Weekly Q&A

Vegas gets its own Taylor Swift in ‘Legends’ tribute artist Elizabeth Scarborough

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Elizabeth Scarborough has been a T-Swift fan since she was 12. And at 22, she’s paying tribute to the epic pop star in Legends in Concert at Flamingo Las Vegas.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

The leader of the free world has the slightest edge on Taylor Swift on Twitter. She and President Obama both have about 64 million followers, and profound influence. After an explosive decade in the music business, Swift is already a legend at 25. Naturally, she needed to be in the lineup of tribute super-show Legends in Concert.

Thanks to Elizabeth Scarborough, she is. A 22-year-old South Carolinian with a degree in public relations, Scarborough bears an uncanny resemblance to Swift, and we’re not just talking about long legs and red lipstick. The pop star inspired her to pick up a guitar at 15, and the more she performed Swift’s hits, the more everyone noticed how convincing she was. Many birthday-party gigs later, Scarborough created a Facebook page for her act, which led to a life-changing audition.

After Legends engagements in Myrtle Beach and Branson, Missouri, she made her way to the Flamingo’s stage in September. With a contract there through January, Scarborough is settling in to this crazy city. We got her views on everything from snackage to graceful fame and that thing with Ryan Adams.

Some tribute artists are so talented I wonder why they didn’t get famous as themselves. Ever think about that? My freshman or sophomore year of high school my big thing was, “I wanna be like Taylor; I wanna be a country-music recording artist.” And I did spend some time in Nashville and got to see that side of the industry, and it is what everybody says it is. It’s cutthroat. … So when I was in college and found that I could sell myself as a tribute artist and just charge $50 or $100 for a birthday party, it became, first of all, a great way to make a kid’s birthday—the look on their face! That is what it became first for me. The funds were secondary. And it wasn’t until I was approached by Legends in Concert that I thought this was a career opportunity.

Before catching her 1989 tour stop in Nashville, you posted a photo from your first Taylor concert when you were 14, and she opened for Rodney Atkins and Brad Paisley. Were you there for her? It was definitely to see her. ... She really brought country music back to a younger audience. And I don’t think I’m any different than any other girl who loved her back then; I just think I took it a little further, maybe, than some people. (laughs)

What is it like molding yourself into someone you admire? It is super-fun, and it certainly is out of a lot of respect and admiration for the character and the role model and the musician that she’s become and also the woman that she has grown to be respected as, not only in the music industry but also the business industry.

Do you share her love for high-waisted shorts? Oh yeah! I only wear high-waisted, even my workout things, just because it works better with my body type. I figured that out in college, and I was like, “Why didn’t somebody tell me this in high school?!” Maybe she helped make the high-waisted, crop-top thing cool, but it definitely works for people built like us, really tall, long legs.

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What are your favorite T-Swift eras? The early, early Taylor days—the vintage Taylor, the one that I fell in love with—and then what she’s doing now. It’s a great new chapter and I think she’s really owning it and she’s doing it very gracefully, her transition from country to pop.

What do you think of this whole Ryan Adams phenomenon, with the indie singer-songwriter covering Taylor’s entire 1989 album? I really love it. I think it was done very tastefully, and it really took it in a new direction without losing the essence of the songs. ... It’s really cool to see artists respecting her art to the point where they want to remake it and see what they can do with the music. I think sometimes pop music and hip-hop lose themselves, and it doesn’t become about the lyrics anymore, it just becomes about what’s gonna be the next biggest thing at the dance party. But I think Tayor found a really, really intricate and detailed balance that was beautifully crafted in 1989. She hasn’t said anything about her next album, but I think it’s gonna be just like that.

You’ve been performing in Legends at the Flamingo for a few weeks now. How is it being on the Strip? It’s just amazing to be here and to see all the talent and all the people who have been on these stages before. You know, I get mistaken a lot more often here as Taylor Swift than I did in South Carolina or in Branson. I think it’s because it’s someplace Taylor would actually be. Keeping that in mind, it always makes me want to put on the best performance I can.

