I'm writing about impersonators and people being impersonated in general terms and having 'the impersonator' and 'the person being impersonated' is cumbersome at best.
'Impersonatee' sort of works, but isn't great. Any ideas?
The person being depicted or portrayed by a painter, an artist, or in this case an impersonator.
The impersonator's favourite subjects were politicians and well-known singers.
One of Britain's most famous and loved impersonators during the 1970s and early '80s was Mike Yarwood. Yarwood enjoyed stratospheric popularity in the years when British television only had three channels. In the wikipedia page dedicated to the entertainer the term, subjects, is used.
Most of his most famous subjects, such as Heath and Wilson, retired from public life or died and he was unable to master new prominent figures, most significantly, the country's first woman Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
I really think that you can make do with good old nominal adjectives, which act almost like nouns.
In the sentence, "I read two books to them; he preferred the sad book, but she preferred the happy", happy is a nominal adjective, short for "happy one" or "happy book".
Therefore: the impersonated.
I don't see why you've all decided to ignore that. How is the impersonated less of a noun than impersonatee or impersonate?
I can think of character or personality. Advise if wrong.
imitatee - "One that is imitated" (from Merriam-Webster)
Admittedly, that's the only mainstream online dictionary I can find it in, but it may be in larger print dictionaries.
You can call them a model.
The dictionary definition of model applicable in this instance is
a person or thing that serves as a subject for an artist, sculptor, writer, etc.
a standard to be imitated: she was my model for good scholarship
eg. Elvis is a popular model for impersonators.
"Impersonatee" should be considered a technical term. I have scoured the internet and it is used in places like Wikipedia, Oracle, SAP,CA Technologies. It seems to be mostly used to describe a user within an computer application that will be impersonated by an administrator. This is used to help troubleshoot/debug for customer service when a user is having a problem with that application. I vote to add this to the dictionary.
WebCenter Portal Impersonation lets a WebCenter Portal administrator or system administrator assign impersonation rights to a group of users ("impersonators"), such as support representatives or application administrators, so that they can perform operations as other users ("impersonatees"). Note that this is subject to the impersonatee granting the impersonator additional rights to impersonate them.