Sheryl Sharkie, aka "ShElvis," is an Australia's only fulltime female Elvis Tribute Artist. The 58-year-old lives in Sydney but travels far and wide to perform at Elvis Festivals and tribute concerts across the country. We spent the day with Sharkie at the week-long Parkes Elvis Festival, to see what it's like to live life as both a woman and the King.
BROADLY: Thanks for letting us follow you around, Sheryl. Can you tell me how did your interest in Elvis began?
ShElvis: When I was 14, mom and dad relented and got me a record player for my 14th birthday. My first album was Memphis to Las Vegas, and I just played it and played it and played it. People use the word "resonate"—the songs just meant something to me. I don't know what exactly, but they meant something to me.
What do you bring to the role as a woman, that male performers perhaps don't?
I bring a more feminine side to his music. Elvis was a balladeer; he would tell a story. Whereas the boys like to do all the big boomy loud concerts, and their big-voiced things—which I can do also—but I also like to do the storytelling side of his music.
I don't hide the fact I'm female. I can't do all the karate kicks, and all those things that the boys do, but I can do a bit of hip-shaking. My focus is on delivering the song.
To be honest, I've never thought of Elvis in a feminine way.
Well, there were question marks about his sexuality, actually. In the early and younger days, Elvis wore makeup. There are a lot of feminine sides to his music. There's also a lot of femininity in his jumpsuits—his gypsy jumpsuit, his puff sleeves...
Have you ever had any weird fans?
No. But I've had ladies [say]: "What's a woman doing singing Elvis?" My comeback is, "Well, what's a man doing singing Dusty Springfield? Hell-o!"
I don't consider myself a drag king or anything like that—my sexuality has nothing to do with it.
Tell me about your best fan moment.
When I convert the person into enjoying what I'm delivering. You see a light come on in their eyes as soon as I start singing. At first you get the general feeling of, "Oh my god, a female doing Elvis; how does she think she can do Elvis?" But then as soon as I start singing—oh my god. You see the look on their face.
What's the difference between an impersonator and an Elvis "tribute artist"?
We don't call ourselves impersonators. Impersonators are trying to be Elvis. As tribute artists, we will never be Elvis—there is only one Elvis. What we're trying to present to our fans is a tribute to him.
We don't have to sound like him. Not all of us can have his voice, and not all of us can move the way he moves. The man was iconic with his moves! It's a tribute; it's a thank you; it's a compliment to him and the legacy of music he has left us.