Jackie Evancho has been "called vicious words. Things I can't even say," says the 16-year-old pop-opera star. Evancho admits she never expected the Internet vitriol that she received for agreeing to perform the national anthem at President Donald Trump's inauguration in January -- including accusations that she had betrayed her transgender older sister, Juliet.
It wasn't the first time the former America's Got Talent finalist has weathered personal and professional storms, and she says she has emerged inspired ahead of her new album, Two Hearts (March 31). From that White House performance to Snapchat heartbreak, Evancho looks back on the experiences that have helped her grow.
Her debut at eight
"I sucked at singing until I was 6 and got my tonsils removed -- my entire voice changed. I was singing around the house, and my mom was like, 'Huh, that's interesting.' She asked me if I wanted to do a talent competition at a local nursing home. It was on my eighth birthday, and I came in second place to a 20-year-old opera singer. I was ecstatic."
Being challenged on tv
"The first thing I did after the talent competition was America's Got Talent, so the pressure was on. I was aware that people thought I was lip-syncing. Howie Mandel asked me to sing a few general notes -- I had to 'prove it' somehow, and I was annoyed. But of course, I was 10 years old, so I couldn't say that."
Her sister's transition
"Juliet did not go to the inauguration because she was in the middle of her transition surgery. She started [transitioning] two years ago. My mom and I were the first people to know -- I think that's because I had been her best friend since we were born. I do a lot of campaigning with her, and want to be able to support her in ways that mean a lot to her. I was told that she burst into tears of joy when she woke up from surgery. That made me so happy."
Singing at the inauguration
"The moment I stepped up to the podium was the most memorable experience in my life. In all honesty, I don't involve myself with politics -- I hate them. It makes everything such a big deal when it shouldn't be. When I decided to say yes, it felt right. I wasn't doing it for Donald Trump, but for my country. We're trying to figure out a meeting about a federal law that protects my sister and people like her in the bathroom. I want to level with Trump about the horrors she deals with."
Dating a jerk
"Writing the songs for this album was like therapy. I was dating someone for two years and went through a terrible breakup in November. It felt like my world was ending, which is what the song 'Apocalypse' represents. He broke up with me over Snapchat! And he cheated on me with two other people. I coped by spending time with family and friends, shopping and watching Netflix. I learned for the future."