Kevin Mills won the 2010 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Contest in Tupelo, Mississippi on June 5. He has now earned the right to compete in Memphis, Tennessee during Elvis Week in August. Mills and 42 other Elvis tribute artists worked incredibly hard to get to Tupelo for the chance to compete in the town where the King was born and raised. Jay Dupuis was one of those tribute artists.
Dupuis hails from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and says he has always been a fan of Elvis. Like many of the Elvis tribute artists, Dupuis has been competing since he was a toddler. "This is a lifelong dream for me," he said. He finished second in his hometown UETA contest but won a Yuma, Arizona contest. Dupuis travels the country singing and competing and this was his first time to compete in Tupelo.
While a few tribute artists are financially secure, many struggle to follow their dream. Most have full-time jobs and scrimp and save to earn enough money to compete in events like the one in Tupelo. Travel expenses and food must be paid for, vacation days requested at work, family members and friends sometimes left at home. Money is usually tight as most of the Elvis tribute artists perform at charity events, hospitals, and nursing homes. This dream is about entertaining the fans and paying homage to Elvis.
After the semi-finals, Dupuis looked confident. "I'm having a ball," he said. When asked how he felt about performing in Tupelo, he said "this is an awesome experience for me and I'm so proud to be in Tupelo, where Elvis grew up". His mother, Jenny Hall, stands by his side and is Dupuis' biggest fan. Hall has supported Dupuis throughout his life in the quest of his dream. As has Jessica Bonnete, Dupuis' girlfriend. Bonnette is also a tribute artist and even won a major competition as a Priscilla Presley tribute artist. Elvis runs deep in the lives of tribute artists. "We live, breathe, eat, and sleep Elvis," Dupuis added.
Dupuis made the final ten in Tupelo but looked shaky at the end of his performance. "How did I do?" he asked afterward. He appeared nervous, not sure of himself. "I think I blew it at the end." He held his head down and paced the lobby of the Lyric Theatre, the venue of the competition. Then he stopped. "You have to understand," he continued. "It would mean everything to me to win this tonight."
Other tribute artists paced the lobby with Dupuis looking like expectant fathers. All expressed similar feelings as Dupuis. On stage, however, when Kevin Mills was announced the winner, all of the tribute artists gave him hugs and hand shakes. A strong sense of camaraderie permeated the stage and everyone was all smiles. Later though, Michael Rose expressed the feelings of most of the performers this night. "I gave it everything I had, but I guess my rendition of Elvis wasn't good enough," he said. "But I'll be back. I have fans to entertain."
For more information, go to www.tupelomainstreet.com.