at best i have a few role models. one for physical toughness (Dave Goggins), one for creativity (Seth Godin), one for mercy (Jesus), one for intellect (CS Lewis), one for entrepreneurship (Sam Zemurray).
at worst i have none. once you classify someone as a role model, you inherit their flaws as well as their strengths. and i don't know enough about any of these people to feel comfortable putting their name next to mine.
to your question, if i had to choose 1 person whose life i might be satisfied living in, or observing as a fly on the wall, it would probably be a straight edge rockstar. meaning, someone who made great music for a living but didn't get addicted to drugs and "rock & roll" along the way.
in other words. i've personally gotten more satisfaction from making music than anything else i've ever done, even though i've never made money in music. so it follows that figuring out how to do what i love, for a living, would be most optimal and something that i could only experience through someone else's life.
as for your last bit, yes, imitation is a precursor to creation. but if you get addicted to the craft of copying, lets call it Life Tracing, you may never flip the switch to expressing your own ideas. so while this skill of imitating may lend itself to higher quality output, it's also a double edged sword.
instead of looking for role models (function following form), 1) decide what you want to do and 2) learn who is doing that (form follows function).