Jackie Evancho Opens Up About Her AGT Elimination, Dealing with 'Pedophiles and Stalkers'
During Monday’s episode, the 18-year-old singer from Pittsburgh wowed audiences with her rendition of Phantom of the Opera‘s “Music of the Night.” However, the AGT season 5 runner-up didn’t move on to the finals round.
“To see the Golden Buzzer wasn’t given to me, I didn’t mind at all. I’m actually very happy for Kseniya Simonova,” Evancho tells PEOPLE of host Terry Crews’ chosen contestant, who won Ukraine’s Got Talent in 2009 with her mesmerizing sand art performances.
“I wasn’t doing it for the competition so it really didn’t bother me. I felt happy for them,” she says of Simonova and season 13 AGT winner Shin Lim, who won the fan vote with his magic act.
“I thought it would be really great to show up again and reintroduce myself to the world with something I love so much, and that’s kind of the reason why I decided to go back on Champions,” Evancho clarifies. “They all met me when I was a 10-year-old girl and now that I’m an adult, they all get to see who I’ve become.”
Evancho’s performance comes after she opened up about the behind-the-scenes hardships she’s faced in the near decade since becoming an overnight sensation.
“When I didn’t win, I assumed I was going back to my normal life … but my life completely changed after America’s Got Talent,” she told viewers during Monday’s episode. “As a 10-year-old, it was crazy.”
Evancho tells PEOPLE that her candid Facebook post revealing her past struggles with childhood stardom was the first step of a new chapter in her life.
“It was time that I stopped being the 10-year-old girl and start being like my true self and be honest with myself and my fans,” she says. “I decided to come clean, it wasn’t easy. I want to start off my new life with as much honesty as I can.”
Evancho adds, “What’s been the most difficult [part of stardom] has been how much in the spotlight I am to those you wish you weren’t in the spotlight for. I’ve definitely had my fair share in dealing with pedophiles and stalkers.”
However, Evancho does not wish for a career do-over.
“I definitely wouldn’t change anything, I don’t regret anything,” she says. “I’m very, very grateful that I started when I did. Seeing the ugly sides of things taught me lessons early, so I’m grateful for that, too, as much as it sucks. I know there’s a reason why.”
Evancho is far from the first young star to emerge from AGT or other Got Talent franchises. On the advice she would give to emerging child performers, including two-time Golden Buzzer Angelica Hale, who is just 10 years old, Evancho recommends being honest with oneself.
“Keep checking in with yourself to make sure this is what you want to do with your life. If it is, don’t hesitate and keep going,” she says. “Any sense of check-in, whether it’s with your family or yourself.”
Evancho also recalls her reaction after she was asked by producers to return to the AGT stage for Champions. “I didn’t realize how much I missed that stage,” she says. “I loved it so much, it was great to be back where it all started.”
Though it was a homecoming of sorts, the teen reiterates that “the only reason I decided to go back wasn’t because of the competition, it was to show the world who I am now,.”
“I want fans to know that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and I’m so glad to have them in my life. Who I want to become is someone who can do a little bit of everything. I want to be a champion of the music world, an actor and have a makeup line and clothes. I want to do a little of everything,” she says. “I would love to be known just as somebody who loves the arts.”
Simonova and Lim will be competing against Golden Buzzer winners Hale, Kechi Okwuchi, Deadly Games and Susan Boyle, as well as fan-voted finalists Preacher Lawson, Cristina Ramos, Paul Potts and Brian Justin Crum.
AGT: The Champions airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.