With so many veteran performers in the cast, are you intimidated? The environment is super-friendly and laid-back and very supportive. I wouldn’t say that I’m intimidated by anybody in the cast, but ... the first Madonna I worked with had been doing Madonna with a company for 23 years. That’s one year longer than I’ve even been alive. Maybe she could have played the intimidation card, that whole, “Oh, first-timer,” but it was more like, “Let me show you how you can learn from me.”

Considering the longevity Taylor might have in the spotlight, have you thought about how that could impact your future? Going back to her being such a positive and powerful role model, it’s a good person to study and to learn and to tribute. I think obviously the moves she’s made at such a young age have been the right ones, and so that is true for me. I was able to come into this business literally three days after I graduated from school. ... There’s a time limit, for your artist or for the next [tribute artist] to come around. Maybe in 10 years I'll wanna settle down and have a family. But as far as right now, I see doing this and taking this as far as it will allow, and who knows where that is or where it ends, the different heights it takes me to. I can tell you I never thought in a million years I would be living and performing in Las Vegas at 22. It’s very humbling.

What does your boyfriend think of your gig? He’s totally into it! He’s a big Swifty, too.

And the part where lots and lots of fans want to hug for pictures? Elvis goes down every single night and kisses every single woman in the front row! It comes with the territory. (laughs)

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How do you style your performances to be like Taylor’s? We get to have a lot of dancers in this set, and she also does in her 1989 tour, so that’s something that’s been really great coming to Vegas—the emphasis on the production. I spend a lot of time creating exact replicas, because they show videos of the artists on the screen while we’re performing, so it’s a direct juxtaposition between Taylor and me and what I’m wearing and what she’s wearing and what my hair looks like and what her hair looks like, so there’s no room for faking it. It’s really 100 percent out there. I buy a lot of the materials for my costumes, and I’ve been learning to do alterations and additions, and I work with seamstresses and designers so we can get the best effect. And also, just from being a fan of her for almost 10 years now, a lot of the movements come quickly. But I spend a lot of time studying her on YouTube—facial expressions, arm movements, the way she holds a microphone, the way she cuts her eyes.

Were you happy or sad when she cut her hair? I was so excited! It takes me 20 minutes to comb my hair now, and it used to take me an hour.

What should we know about Elizabeth Scarborough? Hmm. Let me think. I don’t spend a lot of time talking about myself. (laughs)

Okay, how about your favorite food? Almond butter. I love it. I go through like a jar a week. I think that’s way over the recommended serving size.

Your roommate in Vegas is your dog, Rerun. Tell us about him. We drove out here from South Carolina. He’s the best dog ever. He’s a 6-year-old black lab, and he’s very chill and he loves Vegas because he gets a lot of attention from very beautiful women. Just the other day he was staring at this man in the elevator. I was like, “Don’t stare—that’s rude, Rerun.” And the man crouched down and gave him half of his sandwich.

Taylor is famous for her awesome breakup songs. Were you ever that happy or sorry to see a boy go? For sure. I don’t think I wrote songs about them, though. Maybe I did. I have forgotten them and the songs if I have. (laughs) I think the media made Taylor out to be this crazy serial dater, but I don’t think she really was.

Have you met her? People were telling me to push a backstage meet and greet with her at a concert, but it’s just not my style. I’m much more laid-back, like, “Yeah, it seems like a lot of work, I’m just gonna go to my seat. I’m just gonna go enjoy the show.” ... But on Taylor's Red tour, I went with friends who knew that if you ran down to the bottom of your aisle, that she ran through the crowd. And it got to that part of the show, and they were like, “Go! Go!” So we start sprinting down our aisle, and I totally cut off this mom with her 6-year-old daughter. Didn’t even think about it—just ran right in front of them like, “NO. I’m going.” And I got to touch Taylor Swift. We touched and actually grabbed hands. We had a moment. (laughs) And I look back and this 6-year-old is sobbing. I was like, “Ohh, I just did that.” But then I was like, “You know what, I’ve been a fan of Taylor longer than you’ve been alive, and you will get your day.”

Legends in Concert Saturday-Thursday, times vary, $51-$81. Flamingo, 702-777-2782.

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