An Introduction from Marnie’s Manager, Renée
Marnie’s manager, Renée, fondly referred to by Marnie as "Colonel Mack", has pushed and urged Marnie to move on into the competition circuit. “In less than a year of competing, Marnie has come a long way. Her passion for Elvis, perseverance and truly kind heart are what makes her who she is. It just amazes me what she can do. Her audiences feel her true passion for Elvis on stage and when she turns on her Elvis charm, no one can resist her. Marnie is so funny, and she adds a bit of comedy to her performances, which makes her even more endearing to her fans. She has had a difficult road getting to where she is today; however, she has not let it hold her back. She has the drive, charisma and talent to do big things. I have enjoyed travelling this road with her and will continue to be there to support her on this journey wherever it may take her.
Q. Describe your early introduction to the music of Elvis Presley.
A. My early introduction was through my Aunt Linda, when I was very little. We were in a North Dakota shopping mall when it was actually announced over the PA system that “The King” was dead. People were crying and my uncle had to lift my Aunt off the ground lol. After the grief and chaos I witnessed, it triggered a deep emotion in me and the desire to learn everything about this iconic man and his music. My aunt taught me who Elvis was through his movies and records. Through my obsessive learning grew an admiration and wonder for this man I’d never met.
Q. When, and under what circumstances, did you first perform as an ETA?
A. It was actually a dare from my hockey team. It was around the time when Karaoke first became popular. We were at a Karaoke lounge and they asked me to do some Elvis. Everyone in the lounge went crazy for my performance and said I should get a suit and do this for a living. As I am a natural performer I decided to give it a try. For my first show I was hired for a wedding.
Q. How long have you been performing as an ETA?
A. About 12 years.
Q. Did you meet with resistance from anyone when you first announced you would be performing in a concert or competition as a female ETA in costume and makeup?
A. I wouldn’t say it was resistance, as I was urged to pursue this in the beginning and everyone that I played for enjoyed my show. There was more resistance when I was approached by our local Elvis Festival to perform alongside the few local ETAs we have in this province. I was happy to be invited; however, I was told having a female ETA was like having a white Ray Charles. I would earn the least amount of compensation and last song choice options--the leftovers. Those leftovers, however, offered me the chance to practise a wider variety of songs that I can perform at any time and with ease today. I haven’t been asked back in a number of years; therefore I have ventured out of Manitoba and have been welcomed with open arms by my Ontario ETA family. It’s been a bit of a tough road personally, but those who have given me a chance to perform at their venues or competitions have been so happy they did. That brings me comfort, lifts my spirits and keeps me movin’ on. Preconceived notions and prejudice are the tough part. I persevere because of my love for Elvis and performing. I often hear, “Wow, I was pleasantly surprised with your show or performance.”
Q. Do you have a favourite decade of Elvis music in which you particularly enjoy performing? Please explain why.
A. I have to say I honestly love all of the eras, but my favorite is the early 70’s, probably because I think I fit the look the best. I love the jumpsuits and the Vegas stage and atmosphere. I am also very energetic and find his performances have a lot more movements that I enjoy performing.
Q. As far as you know, are you presently Canada’s only performing female ETA?
A. Yes, I am the only one I know of in Canada
Q. In what provinces, other than Ontario, have you performed?
A. My hometown of Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
Q. Have you performed internationally? If yes, where?
A. Not really as of this moment. I have done a few open mic performances in Las Vegas and Arizona. 2018 will be a big year for me as I hope to be accepted to competitions in New York and Nevada.
Q. Do you perform as artists other than Elvis?
A. No, but I have often been asked if I have a tribute to Cher, but that’s just not my thing right now; I am concentrating on Elvis.
Q. Describe your favourite audience.
A. Elvis fans and the people who enjoy and appreciate the music, and really want to be there to see a true tribute to Elvis.
Q. What would your fans be surprised to learn about you?
A. Probably that I have 3 dogs and a cat and I am OCD about cleaning :)
Q. What advice do you have for little girls who would like to be ETAs
A. Live, eat and breathe Elvis. That’s what I did in the past and still do today. Even if you’ve watched it, sang it, and practised it a thousand times…watch it, sing it and practice a thousand times more. Make sure you look the part when performing. This is a tribute, not an impersonation. Being a female ETA takes a lot of extra work to transform, don’t cut corners; it is what makes a successful ETA. Also always be presentable out of costume and character, you never know who you will run into. Dress for success.
Q. Do you keep in contact with other female ETAs worldwide?
A. We all have not come together formally to truly support each other at this time. I am not sure why; but there has not been that bonding that the male ETAs have. Perhaps this is because we have not met in person or been at competitions together as there are so few of us. We follow each other on social media and do know of one another.
