When it was revealed Wednesday that 16-year-old Jackie Evancho, best known as the child-prodigy opera singer of America’s Got Talent Season 5, had signed on to sing the national anthem at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, the announcement raised a few eyebrows — and not just because of multiple reports that Trump has had trouble recruiting musical acts for the January ceremony, or because Jackie has previously performed for the Obama administration, at the White House’s Christmas tree lighting celebration in 2010.
No, what makes this news especially interesting is that Jackie has a transgender sister, Juliet — while future Vice President Mike Pence and several members of President-elect Trump’s Cabinet have reportedly spotty track records when it comes to LGBT rights.
Juliet, who was born Jacob, came out on her 17th birthday, last year, and her entire family has been extremely supportive. However, in a recent essay Juliet penned for Teen Vogue, she revealed that she was reluctant to reveal her lifelong struggle with gender-dysphoria after Jackie competed on AGT in 2010 and became an overnight star.
“Jackie’s newfound fame put our entire family under a microscope. This made things even more difficult for me,” Juliet wrote. “Now, I not only worried about what my family thought of me, but I also worried about some trashy magazine trying to make a spectacle out of me if they found out, and it hurting my family.”
“The Evancho family is under the microscope enough as it is,” Jackie additionally told CBS Pittsburgh. “And for her to come out is just really hard. But she’s so brave, and I’m proud of her for that.”
Two years after Jackie’s AGT breakthrough, Juliet (still known as Jacob and presenting as a boy at the time) was asked to sing the male part of a duet, the Tangled movie song “I See the Light,” with Jackie — and she reluctantly agreed, even though she felt this was “a huge step backwards. … Everyone who listened to that song heard a boy, but I knew I was a girl.” Juliet nearly cried when she had to perform the duet on Jackie’s PBS television special.
When Juliet finally came out to her family, Jackie was “not at all surprised and was very supportive and happy,” according to Juliet’s Teen Vogue essay. Jackie told People, as part of a joint interview with the Evanchos last year: “I was actually very happy for her because she finally found herself and she can be who she wants to be.” However, Jackie was still concerned. “I actually cried, because what worried me was that she was going to get teased,” Jackie said.
In August 2015, Jackie dedicated a cover of Ed Sheeran’s “All of the Stars” to Juliet and told her sister’s story through the single’s accompanying music video. Jackie explained to People that the song and video’s message was “I accept anyone who wants to be whoever they want to be. And transgender is very important to me because of my sister, so I thought, ‘Why not?’”
On Oct. 8, 2015, Juliet made her first public appearance as a woman, with Jackie by her side, looking stunning on the red carpet at the Global Lyme Alliance’s inaugural gala in New York.
Now there’s another, much more high-profile (and potentially much more controversial) inaugural gala on the Evancho family’s calendar. Juliet has at the moment declined to speak to any press, including Yahoo, regarding her feelings about Jackie’s upcoming national anthem performance or whether she will attend Trump’s inauguration herself. She also hasn’t commented about the inauguration on social media.
However, Juliet has been outspoken in the past about one political issue that directly affects the transgender community. Last year, the now 18-year-old high school senior did interviews with various Pittsburgh media outlets, protesting her school district’s decision to no longer allow students to use restrooms based on their expressed gender identity, and this year, she and two of her transgender classmates filed suit against Pennsylvania’s Pine-Richland School District.
Jackie Evancho will perform at Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.