Meet Victor Trevino, Jr., a 27 year-old Elvis tribute artist (ETA) who makes a living performing as the King. Here, he talks about the best and worst parts of being an ETA, which Elvis he prefers and how to make your sideburns longer.
Name: Victor Trevino, Jr.
Hometown: Ft. Worth, Texas
How long have you been an Elvis tribute artist?
Professionally, about 5 years. Honestly, I’m trying to get out of it. I’m working on my music. While I'm in Memphis next week, I'm recording an album at Sun Studio with a few covers and originals with members of the Dempsey’s.
How did you get started?
After going to community college, I started going to the University of North Texas to major in photography, but I didn’t finish because I started going to Elvis contests and winning them. I got to a point where I only had $200 in my bank account and no money coming in, so I looked on MySpace to find Elvis impersonators and found this whole world. I noticed that there was a following and a fan base.
Are you a full-time Elvis, or do you have another day job? How many hours a week do you spend as Elvis?
Right now, I'm performing with Legends in Concert. I'm only on stage for half an hour or so, so I only spend about four and a half hours in character every week. With all of the time I spend at the theater, the whole thing is about 30 – 40 hours a week.
When I’m not working with Legends, I book gigs on my own. Some months I’ll have two or three gigs and some months I’ll have 10 gigs. They’ve been getting better when I go out of town. Elvis Presley Enterprises just asked me to be one of the headliners in Brazil and I'm performing on the American Queen in November between New Orleans and Memphis. I’ll be performing as myself, but doing Elvis songs.
How much have you invested in performing as Elvis?
A lot of things are invested that people don’t realize. I specialize in younger Elvis, but I do have the black leather '68 Comeback Special and a white jumpsuit that I’ll use sparingly (mostly in Europe, because they pay well).
The clothes aren't cheap. I have reproductions of some of the jackets that Elvis wore. They came from Japan and are limited edition. I have three gold jackets that were $1500 apiece. I invested the money to get real gold lame and Swarovski ABS crystals and had it tailored to fit my body. I invest in my craft. And then there's the make up.
I use Make Up Forever on stage and sometimes for meet and greets. I use mascara on my sideburns because I can't grow long sideburns. It lengthens what's already there, just like it would on your eyes. For my craft, I have to keep myself in shape and keep my skin clear, which also costs money.
Do you get upset when people call you an impersonator? Why or why not?
Not really. People don’t know the difference (between an impersonator and a tribute artist). When I perform as Elvis, I put a little bit of myself in there. Elvis was true to himself, and that’s what made him interesting.
What makes my show different is that I stay away from the cheesiness and focus it more on the singing, the rawness, the playfulness and the sexuality of the performances.
What's your favorite part of being an ETA?
I like being able to recreate something that’s been forgotten. So many people (especially people my age), when they think of Elvis, they think of a fat guy in a jumpsuit. That’s the image that a lot of ETAs have given him – they can’t sing, they’re super cheesy – it’s tragic. I’ve had people tell me that they never liked Elvis until they saw me perform. That’s an honor.
What’s your least favorite part?
The prejudice. When I tell people that I do Elvis, people say things like "That's stupid” and "Elvis is cheesy”. Then there are people who are crazy Elvis freaks who nitpick everything you do. They’re really not fans of Elvis, if you ask me – they’re fans of ETAs. They forget what the performance is about.
Do you dress like Elvis all the time?
No, but I get called Elvis. I like to wear selvedge denim with the cuffs rolled up and wingtip shoes. I like vintage style. I used to do my hair in a pompadour all the time. In Vegas, it was easy because there’s no humidity.
What's the strangest experience that you've ever had with a fan?
One time, I got an email for a gig from some lady who said “I just want a nice guy dressed like Elvis to take me out to a nice dinner and a date. I want to be your Ann Margaret.”
Did you go? How did you turn her down?
I was working with an agent, and she contacted the agent, so they took care of it.
Tell me about one of your favorite performances:
I performed at the Pop the Cork event for Habitat for Humanity for about 1500 guests. It’s a big gala, and they contacted me to perform this year, and I was able to use a rockabilly band I know from Portland, Maine. It was beautiful, in a huge tent and I opened for Boys 2 Men. Like, the real Boys 2 men.
The real Boys 2 Men?
I didn’t know that they were the real Boys 2 Men. I thought, “a Boys 2 Men tribute group, that’s weird.” I didn’t realize how big of a deal this event was until I got there. They took great care of us.
What's are you hoping to perform at the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis?
One of my favorite songs to perform is “One Night with You”. At the time, it was so controversial. It’s about a one night stand, and it gets the audience crazy. I hope I can perform it at the Ultimate this year. I definitely want to.