After a dozen years impersonating the Statue of Liberty, Jennifer Stewart was ready to throw in the torch. “I couldn’t believe,” she says, “that God put me here just to perform in a green toga at corporate lunches.”
Then came the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then Stewart, 44, averaging three to four hours a day standing motionless on the streets of New York City, has raised $10,000 for the American Red Cross and her local Brooklyn firehouse, which lost seven men in the Twin Towers.
Stewart, who grew up in Audubon, Iowa, has been perfecting her Lady Liberty act since 1986, the statue’s centennial year, when she won a national Statue of Liberty look-alike contest. Two years later, while taking graduate courses in art therapy, she took her gig to Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, getting, she says, “a powerful emotional reward” from performing in public. And her corporate jobs paid well, up to $3,000 a day. Says Richard Aaron, president of the trade-show Web site bizbash.com who has worked with Stewart, “People wait all day to get their picture taken with her.”
By early 2001, Stewart, divorced since 1988, was contemplating going back to Iowa. “I missed the green grass,” she says. Now, however, as passersby drop bills and coins in the plastic bucket at her feet, she says, “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. I’m a New Yorker.”