She started with casual karaoke and entertaining folks at the local nursing home during her time at school, but Leah Wheelhouse has now been awarded one of the most prestigious titles for fans of the ‘King of Rock and Roll’.
The Canberran was named ‘Miss Priscilla’ at the 2024 Elvis Festival in Parkes last week.
“Elvis has always been on our playlist,” she says.
“It’s just such easy-going, upbeat music.”
Held every year in the second week of January (to coincide with Elvis Presley’s birthday), the Elvis Festival is one of Australia’s biggest festivals, attracting 25,000 visitors. The 2024 event was held between 10 and 14 January.
The Wheelhouse-Buchanan family first attended three years ago and were hooked.
“I’m somebody who enjoys a good costume here and there … and from the moment we got there, I thought, ‘I’d found my people’ – we’ve been back every year,” Leah says.
She even renewed her vows with husband Alex Buchanan – famous Australian Elvis impersonator Dean Vegas officiated the ceremony. She’s since also met Greg Page – aka, the Yellow Wiggle – who, it turns out, is a massive Elvis fan and serious memorabilia collector.
The Priscilla contest asks entrants to “get your lashes on and tease your air into a beehive for the ultimate Priscilla Presley look-a-like competition” in honour of Elvis’ ex-wife.
Judges consider “overall appearance, including make-up, hair and dress to resemble the pre-1969 look of Priscilla Presley”.
For 2024, Leah decided to enter. She painstakingly researched Priscilla’s most famous outfits and settled on the one worn during her honeymoon, a white dress studded with a black bow on the front.
“I went through three different materials to get the right one for the dress and spent some agonising hours trying to piece it together,” she says.
“I wasn’t expecting to win Miss Priscilla – I was just entering it to have a bit of fun so I hadn’t quite thought past the judging.”
She was over the moon. But that wasn’t all. Their two daughters, Maddison, aged 11, and Imogen, 6, entered the ‘Junior Lookalike’ competition and Maddison won.
“I was actually on stage to award the prize, and when they called her name, I just ran up to her and gave her a big cuddle,” Leah says.
“That was quite special as well.”
Leah says they’re just as interested in Elvis, even if they’re still mastering the lyrics to some of his songs.
“Since her first Elvis festival, my youngest daughter’s favourite song is ‘Hound Dog’, but I’ve never had the heart to tell her the lyrics aren’t ‘You ate nothin’ but a hamburger’. I think she cottoned on this year.”
Leah attended St Mary MacKillop College, followed by Erindale College, during which she tried her hand at singing, first in “an Abba duo with a friend and then a punk band for a few years as well”.
“I just throw myself into things and give it my all, but no, I wouldn’t call myself a singer or anything like that.”
As part of her new role as Miss Priscilla, she’ll also score a holiday on board P&O’s ‘Tribute to the King’ cruise from Brisbane in March or Sydney in May.
She plans to wear the same outfit at next year’s festival when she hands over the sash to her successor, but she’s determined to come dressed as Elvis himself one year.
“I’ll be Miss Priscilla next year, but at some point, you’ll see me in a white suit.”
Next year marks what would have been Elvis’ 90th birthday, so Leah expects the festival to be bigger than ever.
“This year’s theme was ‘Jailhouse Rock’, but for 2025, it will be ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’, so I expect to see some flippers and scuba gear.”
Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.