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Pitman students Michael Jackson performance goes viral
Pitman Jackson
A video of Pitman High School junior Brett Nichols' talent show performance of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" generated over 250,000 views within hours of being uploaded to YouTube. - photo by Photo Contributed

Pitman High School junior Brett Nichols grew up watching Michael Jackson videos religiously, but little did he know one day he would be the center of attention with his performance of the late superstar’s famed song "Billie Jean" generating over 5.5 million views one day after being uploaded to YouTube.

Nichols left school early by private car for an interview with CNN on Thursday, just one of the many networks and shows vying for his attention including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” While the show’s producers contacted Nichols, the filming schedule made it impossible to connect with the popular dancing host for this season.

Nichols has seen his world turn upside down since the uploading of the footage of his uncanny performance at the Pitman High School’s talent show and when asked about his recent surge into the spotlight, Nichols is thrilled by the opportunity to share his passion.

“I always wanted to be famous, I just didn’t know it would take off in this direction. I didn’t wake up thinking today would be like this,” said Nichols during a water polo practice after school.

While the video went viral in a matter of hours, Nichols’ performance is a well-honed craft he has worked on for nine years. Having performed the same dance at a talent show in the sixth grade, Nichols was met with a receptive crowd noting that “the moonwalk sells it.” However, it took several years of continued interest in the King of Pop for Nichols’ favorite performance to reach what Pitman Principal Rod Hollars calls a “spot on performance.”

“It’s unbelievable. Thousands of guys can be found doing Michael Jackson videos on YouTube, but everyone is struck by how he is able to capture it,” said Hollars. “I don’t know what happened in that gym but Nichols captured the moment and the spirit of the talent show.”

The 2,000 students in attendance at the talent show are minimal compared to the traction the video has gained online since being uploaded. With moon dancing skills that have left his peers in awe, viewers have the same question running through their minds: Why Michael Jackson?

“Michael Jackson is the king of music. No one in pop culture today or ever can compare to him. He is the quintessential person of music. Ever since I saw him, I’ve been a big fan and he has been sort of like a role model to me,” said Nichols.

Since discovering the performer, Nichols has spent hours upon hours learning his dance moves and listening to his music. A creative person who enjoys drawing and listening to vinyl records, it is also his love of dancing that contributed to Nichols' powerful performance.

“When I didn’t feel like working out I would dance because it’s the perfect form of exercise. It’s fun and before I knew it I would be tired and three hours had passed,” said Nichols. 

While Nichols didn’t anticipate that his personal interests would generate such attention, he is hopeful that those who view his video will be encouraged to pursue their own passion.

“I’ve always known I wanted to leave something behind on this earth and it’s fun to entertain, not because it is what people want, but because it is what I can offer,” said Nichols. “I hope people see that with hard work you can make it.”