Her voice is beyond anything you’d expect from a teen—no wonder Jackie Evancho has captivated audiences since her star rose skyward on America’s Got Talent six years ago— when she was just 10-years-old.
That was 2010, the same year she sang for the First Family as they lit the National Christmas Tree. Two years later, she sang for President Obama again at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Right now Evancho is on tour promoting her new Christmas album, Someday at Christmas. Just this week, sang on the Today show, where she revealed she’s been invited to sing the National Anthem at the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.
“I was very nervous, but you know what? I’m really excited,” the Pennsylvania native told Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. “I am so honored and I can’t wait to see what happens.”
An honor—to sing for Donald Trump?
Few performers would agree. The Wrap reports the inauguration team is so desperate, talent bookers claim they’ve been offered cash, inside access to the Trump administration, and even plush ambassadorships, if they can find someone to perform.
“My first thought was, ‘Are you joking?’” said one, who asked to remain anonymous. “But no, it was serious.” A spokesperson for the inaugural team has denied the report.
And it’s not just singers: For the first time in 20 years, not a single D.C.-area high school marching band has applied to perform in the inaugural parade.
Evancho’s booking has led to a vicious spate of cyber-bullying.
Good to know, Andrea Bocelli & Jackie Evancho r willing to perform for a racist, bigot, admitted p*ssy grabber Trump. Boycotting their music
— VK (@craftyme25) December 14, 2016
Jackie Evancho is performing at Trump's inauguration. I liked her better when her aspirations were to win AGT to help animals.
— Matt Miner (@MattMinerXVX) December 14, 2016
— Jess_gr-au (@Nichtarida) December 16, 2016
Nothing says #careersuicide like Jackie Evancho performing at the Inauguration. Her career is failing already. She'll never live this down.
— K. L. H. (@kristy082699) December 14, 2016
What makes this more complex is that Jackie’s sister, Juliet, is transgender.
This week, the 18 year-old wrote an op-ed in Teen Vogue discussing her transition last year.
She didn’t address her sister’s inauguration announcement, and has not responded to our request for an interview. It’s also not clear if she will attend the inauguration.
Jackie has confessed that her high profile has put a “big target” on her family.
“I have a transgender sister and so a lot of hate goes towards us,” she told People. “I also get a lot of love. We pay most attention to that.”
Jackie was the second person Juliet came out to, after their mom, and she has been a real cheerleader.
“She… was not at all surprised and was very supportive and happy that I found my true self,” said Juliet, “At the same time she was terrified about the potential ridicule I’d face for the rest of my life.”
Jackie even joined Juliet on her first red carpet as her true self, last year at the Global Lyme Alliance Gala in New York.
“I kind of almost always knew, because ever since we were really, really young, we always would play Barbies, and she would get the prettiest Barbie dolls, she’d never play with the boy Barbie,” Jackie told Access Hollywood. “She would dress up in Barbie dresses with me and it was always so fun. I was kind of, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’ She always acted like a girl.”
So what we have is a young celebrity with a transgender sister—a girl who is an outspoken advocate for her sister’s transition—agreeing to perform for a president-elect who has turned his back on the trans community.
During the campaign, Trump initially said trans people should be allowed to use the bathroom that’s appropriate for them. The very next day, though, he pivoted to say the issue should be left up to the states. By Election Day, he came out in support of HB2.
“I’m going with the state. They know what’s going on, they’ve seen what’s happening,” Trump told reporters. “I’ve spoken to your governor, I’ve spoken to a number of different people, and I’m going with the state.”
As NewNowNext has reported, Trump has pledged to nominate Supreme Court justices who would follow in the legacy of anti-LGBT justice Antonin Scalia.
And let’s not forget the other man being sworn in on January 20: Vice President-elect Mike Pence, one of the nation’s most virulently homophobic governors.
Does any of this weigh heavily on the mind of Jackie Evancho? I don’t know, but I know what happened when her sister, now a high school senior, protested her school’s decision to stop letting students use restrooms based on their gender identity.
It led to bullying and harassment, not just of Juliet, but of Jackie, too.
“I think they feel empowered now that they have this invitation from the policy,” Juliet told WPXI-TV. “There’s a boy in [Jackie’s] class who is harassing her about my issue.”
I would hope we all agree that bullying is wrong—it’s wrong from them and its wrong from us. There’s no denying her decision to sing at the inauguration is off-key, but let’s not forget: The girl is 16. She’s just starting out in her career. And she’s going to sing for millions of people alongside Andrea Bocelli, one of the greats in her field, at an event that signals a peaceful transition of power.
Even if that power is passing to someone who scares the shit out of my children and me. And you, and most of the nine million LGBT people across America.
The occasion deserves a voice as golden as hers, even if the honoree does not.
Yes, Evancho made a misstep here, but she’s been an ally where it really counts. As a mom I can’t help but feel that instead of punishing her, we should try to teach her a lesson with kindness and respect her choices, even if we think she’s making a mistake.