Jackie Evancho Opens Up About Her Struggle with Anorexia and How Music Saved Her: “It’s the Reason I Exist”

“I wanted to come out with it, because it’s something that really does fully consume your life, and it starts off so small,” Jackie Evancho tells American Songwriter, opening up about her struggle with anorexia, the eating disorder that started when she was 15.

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“You just want to be healthier,” adds Evancho, now 22. “You want to eat a normal, healthy diet and workout at the same time, and then you don’t get those results, so it spirals, and it all stems from something hidden deep inside your brain that you can’t figure out for the life of you, and that’s basically what it was for me.”

The classical and pop singer, who recently released a covers album of Joni Mitchell classics, Carousel of Time, said she was initially prompted to share her experience with anorexia after taking a one-year hiatus to care for herself. After being accused of not caring about her fans, the singer decided to reveal the truth about her condition.

“My fans were basically saying ‘she doesn’t care about her fans. She just completely doesn’t think about us, doesn’t love us. She’s a liar when she says she loves us,’ and that really angered me because as a human, you have every right to deal with your struggles and seek help for them,” says Evancho. “I felt like they were trying to rob me of that, so I thought, ‘I need to be honest,’ because that’s the only way they’re gonna get it. And if I’m honest, I can’t feel ashamed about it.”

She adds, “I don’t feel like there is anything to be embarrassed about. Everybody has a struggle. I’m not trying to use this as some sort of gimmick. It’s just a major part of my life now, and I can’t keep hiding big chunks of my life anymore. I will go insane.”

Being honest about her health and not talking about it in the past tense is something Evancho said is important since she is still dealing with the effects of anorexia.

“I’m still in the throes of it,” Evancho shares. “I’m still not healthy, I’m still trying to get the right kind of help, but a lot of times, people come out about their struggles as past tense when in reality a lot of the struggles are never going to be past tense. It’s always going to be a struggle, every single day. I wanted people to see that it’s okay to talk about the fact that you’re still currently hurting.” Evancho adds, “The more you hide things, the more these illnesses are birthed in ourselves, and I feel like being fully transparent is the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves.”

In 2022, Evancho was also diagnosed with osteoporosis, which developed as a result of her anorexia after suffering two abnormal breaks in her back following a car accident. Osteoporosis is a common effect of anorexia due to a decrease in nutrition, specifically calcium and vitamin D, and estrogen, which can negatively impact bone density. Extremely low body weight in women can cause the body to stop producing estrogen, according to the National Institute of Health. Low estrogen levels contribute to significant losses in bone density.

Throughout her personal struggles, Evancho said music has helped in her recovery—mentally and physically.

“Music is probably the only thing in my life that has been around since the beginning, and been there when things were really dark and hard,” revealed Evancho. “And it’s never been ruined for me. It never sets me back to a bad place. It always makes me feel physically better. I could feel like I’m nauseous and have a headache and then I will sing and I feel better. It’s the most healing thing in my life. I swear it’s my passion. It’s the reason I exist.”

Undergoing EMDR therapy, an eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy used to treat individuals suffering from anxiety, panic, post-traumatic stress disorder, or trauma and working on getting herself back to a normal weight is something Evancho is presently living through.

“I’m still not 100 percent,” she said. “My weight still needs work but the key is that I’m fighting.”

Photos: Courtesy of KMJPR

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