Mirror, Mirror

Courtesy of Michael Cheng

Courtesy of Michael Cheng

The picture of UC Irvine’s recently discovered doppelgangers, Hamid Yaqibu and Anthony Sweeting, made it to the top hits of Reddit, the Huffington Post and  the OC Register.

Seeing the doppelgangers in person is entertaining; the story of the two is even more so. There is a reason why their first picture together got 1,600,000 hits on Reddit within a day. During finals week of winter quarter, Hamid Yaqubi, a fourth-year material science major, met his doppelganger and fellow Anteater, Anthony Sweeting, who’s a fifth-year Chinese studies major.

A mix of German and African American descent, Anthony Sweeting grew up being nicknamed Michael Jackson. But he freaked out when he met Hamid in person. The resemblance of their facial features stunned them and their friends, though they’re quite different in terms of physique. The proportion of their facial features, shape of their eyes and nose and the way they smile make them almost identical. There is even an animated image of their faces turning into the other person’s online — and it is hard to tell the difference.

The two Anteaters crossed paths when Hamid’s friend, Dina Elkinawy, first saw Anthony in the Engineering & Computing Trailer on campus. After minutes of stalker staring, Dina could not hold herself together and blurted out: “Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you, but can I just show you a picture of my friend? You look exactly like him!”

At 4 a.m., the engineering trailer was filled with laughter when the rest of the campus was silent in study mode.

“It’s interesting that it happened during finals where the whole time when nobody’s paying attention to each other and when I’m inside the engineering trailer where nobody really hangs out,” Anthony said.

Just a few days after seeing each other’s picture, Hamid ran into Anthony while cramming for finals in the Courtyard Study Lounge.

“I was in Courtyard studying when my friend came and told me that the guy who looks like me was nearby,” Hamid said. Unprepared and hesitant, Hamid stood up and looked at the reflection of Anthony through the glass door.

He could not move his feet until he was dragged by friends to meet Anthony. All the time they kept urging Hamid, “You have to go meet him right now!”

So the doppelgangers officially met and took a picture together, which later got them some remarkable feedback and attention in the media. When Hamid showed the picture to his mom the day it went viral online, she said, “He doesn’t look like you. Your face is rounder, I know my son.”

But Hamid and Anthony’s lives have been affected considerably. Since they became friends on Facebook, both admitted that they had reacted to their doppelganger’s picture in an odd way:

“When you see a picture of them, like on Facebook snowboarding or whatever, somehow you would feel like, ‘I was there,’” Anthony said.

“I remember last time I saw a snowboarding picture [on Anthony’s Facebook] and I was like, ‘Yea, I guess I did that.’ You kind of like push yourself in the situation more or something,” Hamid added.

The intriguing part of their story is how two lookalikes of completely different ethnicities can look so alike. Anthony Long, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCI whose research focuses on genetics, said of doppelgangers, “I am not sure there is much genetics here. My guess is that it has as much or more to do with human perception and the way we ‘bin’ features.”

Looking back, Anthony Sweeting and Hamid Yaqubi still think it is unbelievable how they found each other. Anthony describes himself as less sociable compared to Hamid while Hamid can be often spotted on Ring Road and in the Cross-Cultural Center.

What is the possibility of coming across your doppelganger in life? The mysterious coincidence is rare, but Anthony had something important to remember before graduation.

“He’s Afghan and I’m German-African American. Like our lineages are from across the world! We somehow had the chance to be at UC Irvine and even here, we are across world, literally and figuratively. It’s a small world.”