AGT's Jackie Evancho on the Dark Side of Child Stardom: 'There Were Men Who Wanted to Hurt Me'
"There is also a sadness in me from growing up basically alone," she said
At the age of 10, classical singer Evancho was named the runner-up on season 5 of the NBC competition series in 2010. While the experience created a strong foundation for her professional career, it negatively impacted her in ways unknown to fans — until today.
Now 18, Evancho, who is competing on America’s Got Talent: The Champions, opened up about the behind-the-scenes hardships she’s faced in the near decade since becoming an overnight sensation.
In a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday, which she began “TO NEW BEGINNINGS…,” Evancho reflected on her childhood.
“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,” she began the post.
Evancho said that “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,” she continued.
While she praised her parents for the positive decisions they made on her behalf, Evancho admitted that aspects of her childhood had to be sacrificed due to her singing career.
“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,” she said.
As a result, 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.”
That wasn’t all Evancho encountered. 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.
Previously, she’d opened up to PEOPLE about her family being a “big target” due to the fact that her sister, Juliet, is transgender. Evancho, though, said her family’s undying support keeps her grounded and able to keep following her passion in the public eye.
“My family has helped me a lot, but I do have to say that growing up I always heard horror stories about people achieving some amount of fame and changing into something awful because of it,” she told PEOPLE. “I never ever wanted that for myself.”
“I had and still have a clear image of what I want to be and that was NOT it,” she continued. “So, needless to say, if my family wasn’t helping me stay grounded, I doubt I would have become something I didn’t want to be anyway.”
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.”
“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,” she concluded. “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.”
AGT: The Champions airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.