It’s Saturday afternoon. A living room in Columbia is full of nervously giggling six-year-old girls. Suddenly, the performer they’ve been waiting for walks in. Blue eyes, curly blonde hair, sparkly guitar… Is it Taylor Swift? Close – it’s T-Swift impersonator and third year PR student Elizabeth Scarborough.
Elizabeth first began performing as the superstar at her Charleston high school, Ashley Hall, where she would visit the younger kids’ classrooms and play a couple of songs with her guitar. Although this was before the makeup and glittery dresses, some people still thought she was the real deal. She says, “I never knew they actually believed I was Taylor Swift until I began hearing the rumor ‘Taylor Swift goes to Ashley Hall.’”
What started out as an occasional hobby quickly turned into a career when Elizabeth discovered there was an entire industry devoted to tribute artists. In fact, she now spends about two hours practicing every day, on top of a full course load and another part-time job. The practice is already paying off – she has regular shows and has traveled as far as Texas to perform as Taylor.
Her most common gigs are birthday parties, but Elizabeth is also a regular at another venue that may come as a surprise: elderly care facilities. They often hire the singer to cheer up their tenants with her pop-country songs. Although an unlikely location, the nursing home crowd always proves to be an interesting one. “One time when I was playing at a nursing home I was right in the middle of one of my songs and an elderly man raised his hand and screamed ‘I’m having a heart attack!,’” says Elizabeth. “Three nurses rushed over to him and took him out of the room and I thought to myself, ‘Just keep singing.’ He was back in the room after a few minutes though so I suppose it turned out to be nothing too serious.”
After graduation, Elizabeth sees herself moving to Las Vegas or Los Angeles, where opportunities are easier to come by for tribute artists, to continue performing for at least for a few years. She elaborates: “I don’t want to be wearing sparkly dresses and a pound of red lip stick every night until I’m 30, but for right now, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”