It was the breakout performance of the summer that had all of America doing a double-take—and had America's Got Talent judge Howie Mandel asking if this 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl had swallowed an adult.
America's Got Talent runner-up Jackie Evancho is a small girl with a big voice. Her road to stardom began in August 2010 with a 90-second YouTube audition. That video led to an audition and eventually a spot on the summer reality competition. "All we want to do is find that one moment, that one gem, that one star from a place we've never looked before in America's Got Talent," Howie said. "You know what? This is the moment. You're the star."
Week after week, Jackie beat out competitors five times her age. Sixteen million people tuned into the finale—the show's highest-rated episode ever.
Though this fifth-grader took second place, she now holds an even bigger prize—the world record as the youngest opera singer in history. "To have this experience, [I'm] just really grateful because it's fun," she says.
Jackie says she realizes her voice is a gift. "I say three prayers every night to make sure that God knows I thank him so much," she says.
Jackie says she wasn't nervous during the competition, performing in front of millions every week. "The adrenaline helped me to realize that you're on a big stage and you just have to deal with it," she says.
As she continues to tour with other America's Got Talent contestants, Jackie says she still doesn't get nervous when she steps up to a mic. "It's more like excitement and joy," she says.
When it comes to future collaborators, Jackie's already thought about who would be on her dream team. "There are several, actually. There's Josh Groban, Charlotte Church, Andrea Bocelli," she says. "And this lady is not really my type of singing, but it's Lady Gaga."
When she's at home in Pittsburgh, Jackie says she's just a normal kid—but she admits to being a little nervous when she started school after her big summer on television. "I have to say to myself: 'Jackie, you're just a normal kid. So you just have to act like these comments are normal because you have to get used to it,'" she says. "So when I go to school, I'm always happy because it's a normal kid thing."
Now that she's in fifth grade, Jackie is tearing through her long division lessons. "Before all this happened, I learned long division in fourth grade, and I loved it so much that I do extra credit sometimes."
But her true passion is writing. "I write almost everything, actually," she says. "Songs, poems, stories. And stories out of every genre too."