I think at one point, Jackie Evancho was a household name. She was an instant star after appearing on America's Got Talent, and her operatic voice captured the nation's collective heart. But I think that because her voice was so mature, people forget that Evancho was just a young child when she was on the show. In fact, she's only turning 19 this year, despite seeming to have been so mature when she appeared on the show.
But if you thought being a child star and winning a reality show was a great ride, Evancho is here to tell you that's not totally true. The young woman penned an eye-opening and emotional letter on her Facebook page, describing her journey from her time on America's Got Talent until now, and it's scary to hear some of the things she had to deal with.
Take a read of Evancho's letter to get a glimpse into the life of a child star.
With the onset of a New Year and me entering adulthood as a 18 year old moving to New York, I felt the need to put this out into the universe as a way of continuing the healing process I'm on. I no longer have the fear to stay silent. People often still think of me as a child star, and that isn’t easy to shake off. I just performed on NBC’s 'AGT’s The Champions' and it allowed me to reflect on my journey – the reason I wanted to do the show was to walk onto that stage as a young woman and show the world I am no longer a child.
A lot of people hear “10 year old singer” and immediately feel bad for me. There is a lot of stigma around being a child entertainer mainly because of the past experiences that have been thrust into the spot light by paparazzi and tabloids. I’ll admit that there are a lot of aspects that aren’t so glamorous about being a child in the music industry but there’s a lot that I’m thankful for and would never change. I am glad that I am a performer and that that’s how I make my living, but growing up that way wasn’t easy.
Evancho made it clear, though, that her parents weren't the reason that things were hard, as is the case for most child stars.
"My parents were smart about every decision they had made for me," she wrote. "They tried to balance work and downtime by being very strict about what they had said yes to. The part that I never understood as a child was why I had to give up parts of an ordinary life that I enjoyed to pursue this extraordinary one instead."
There are also still some lingering effects to Evancho's stardom, which created issues she still deals with today.
"Through the years I have developed some flaws and battled some demons, from being sheltered from aspects of a “normal” child’s life," she admitted. "I am extremely awkward and shy around those my age. I trust absolutely no one unless they are family or have passed through years of my life without hurting me in some way. There is also a sadness in me from growing up basically alone."
There was also a family illness that made Evancho feel even more alone.
My mother wasn’t well when we traveled together, she would sleep a lot because otherwise she would be hurting and nauseous and I wanted my mom to feel better so I never complained. That meant that at 5pm in the afternoon, she would go to bed for the night and I’d be alone in a hotel room without anything to do. Needless to say the cabin fever drove me to tears. I love my mom so much and she only has my best interest at heart but I understood battling chronic illness is totally debilitating.
But it was the next section of the letter that was completely eye-opening to me, and I'm sure to many others. Evancho revealed that there were legitimate threats to her life from men who were obsessed with her.
Throughout my childhood I was also facing another reality - that there were men out there who wanted to hurt me. Some even went to the extreme of claiming they were priests and other disarming occupations to gain trust and easy access backstage, but clearly their intentions weren’t so pure. There was also this assumption that I was a stuck up diva when I had returned to school which left me isolated even in social areas because no one wanted to be my friend. There was the fear of stalkers and other dangers of being in the spotlight that my family and I had to deal with.
She continued on to say that despite all these awful situations, she still love performing just as she always has.
All these things were terrible as a child and yet I’m still here performing and loving it. A lot of people may ask “Why?” and I say it’s my path, my dream, and my passion, with a fire inside of me when I perform. I’ve learned that there is a lot about the world that is sad. That’s just life, but there are also many beautiful parts of life that I cherish and focus on.
I’m now 18 and responsible for my own life – a young adult. I now live in New York where I can focus more on work and also live in a creative environment – I want to learn and grow. I like making my own decisions, and while listening to the people close to me, I'm ultimately steering my own ship.
Evancho ended her post with some inspiring words, hinting that there are more things to come from the young singer.
"My love for music is profound – it’s what drives me and transforms me," she wrote. "I've learned and been through so much, but this is my journey and I look forward to a bright future for the next phase of my life."
Evancho's note was met with immense support from fans online. Everyone congratulated the star on how far she's come, and expressed condolences that she had to live through some terrifying experiences.
It's wonderful to see a young star who has such a good head on her shoulders. Despite the self-described struggles, it seems as though Evancho is ready to take the world by storm, and we can't wait to watch!