disrespectful encounters while out performing.

You can see her perform through the remainder of Summerfest and again at Bastille Days and the Green Lake County Fair.


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