After struggling with an eating disorder and the pressures of fame, former child singer Jackie Evancho is making a comeback — and this time it’s personal.
The America’s Got Talent star and youngest platinum-selling solo artist is releasing a new single next week entitled “Behind My Eyes”.
But it’s not like the operatic arias or classical songs that made her famous on AGT when she was ten. Instead, the 23-year-old branched out into alt-pop.
“I wrote the song about what it feels like to go insane or lose touch with reality,” Jackie told the Post after her Daintree NYC Photo shooting. “My songwriting today deals with mental illness and issues that lie on the darker side, which will shock a lot of people who know me from before.”
By “before” Jackie is referring to her stormy career in classical music, which began when she was 9 years old. While her peers rode bikes with their friends and complained about homework, the Pittsburgh native entered singing competitions and wowed audiences with her sweet, golden voice.
In 2010, she placed second on the fifth season of “America’s Got Talent,” but won the hearts of America with her renditions of “O Mio Babbino Caro” and “Time To Say Goodbye.”
Buoyed by her success, Jackie spent her teenage years recording albums with super producers like David Foster, headlining concerts, meeting Oprah Winfrey (“Oprah’s a Hug”), doing a duet with Barbra Streisand, and being in a movie performing with Robert Redford (“The Company You Keep”) and, somewhat controversially, singing at Donald Trump’s inauguration as President in 2017.
And while performing the national anthem was a wish-list moment for her, Jackie faced backlash for attending Trump’s inauguration. She claims as a teenager she didn’t understand the political implications of being part of Trump’s milieu, while so many other artists said no.
“I said ‘yes’ because I sang for my country,” Jackie said. “But it hurt my career and it just sucks because as a 16-year-old I felt it was an honor. And it’s kind of sad that people still don’t understand that to this day.
“Now that I’m older and allowed to vote, I probably would have missed that opportunity.”
The “Dream With Me” singer also revealed to The Post that her fast-paced childhood led to mental health issues and anorexia.
“Growing up in the spotlight, I was under a lot of pressure,” Jackie said. “There were times I cried because I wanted to be with my siblings and friends and just be a kid, but I had to work.”
Her family also struggled with the pitfalls of fame: lack of privacy, security concerns, and unrealistic expectations of success.
Another dark side of fame was keeping up with her looks. Jackie remembers thinking her stomach looked fat when she was 15.
“It triggered something in my head,” she admitted. “And from that point on I tried to lose weight in every way I could. I tried the healthy way — cutting back on calories a bit, exercising, eating healthy — but I didn’t get the results I wanted fast enough, and it was all downhill from there.”
The “Two Hearts” singer suffered from full-on anorexia and had to go days without eating.
“I felt like shit every day,” Jackie recalls. “I didn’t have the energy to keep up with my personal life and my work life. Eventually I had to stop performing because I was in a treatment center. When I got out it didn’t get any better. And so, a few years later, I went back to another treatment center.”
Now she’s telling her story because she wants to help people who are also struggling with eating disorders. Especially since Jackie’s anorexia led to early osteoporosis: In a car accident in 2021, it was revealed that she had the bones of an 80-year-old.
“I’m still fighting it and confronting it,” Jackie admitted. “I’m still in treatment and have a therapist. That’s no shame. Humans are not perfect creatures. We need help. And I want to show people that that’s okay.”
As she deals with these issues, part of her therapy is writing songs about her experiences – both good and bad.
“Get Out of My Life,” a song she worked on, is a prime example of her new agency.
“It’s about confronting all of the people in my life who put that pressure on me, or at least got me to respond by pressuring myself to be perfect,” Jackie said. “In the song, I’m basically saying, ‘I’ve had enough.’ I’ve really tried and I can’t go on anymore, so get out of my life.’”
No longer the “perfect little girl,” Jackie has moved from Pittsburgh to Manhattan’s Upper West Side and is making her own decisions about her life and music.
“I didn’t even really know who I was musically because I’ve been doing the same thing since I was ten years old,” said Jackie, who performed with Andrea Bocelli in 2015. “So I really went deep and caught up with myself. And I’ve found a new sound that’s very authentic to me.”
With a new record label, Melody Place, Jackie is relaunching her singing career in a more holistic way. She describes her 2.0 sound as “alt-pop” and her songs are deeply personal.
So far, the reaction from her fans has been consistently positive. “The support has been great,” said Jackie. “It shows me how loyal my fan base is and it makes me love them even more than I already do.”
Jackie is most proud of breaking Michael Jackson’s reign as the youngest star on the Billboard charts with her EP “O Holy Night” (she was 10); Jackson had previously set the record at the age of 11.
As part of this trip, Jackie was mentored by legendary record producer David Foster.
“I’ve always said that he was my music dad because I worked with him for so many years and grew up with him,” said the three-time Billboard Top 10 chart-topper. “He really taught me that you don’t have to stop just because something is good. You can always achieve great things.”
And while the pair remain on good terms, Jackie said their “parted ways” post-Covid.
And yes, Jackie is still watching AGT.
“I’ll always be grateful for America’s Got Talent and shows like that,” she said. “They definitely give talent a chance to be seen. Today it’s a bit of a challenge for them because of TikTok and YouTube, but there are so many people who love these shows and see them as part of their family tradition.”
Photos: Tamara Beckwith/NY Post; Stylist: Tricia Warren; Assistant Stylist: Devyn Warren; Hair/Makeup: Christina Turino; Location: Daintree, NYC