New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... - Julie Jacobson

Judy Rankin en­joys playing a right royal char­ac­ter!

Judy Rankin reels off the var­i­ous jobs she’s had in the last 50 or so years: Air New Zealand cabin crew, pri­mary school teacher, mas­sage ther­a­pist, tu­tor, first-aid in­struc­tor, Short­land Street ac­tor, Queen El­iz­a­beth II.

The last has seen her putting on right royal per­for­mances at 100th birth­day par­ties, re­tire­ment roasts, in TV ad­verts and, one Christ­mas, on a float in the Farm­ers Santa Pa­rade through cen­tral Auck­land. It was on that oc­ca­sion she per­fected the re­gal wave, de­scribed by one royal watcher as “a classy af­fair that oozes deco­rum but doesn’t get too ex­citable”.

Whether it’s mere co­in­ci­dence or a more mean­ing­ful quirk of fate – she’d like to think the lat­ter – Judy ( 70) was born the same year the then Princess El­iz­a­beth mar­ried her dash­ing fi­ancé, Lieu­tenant Philip Mount­bat­ten. A life mem­ber of How­ick Little Theatre,

Judy’s first-ever ap­pear­ance as Her Majesty dates back to the late ’80s when she played the part in Alan Ben­nett’s Sin­gle Spies. A lo­cal busi­ness ap­proached the theatre look­ing for some­one to take part in a Queen’s birth­day pro­mo­tion. “Some­one said ‘ Why not Judy?’, and that was it re­ally,” she ex­plains.

Her in­au­gu­ral out­ing as The Queen was spent snack­ing on cu­cum­ber sand­wiches and sip­ping tea to the amuse­ment of a steady stream of passersby. Al­though the re­ac­tion from a group of cam­era-tot­ing tourists – on Auck­land’s Queen Street, no less – was some­what more an­i­mated.

“They were so ex­cited – I’m still not sure even now whether they thought I was the real Queen or not,“laughs Judy. “Gen­er­ally you get a lovely re­sponse. Peo­ple will of­ten do a dou­ble take, but they to­tally buy into it. They’ll bow and curtsy. They are very po­lite.”

Judy prefers to call her­self a looka­like rather than an im­per­son­ator. “The Queen and I both have blue eyes and we’re sim­i­lar in build, al­though I’m not quite as busty,” she laughs. “Im­per­son­ator sug­gests you might be try­ing to take her place. The Queen can’t be every­where at once, so I’m a sort of clone, if you like, who can stand in for her.”

Judy’s go-to guise in­cludes a wig, a for­mal white gown made by a friend, over the el­bow gloves, a faux er­mine shoul­der cape and plenty of what Judy calls sec­ond-hand “bling” – a tiara, sap­phire watch trim, bracelet and neck­lace. She also wears the fa­mous blue sash of the Or­der of the Garter.

And to en­sure she cap­tures the Queen’s true char­ac­ter, Judy – who most Ki­wis will

LOOKA­LIKE JUDY GIVES SPE­CIAL EVENTS THE ROYAL TREAT­MENT ‘ The Queen can’t be every­where at once, so I’m a sort of clone, if you like’

know as Mona McKay, mother of Short­land Street hos­pi­tal CEO Cal­lum McKay, has stud­ied her ev­ery little quirk, from the way she switches her hand­bag from arm to arm, to her slightly pi­geon-toed stance and the way she holds her head. She even has a Corgi – of sorts. It’s a stuffed one, named Su­san af­ter the Queen’s first ever pet Pem­broke, gifted to her on her 18th birth­day.

While she’s not an ar­dent roy­al­ist, Judy thinks the Queen is “lovely” and does a ster­ling

job. She has a “bit of a soft spot” for Prince Charles –

“he’s an in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter and seems very sin­cere” – and she ad­mires Princess Anne’s in­de­pen­dent spirit. “She is who she is,” says Judy.

Given her back­ground, it’s only nat­u­ral that Judy should namecheck Dame He­len Mir­ren as her in­spi­ra­tion – the star’s por­trayal of the Queen in the film of the same name won her an Os­car for best ac­tress. Judy’s also a huge fan of an­other ac­tress with royal con­nec­tions: Dame Judi Dench, who was seen here re­cently in Vic­to­ria and Ab­dul, a film that delves into the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Queen Vic­to­ria and her young In­dian at­ten­dant, Ab­dul Karim.

Closer to home, how­ever, it’s Judy’s part­ner David who gives her en­cour­age­ment and, on oc­ca­sion, a sup­port­ive arm. “He fre­quently comes along as the chauf­feur,” she grins, “and he some­times stands in as the duke, or the se­cu­rity bloke. He has what looks like a wire [ear set] and he lurks about un­til it’s time to take me home. He is ex­tremely sup­port­ive of Her Majesty.”

Judy’s part­ner David some­times ac­com­pa­nies her in the role of the Duke of Ed­in­burgh. Judy has been dress­ing up as Her Majesty since the late ’80s (be­low), al­though the ac­tress is best known as Short­land

Street’s Mona McKay.

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