Q. In what costume do you feel most comfortable? Do you have a particular company from whom you purchase your costumes?
A. I am pretty comfortable in all of them, but I do love the jumpsuit. My mom used to make my suits, but being in competition and higher level shows, the suits have to be more professional and precise replicas to make the illusion look most believable. I’ve been working with Elle from ProJumpsuits in B.C.
Q. What is the last thing you say to yourself before you step on stage?
A. I look up towards the sky and say “Let’s do this Elvis."
Q. If you were questioned as to why you want to perform as an ETA, what would be your answer?
A. First off, because of my love of Elvis. It’s something I’ve always done and been good at since I was a little girl. I want to be the first woman to be accepted, recognized and perform on a well-known Elvis Production/Showcase.
Q. Can you speculate on what Elvis might think of female ETAs?
A. “Hot Damn!” I know beliefs about men and women were much different back then and we have come a long way towards equality. I recall an interview with Elvis where he said something along the lines of “he can’t criticize anyone in the entertainment field, that there is room for everybody and he won’t criticize another performer”. I believe he would feel that way today.
Q. What are the specific challenges you face as a female ETA?
A. Duct-Tape (laughs). Pre-judgement, acceptance of a female in a predominantly male industry, different expectations from the audience; also, it is quite vocally challenging to get my voice as deep, powerful and accurate as a man, but look out because I’m working on mastering that.
Q. What do you feel are your strengths as a performer?
My knowledge of Elvis, my attention to detail, ability to interact with people and an audience, being physically fit, perseverance and drive, and my display of emotion and passion on stage are my strengths.
Q. What do female ETAs, in particular, bring to the stage when performing Elvis Presley songs?
A. The only difference is the fact that people have the preconceived notion that you won’t put on as good of a show as the male ETAs, so it adds some surprise and shock value when a female can put on a well done tribute to Elvis.
Q. The introduction to a female ETA’s performance in 2017 went something like this (and I paraphrase): “It is a game changer, a mold breaker—a female Elvis impersonator. Don’t gather around garbage cans burning garments or anything. Girl power! I hear you sister.” What is your response to this introduction by an emcee?
A. This isn’t one of my favorite introductions: just introduce us like the rest of the ETAs.
Q. How are you received by the male ETAs you meet in competitions?
A. I have been received very well by the ETAs outside of my home town; they really support and treat each other well.
Q. In a recent interview, Sheryl Sharkie, an Australian ETA whose stage name is ShElvis, is quoted as saying she would like to see an all-female ETA competition. Do you agree, or disagree, with her statement? Please explain your response.
A. I don’t agree. We are all ETAs, there shouldn’t be race or gender categories.
Q. Do you have a favourite fan moment that you would like to share with us?
A. There was this one time I walked out into the audience to give away scarves and a fan picked me up, threw me over their shoulder and was carrying me out the door. Security arrived in the nick of time.
Q. Is there a particular competition that you entered that has special meaning to you?
A. The Flaming Star Elvis festival in Toronto, Ontario. I recently achieved top 5 at this festival. That is a huge accomplishment for me and for women in this field. Also, I must mention Tweed Elvis Festival, in Tweed, Ontario. It is an Ultimate Elvis semi-final. This was the first Festival that accepted me in to their competitions as a female tribute artist. I met some fantastic people there who have become like family, so the Tweed Elvis Festival will always have a special place for me.
Q. Where do you see your career heading in the next five years?
A. I see myself as a well-known ETA performing internationally. As they say…“Dream BIG!" Elvis did!
Q. What do you do to relax on the days you are not performing?
A. I play some hockey, video games, enjoy cooking, and try to read as much as I can.
Q. Describe your perfect future.
A. Continuing to perform, palm trees, more peace and less hate.
Q. Are there individuals you would like to thank? Why?
A. There are many people along the way who deserve thanks. “But Renée, a special one goes out to you! You convinced me to take this to the next level and always believed in me."
Q. Are there topics in this interview that were not covered, on which you wish to comment?
A. For those who speak negatively about ETAs, we do know we are 'not' Elvis. There was only one, and no one can truly compare. We are providing a tribute to "The King of Rock and Roll" through our admiration for the man and his music. We do this to keep his spirit and legend alive for future generations to come
Thank you. Marnie Mackintosh
I wish to thank Marnie for the enlightened answers she gave to my interview questions. Marnie has provided insight into the world of female ETAs from her personal perspective. Also, I wish to thank her manager, Renée, for her thoughtful words of introduction to the interview. In appreciation, Carolyn MacArthur, Editor.