'America's Got Talent' alum Jackie Evancho, now 18, reflects on child stardom: 'Men wanted to hurt me'
Jackie Evancho was 10 years old when the world first heard her incredible voice on season 5 of "America's Got Talent," delivering performances that judge Howie Mandel labeled "too good to be true."
Eight years later, the "AGT" runner-up is ready to speak out about the ugly side of child stardom that usually remains hidden from the public.
In a lengthy Facebook message posted on Jan. 23, the soprano singer, now 18, said she no longer has "the fear to stay silent."
PHOTOS: See Jackie Evancho through the years:
Although she is grateful for her remarkable trajectory in the music industry, Evancho detailed the lasting effects of an adolescence spent in the public eye, including making the realization that "there were men out there who wanted to hurt me," she wrote. "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."
The teen now lives in New York City and is competing on "America's Got Talent: The Champions," noting, that 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."
Read Evancho's full statement below:
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. My parents were smart about every decision they had made for me. 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. Through the years I have developed some flaws and battled some demons, from being sheltered from aspects of a “normal” child’s life. 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. 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.
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. 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. My love for music is profound – it’s what drives me and transforms me. 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.