AGT's Jackie Evancho Opens Up About Her Eating Disorder: I Would Go 'Days Without Eating'
"Anytime I saw my reflection, not only was it distorted, but I was sitting there telling myself: 'That's disgusting,' " Jackie Evancho says
Nearly one week after she discussed the dark side of child stardom, Jackie Evancho is opening up about another personal battle: her eating disorder.
“I’m just a perfectionist at heart and that includes myself and what I see I am. I want it to be perfect to me and unfortunately I can’t do that. But I do think that growing up in the spotlight, being a kid, being surrounded by all of these adult women who are beautiful and slender and tall was really difficult for me because I wanted to be that and I wasn’t,” the America’s Got Talent star said in an interview with Access on Tuesday.
“And then I started to hit puberty and I got my womanly curves and everything. It was just, for lack of a better word, triggering. It was really difficult for me to accept,” she admitted.
“I think that my body was changing in a way that I was hoping wouldn’t happen,” 18-year-old said of puberty.
At the age of 10, the classical singer was named the runner-up on season 5 of AGT in 2010, and she is now competing on America’s Got Talent: The Champions.
While an adolescent, Evancho was excited about the thought of growing up and getting older, but “when it started to actually happen, it wasn’t happening in the way I had envisioned it,” she admitted.
“And me being a perfectionist, I was trying to — as the process is occurring — switch things around and tweak it so that it would happen that way. And as a result, I ended up developing issues from it — just trying to control everything,” Evancho explained.
But behind closed doors, Evancho was battling the issues privately. For two years, she said that both her parents and family “weren’t aware” of her struggle.
“There was a lot of hiding, a lot of sitting in my room alone and just thinking and thinking and just crying because there’s all these thoughts that I have and me being so closed off, I don’t want to share it with people. And I want to seem like that strong role model,” she said. “I want to be perfect.”
Reflecting on the dark thoughts that she faced alone, Evancho combated a multitude of lies, including: “You’re stupid. You’re ugly. You don’t look like this person on Instagram, so clearly no one’s going to think you’re beautiful. You’re fat. … Basically anything that a lot of women think of themselves.”
“There wasn’t a day that went by where it wasn’t in my head. Anytime I saw my reflection, not only was it distorted, but I was sitting there telling myself: ‘That’s disgusting,’ ” Evancho told Access.
She pursued help after her parents noticed the eating disorder. Even still, she admitted to being “in denial even throughout treatment for it.”
“What got my parents to notice was me skipping dinners as well as everything else and going days without eating. That’s when they noticed and they were like, ‘You have no choice. You need to get help.’ So they kind of gave me that push. Of course I have to say, ‘I’m going to do this,’ but I said I was going to go through treatment for them and ultimately it helped me,” she said.
Although Evancho took the brave step in sharing her struggle with the world, the reality of her disorder still stings.
“But, I think still to this day, it’s hard for me to really admit that I have an eating disorder,” Evancho told the outlet. “I don’t like to hear it.”
Now an adult, Evancho appears to be an embracing her no-holds-barred self.
In the post, the singer admitted that she now trusts “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,” she explained. “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.”
She claimed that there were men with impure “intentions” who sought to take advantage of her as a vulnerable child.
“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,” she said.
“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 added.
Despite the battles she faced growing up in the limelight, Evancho is thankful to be a performer — something she won’t give up.
She explained in her Facebook post, “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.”
AGT: The Champions airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.