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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Jennifer Stewart

Aired July 4, 2003 - 20:44   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: 4th of July, of course, conjures up images of parade, fireworks, picnics, the Declaration of Independence, and almost always, the Statue of Liberty, as we're showing you right now.
Back in 1986, when the nation celebrated the statue's centennial, performance artist Jennifer Stewart won a national look-alike contest that launched her on a new career as the living embodiment of Lady Liberty. And she joins us now. And thank you very much. We're honored, Lady Liberty, that you could be with us tonight on....

JENNIFER STEWART, LADY LIBERTY: Well, Anderson, I'm honored. It is great to be here.

COOPER: All right, so let's -- how did you get into doing this? You had a job. You were working with kids, is my understanding, though, right?

STEWART: Actually, at that time, I was working with adults, adult, emotionally, mentally disturbed adults in Iowa City, teaching art. They were institutionalized. One of my students at the time -- he was a diagnosed schizophrenic, but he came up and commented that he thought I looked like the Statue of Liberty.

COOPER: So that put the idea in your mind?

STEWART: No, actually at the time, I thought, you know, that's bizarre. It is better than Mount Rushmore, I suppose. And what happened, though, is the next year I happened to read a national look- alike contest for her centennial celebration. And only because of that comment -- I never would have considered it otherwise -- but I thought, well, that's bizarre. And then I'm an artist. And I was still living in Iowa and never had been to the statue, but I thought that would be an interesting art project.

COOPER: And that was 1986.

STEWART: In '86.

COOPER: So you've been -- and this has become your full-time job.

STEWART: Yes.

COOPER: You make a career living out of this?

STEWART: Yes.

COOPER: What kind of events do you do? What do you do?

We're looking at some amazing picture right now, you with the firefighters. And that was after 9/11. You raised money for your local firehouse.

STEWART: My firehouse in Brooklyn Heights, Engine 205 Ladder 118. I hope I didn't get those numbers mixed up, but they lost eight of 11 men, and from having done street performance over the years, I thought this is one way I could help them, and so I did a lot of street performance right at that time. And raised ...

COOPER: How do people respond to you when they see you?

STEWART: It's such a gift, it's been such a gift. They -- out of shock -- and at times I forget that I look like this, and I say what are you guys looking at? Come on. Oh, yes, yes, yes, sorry.

COOPER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I heard about this. I was like, OK -- but when I actually saw you, I'm like it's really kind of remarkable.

STEWART: Yes, it's kind of bizarre.

COOPER: You do this with green paint, is it?

STEWART: This is a water-based theatrical makeup that I mix. When I first made the costume, I couldn't find makeup, so it was the green paint, a house paint. And the final contest was on "CBS Morning News," and Maria Shriver was hosting -- I hope this isn't a conflict of interest -- but it was horrible. She asked me why do you want to be the statue? (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COOPER: You couldn't talk?

STEWART: But now this is great stuff. I've been green all day today.

COOPER: How long does it take you to put on, to get the whole...

STEWART: Oh, you know, an hour both ends.

COOPER: Can I hold your torch?

STEWART: Oh, please do. Please do.

COOPER: I ask that question of so many guests.

STEWART: Exactly. Passing the torch.

COOPER: Wow, this is great.

STEWART: But actually, Anderson, your question about doing this, over the years, I started doing street performance and never imagined this as a job, and it's led into a lot of corporate work that has taken me to like seven countries and ...

COOPER: Overseas, people must -- I know you've been to Japan. You said you got an amazing response there?

STEWART: Yes. Yes.

COOPER: Well, it's really -- it's great. I appreciate you coming in. I know this is a busy day for you. You've probably been doing...

STEWART: Oh, this is a great way to end the day. Really. And I just very much appreciate being here.

COOPER: Well, remember to take it off before you go to bed.

STEWART: Yes, and the other thing, I just can't sleep on my stomach, so, you know.

COOPER: The problem of being Lady Liberty.

STEWART: I'll tell you, it's not easy, but we enjoy it. Thanks again.

COOPER: I pass the torch to you.

STEWART: Great, great, thank you. Happy Fourth to you.

COOPER: Jennifer, thanks for being with us. All right.

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