The panel was all over the place with their guesses, which included everyone from Lea Michele to the Olsen Twins, Vanessa Hudgens, Eva Longoria, and, in the wrongest guess possible, of course, Ken Jeong's wild swing with Kate Bosworth.
Turns out it was none other than Jackie Evancho, 20, the second-place finisher on season five of American's Got Talent, multi-platinum singer and two-time Billboard "21 Under 21" honoree. Billboard caught up with the singer just before Wednesday night's swan song to find out why Kitty made her feel so empowered and sexy, how she tried to trick the judges and the secret to her mega-diva song choices.
What appealed to you about the Kitty costume?
For me it was about how diva-ish and sexy the character was because she was the complete opposite of the image that I have. I really wanted to be able to throw people and I really loved that I could take on a character so unfamiliar to what I'm used to doing. That was really fun and is what definitely drew me to her.
The head seemed real cumbersome. Was it hard to learn how to move around in int?
At first yes, absolutely. But then I figured out a way to be more comfortable in it. I guess just muscle memory. But I will say it was a challenge to not hit people with my feathers. That was the only downside.
You said in your clues that it made you feel assertive, confident and beautiful. Was that part of the allure to you, this other persona it created?
Yeah, absolutely. Especially because that persona has always been in me. Because I'm an adult now, I'm 20 -years-old. I was always put in this box as being an angelic little girl because that's what I became known as 10 years ago. This experience really gave me the chance to prove that I'm an adult, I can be sexy and that I'm a serious artists and not just a little girl with a big voice.
I will tell you that a couple contestants told me they didn't know who you were, but had a crush on you. No names, but that seems like proof you achieved your goal.
Oh, definitely. Especially since that's the first I'm hearing about it. Dang!
Did you watch the show before you were asked to be on it?
Absolutely, that was one of the most exciting things for me whenever I was told I cold be on the show. I thought this show is really clever and original. TV has been around for a long time and to come up with this new system?
You said in your clues that you felt like the “odd cat out” when you got there, that you were on the outside? Why did you feel that way?
That was more... I guess that referred more to my high school experience. It alluded to the fact that I had always been kind of excluded from any peer group in my school life because I was a little girl who was singing and everybody automatically gave me the stereotype of "diva girl who thinks she's better than everyone else." Even though they never really spoke to me so how could they possibly know that?
Your clues were all over the place. There were pirates, silver apples, a clapping monkey, crossed swords? What was all that about?
I wanted people to think about The Phantom of the Opera, that's what the monkey was. The silver apple and all that stuff was a reference to Disney because I've been on a couple of their shows and then I did the Disney Christmas parade. A lot of these hints were to throw the judges off. Like the "grease your gears" was to allude people to think I was one of the actresses from Grease because they were starting to get on that track.
A lot of performers have a "tell," a stage move or trick that might help someone figure out it's them when they are singing. Do you have any you tried to tamp down on the show?
There was a lot of hand movements that I do and I think most people recognize me for. I tried my best not to do those hand movements while I was Kitty. But apparently some people picked up on this, so it wasn't enough. They picked up on it, dang it!
What is it about that costume that gives people such confidence? A couple singers have said the costume allows them be do things they might not normally try in real life.
I think it’s just the fact that nobody really knows who's under it and you can do anything you've ever dreamt of doing on a stage and you won’t get any flack for it because no one knows who you are. And then watching their reactions you see how much people loved that it's encouraging and it makes you realize: I can really keep going with this and be confident in everything I do because no one is going to judge me for it. It's always the judgement that scares people the most.
That's what you said, that you never felt more yourself, but you also alluded to a dark side. What is your dark side?
That was more in reference to struggles I've had grown up with eating disorders and mental illness. I've talked about that in public before. It mainly refers to the fact that my family is a huge fan of Halloween and we love to do all sorts of crazy stuff like create haunted houses and have the scariest house on the block and really creepy props. We're all obsessed with that stuff.
You came up just short on AGT, did that make you determined to try to win this?
Absolutely. It definitely did and though I didn't win I think that my ultimate goal was achieved in showing people that you have to let go of who you believe I really am. Because in reality that's not who I really am. I'm an adult now. I want to be able to dress and act like a 20-year-old. I don't want to be stuck in poofy princess dresses like I was when I was 10. So in my mind I think I'm still a winner. And since I'm used to not winning it doesn't hit that hard. [laughs]
Why did you think Masked Singer was a good place to reboot your public image?
It was the fact that because of the anonymity there was no way that anybody could put assumptions or stereotypes on me. They would be forced to just look at the talent rather than the person. You can't judge me because I'm just a Kitty in flapper girl costumes.
Tell me your thoughts on the judge's guesses. Vanessa Hudgens, Eva Longoria, Kate Bosworth, Emma Roberts, they were all over the place. Were they exciting, insulting?
They were definitely not insulting. I was actually really excited to hear all their guesses because they're all these strong, influential women who are incredibly talented and taken seriously. I remember thinking, "Well, if they think I'm these people and they find out who I really am, I wonder if they will take me as seriously as they take them?" That was the main point in doing the show for me to begin with, so that was a really exciting thought to have. I really loved all their guesses.
It seemed like a lot of people guessed it was you early on, did that surprise you?
No, because I have a lot of die hard fans who know their stuff when it comes to me. I wasn't too surprised about that or worried because the best thing you can do is just ignore it.
You're known for having a really big voice, so you picked real big songs by really big singers: Sia, Amy Winehouse, Celine, Ariana. Were you trying to send a message with selections?
No. That was more about challenging myself and my capabilities with that part of my voice because I never really got a chance to use my pop voice. And while I was on the show I was learning all sorts of things about my voice with each episode. I was learning more about my range and my control. It was kind of like, "Well, if I can do this I can do the next level up."
Do you think this show has the ability to give people hope during these dark times of lockdown and lift spirits while they're stuck at home without a lot to do?
Absolutely. I think that this show is a really great way to bring some light to this situation that we're all living in. The biggest issue is everyone is so bored and they're having a hard time with financial issues and this show is great hour long distraction from that. I mean how can you not be distracted by people singing and dancing in extravagant costumes?
Who did you tell and which of your friends figured it out?
I just told my mom and dad and publicist and manger. All of my family love the show and they were watching it going, "huh Kitty, you know, she reminds me of you." You know, with a wink. So I think they figured it out.
Did any of your friends hit you up to see if they could get you to slip up?
To be fair I don't have that many friends to begin with... but no, I think everyone knows the show is really secretive and they know my lifestyle so they didn't say anything.
What do you hope your top 5 finish will help you do next?
I’m hoping to continue on in my career, being taken seriously and being able to do everything that 20-year-olds do without being criticized or judged. I really want to be able to talk about serious things and be taken seriously. I want to widen my horizons into acting and modeling and singing songs that I write and hopefully create a fashion line or makeup. I want to be able to do everything and I think this show made me realize that my options are limitless.