Standing on the stage at the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist competition in Memphis, Tennessee, Victor Trevino Jr.’s heart raced. The band behind him played a beating drumline, matching the rumble of the crowd.
The audience seemed more nervous than the top 5 contestants; they were on pins and needles, Trevino said.
Second and third place were announced. Trevino remained on the stage.
Then it came time to crown the winner. Trevino’s name was announced last month as the 2022 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist.
At that moment, a sense of relief came over him, Trevino said.
“You have your family or your friends out there that are rooting for you,” he said. “When they call your name, it’s like when you finally get that really good news that you’re hoping for.”
The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest in Memphis is the only competition sponsored and endorsed by Elvis Presley Enterprises and Graceland.
“The contest is truly one of a kind,” Alicia Dean, events specialist with Graceland, said. “We started the contest in 2007 and it’s been amazing to watch it continue to grow each year and gain new contestants from all over the world.”
Judging criteria for Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest:
- Stage Presence
- Overall Performance
Judging was scored on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest. Vocals counted for 40%. Style, stage wear and stage presence each counted for 20% of the score.
With his win, Trevino secured recognition by Elvis Presley Enterprises, a cash prize of $20,000 and a contract to perform with the company.
Born and raised in Fort Worth, Trevino, 37, cited his love for theater at Boswell High School as the start of his career. He recalled participating in high school productions of Les Miserables and Pippin in 2001 and 2002. However, Trevino remembered how his rebellious attitude got him in trouble from time to time.
He was denied the chance to play the leading role of Danny Zuko in Grease in 2003. Trevino was offered the chance to be in the chorus, but declined.
Frustrated with his school theater program, Trevino decided to turn his attention to public theater when he turned 18. He auditioned for a Kids Who Care production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and earned the leading role that same year.
“That moment really changed my life right there and I got a taste of public theater,” he said.
‘Bug in my ear’
While trying to start up his acting career, Trevino waited tables at Saltgrass Steak House by Fossil Creek in Fort Worth. While working there, he met Cathy Rogers whose father owned Hetzer Theatrical. The circus company provided animal acts for the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1950s.
Rogers took over her father’s company and headspearred a look-alike department that booked Elvis impersonators.
“She just started chatting me up and I guess she liked my look,” Trevino said. “She asked if I ever thought about being an Elvis tribute artist or impersonator. I thought not really, but it was funny because at the time, I was really into rockabilly music. My favorites were Elvis, Lux Interior and Freddie Mercury. Rogers put that bug in my ear.”
In 2007, Trevino began performing as an Elvis Presley impersonator.
“Back then there were all kinds of Elvis competitions,” Trevino told the Report. “These competitions would have prices that went from $300 to $500. Some were even $1,000. I was doing this for income because I was broke.”
That same year, Trevino sold his furniture, boxed up his belongings in a storage unit and moved from Fort Worth to Las Vegas.
“It’s not the name Victor Trevino that’s going to put butts in the seats, it’s Elvis,” Trevino said. “I definitely give respect to Elvis and credit to him for that.”
From coast to coast
Even though he was based in Las Vegas, Trevino found himself bouncing from location to location for performances.
“The South is very into Elvis,” Trevino said. “The northeast coast, they dig it, but it’s just a different vibe. It’s not as rowdy in the crowds. When it comes to the West, there’s not many tributes for Elvis out in the West so they really love it in California.”
In late 2012, he performed exclusively as Elvis in Hawaii with hula and fire dancers in his shows.
“Working in Hawaii was an amazing experience, but I took it for granted at the time,” he said.
After returning to Las Vegas, Trevino continued performing through Legends in Concert but would book shows on the side at casinos and festivals across the country.
When performing at casinos, Trevino performed 90-minute sets. He started with Elvis’ early years in the 1950s. The second half of the show would follow Elvis’ 1968 comeback special and the years that followed.
“People wanted to see that iconic jumpsuit,” Trevino said.
Still, Trevino felt dissatisfied performing solely as an Elvis tribute artist. He decided to focus on an acting career in Los Angeles in the winter of 2013. Trevino later moved to Chicago in the fall of 2014.
“It didn’t really work out,” Trevino said. “Living with some friends in Chicago didn’t work. I was trying to get out of the Elvis thing. I was going broke.”
In 2015, Trevino moved back to Fort Worth.
Road to the ultimate contest
Throughout his career performing as an Elvis tribute artist, Trevino would compete in preliminary contests, working toward the final competition in Memphis. All preliminary winners competed in the semifinal round, with the top Elvis tribute artists moving onto the final round.
During his years competing in preliminaries, Trevino would make it to the finals but would come in second or third place.
“Always a bridesmaid but never the bride,” he said.
Years that Trevino competed in preliminaries:
After his 2016 loss, Trevino stopped competing and focused strictly on working as a tribute artist. On a whim, Trevino decided to compete in this year’s ultimate competition in Memphis.
“I told myself I’m just going to try it out and see what happens this year,” he said.
This time around, Trevino succeeded, won in the preliminaries and made his way to the semifinals.
The strategy that earned him the crown
To separate himself from other Elvis impersonators, Trevino used the 2022 Elvis film by Baz Luhrmann to his advantage. He knew the movie was big on social media, Trevino said. For his top 10 performance in the competition, Trevino recreated the performance of ‘Trouble’ from the 1968 Elvis comeback special with the black leather outfit included.
“It’s one of my favorite performances by Elvis, but I also knew they concentrated a lot of that 1968 special in the movie,” he said.
Trevino’s performance earned him a spot in the top 5. For his final performance, he performed Elvis’ 1968 rendition of ‘If I Can Dream,’ white suit included.
“I decided on that performance because it was huge during its time,” Trevino said. “That was a message for the nation, speaking out against racism, and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
After a long road, Trevino won. Weeks later, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing.
“I’m already booked for the rest of the year,” Trevino said. “I’m already getting a lot of dates for 2023, some even for 2024. I’m very grateful for that.”
David Moreno is a multimedia fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.