Among the hundreds of Elvis tribute acts wandering the Australian country town of Parkes, one stands out: Sheryl Scharkie, also known as ShElvis.
Parkes, 350 km northwest of Sydney, is home to a 64-meter telescope and an annual Elvis Festival, now in its 30th year. Over five days in early January, some 24,000 fans descend on a town normally home to about 14,000.
A nurse by day, the 64-year-old Scharkie is Australia’s most prominent Elvis Tribute Artist (ETA), as they are known, and for most of her nearly decade-long career, the country’s only female one.
She still enjoys surprising audiences with her deep voice and impressive vocal range.
“As soon as I open my mouth, their jaws just drop and then they start getting into it,” Scharkie told Reuters in Parkes on Friday.
“Once you see them get involved in the music, gender disappears. It’s no longer male or female ETA, gender just goes.”
Scharkie has been an Elvis fan since childhood and remembers watching his movies at her grandmother’s house. In high school, her deep voice and talent for music often landed her male parts.
After a bad breakup in 2008, her friends encouraged her to get on stage and perform at a local recreational club, launching her music career. A few years later, she became Elvis.
Recently inducted into the ETA International Hall of Fame, Scharkie says it hasn’t been easy getting to where she is now, especially as a woman.
“They don’t know what to do with me,” she said. “That’s the biggest challenge.”
Scharkie said her dream is to one day perform in a “ladies of Elvis” show, with women from around the world. But for now, she hopes she’ll inspire more women to join her in the community.