Jackie Evancho & Sister Juliet Talk Music Memories, Trans Issues
Jackie Evancho and her sister Juliet grew up like any other girls. They liked playing dress-up; Juliet always chose the prettiest dresses, though Jackie didn’t say anything. The girls were best friends. Their parents were supportive and encouraged them to be creative.
They grew up jumping on “the old sofa” watching Phantom of the Opera and singing show tunes. In the car, the two girls would have their parents put on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” from Disney’s Lion King so they could stick their butts in the air to wiggle them. Even today, the memory brings them laughter. But it didn’t start out so easy. Juliet was born Jacob.
uring childhood, this didn’t pose problems.
“My parents were never like, ‘Oh, you’re not the girl. You can’t play the girl.’ They kind of thought it was normal,” Juliet said. Ever since she was a baby, Juliet recalls gravitating toward feminine things. Jackie and Juliet would play make-believe. They spent hours planning their characters and creating names, descriptions and backgrounds. Only then could they play.
Music was never far from the two. Jackie was constantly playing on the keyboard and singing. The two would put on plays for their parents. They always sang together. Even as a child, music captivated them. Lou Bega’s "Mambo No. 5" had Juliet dancing before she knew what dancing was.
“I would jam out to that. I had little sausage-link arms as a baby, so I would just flail my little sausage links around,” Juliet said. Jackie was the same way.
“Whether it was good or bad, I was always doing music,” Jackie said. Jackie credits Juliet for teaching her to enjoy what would eventually become her career.
“She taught me what it meant to like music,” Jackie said. “I always looked up to her.” Of the jams that Juliet and Jackie would listen to, among them was “Get the Party Started” by P!nk, although it’s remembered by Juliet as “I’m Coming Up.” The song would play long after its initial release date and popularity as one of the Evanchos’ fan favorites that stayed around for years. The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” was another serenade that couldn’t go unsung.
This was just the beginning of Jackie’s love for music and entertainment.
Jackie would go on to write her own plays. After the supernatural hit Twilight came out, Juliet would be subject to playing the part of a male vampire in one of Jackie’s plays. The memory is still on home videos. Eventually, these roles -- and, mainly, the role of being male -- became too much for Juliet.
“The world saw my sister as a beautiful, talented little girl,” Juliet said. “I was just the supportive brother. The whole ‘brother’ part really killed me because I wasn’t a guy and I knew that I wasn’t.” At this time, though, the world saw her as Jacob. It was hard for Juliet. Jealousy sprang from every corner. When Juliet received any “boy” toy on a birthday or Christmas, she would cry and throw a fit. She didn’t like them at all.
Once Juliet realized that she was female, she began growing out her hair. Because she was a good singer, it was no surprise when she was asked to record a duet with Jackie on her second album. On a set to perform “I See the Light” from the movie Tangled, the stylists decided that Juliet’s hair -- which she had been growing out -- “had to go,” she said. It was devastating for her.
“By that time, I had known I wanted [to be] -- and was -- a girl,” Juliet said. It felt like a huge step backward. Therapy was very helpful for Juliet through the transition.
“I am on this journey of finding myself and every aspect of who I am,” Juliet said. It was easy because things “just clicked,” Juliet recalled. One of the biggest shocks for Juliet was when she realized she was transgender. Therapy allowed her to rationalize everything.
Jackie and Juliet’s relationship as siblings changed when they became sisters. Now, they share clothes. Juliet is happier and more comfortable with herself. The tension around their relationship dissolved. Juliet’s jealousy of Jackie diminished.
“I was just happy she was finding who she is,” Jackie said. Her transition brought along some strains, though. For their father, it meant he was losing his oldest son, in a sense. For their brother Zach, it meant losing his only brother. “I felt like I let him down in that sense,” Juliet said.
It did mean the addition of a daughter and a sister, however. Juliet says that, overall, the whole house hasn’t changed because she has always been a feminine person. Now, it’s simply showing in her outward appearance and the publicity around her identity.
“Now, it’s like I can be who I am and put on makeup whenever I feel like it and wear pretty clothes and walk outside and wear those clothes,” Juliet said. “And people see me as me.” Their family is like any others.
“[Having a transgender sister] is the same as having any sister. There’s nothing different about it,” Jackie said.
In the future, Jackie hopes to continue singing and performing. “[Performing] is like being at my second home. It’s just comfortable for me,” Jackie said. Eventually, she hopes to be able to make the world a better place with less judgment and more acceptance.
Juliet hopes to go onto modeling and raising awareness for LGBT issues. Currently, she is focusing on transgender bathroom rights: “The whole reason there are issues is because people don’t understand who we are and how we think,” Juliet said. “Really, we just think normally, like everyday people.” Part of that focus is on teaching people that transgender identities are not made up.
“Being transgender doesn’t mean that you're a monster who hurts children in the bathroom,” Juliet said. “It just means that you’re being you -- and taking steps to be yourself.” Jackie stressed being supportive and nurturing to people who are coming out as transgender, while Juliet emphasized that they are still the same person that you knew before they were transgender.
“You should love them the way you did before,” Juliet said.