Shining Child Stars and Body Esteem

Created by susan on 2019-03-12 15:52:25


Jackie Evancho captured the hearts of her fans when she appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and became the first runner-up at age 10. It is hard to believe that she just turned 18 and will reappear on the same reality show. My husband and I saw her after her debut performance at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas as she skyrocketed to fame with her angelic voice! After each song she would wave her tiny hands and giggle! Momentarily you were reminded that you were listening to a little girl who had an operatic voice that sounded like an adult. She was simply adorable and her stage presence was reminiscent of an innocent child. 

However, life has not always been a cakewalk for Jackie Evancho, as she recently shared her challenges of growing up in the spotlight. She acknowledged that she suffered from anorexia nervosa at age 15, an eating disorder and was formally diagnosed at age 17. According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual V (DSM-V) anorexia nervosa is defined as a person must display: persistent restriction of energy intake leading to significantly low body weight (in context of what is minimally expected for age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health.) She was also diagnosed with body dysmorphia which is defined in DSM-V where one has appearance preoccupations and the individual must be preoccupied with one or more nonexistent or slight defects or flaws in their physical appearance (i.e., frequent comparisons of oneself to the appearance of others).

Although she reported that she was never physically harmed, she had some frightening experiences where people pretended to be priests and one in particular asked her to sit on his lap and she declined. Feeling unsafe or experiencing some type of trauma (i.e., sexual harassment and misconduct, or sexual abuse) is often a contributing factor for eating disorders and body dysmorphia. There were times that she experienced loneliness which is also characteristic and leads to social isolation. As a psychotherapist, I have worked with many patients who had similar experiences (i.e., ice dancing, figure skating, acting, gymnastics and ballet) and due to their strenuous practice and performance schedule they were isolated from their peers.

Jackie says she has no regrets and would like to use her experience and be a role model for others. She stated in an interview with “Access Hollywood” the following: “I’m just a perfectionist at heart, and that includes myself and what I see I am-I want it to be perfect to me, and unfortunately, I can’t do that.” She went on to say “I do think that growing up in the spotlight, being a kid, being surrounded by all these adult women who are beautiful and slender and tall was really difficult for me, because I wanted to be that and I wasn’t. And then I started to hit puberty and I got my womanly curves and everything, and it was, for lack of a better word, triggering.” 

It is important to be cognizant of symptoms that lead to a formal eating disorder (i.e., perfectionism, depression, stress, anxiety, social isolation, trauma, and obsessive compulsive tendencies.) However, I have confidence in Jackie Evancho and others to overcome eating disorders and not allow it to control their passions in life. In other words, life is a dress rehearsal and there may be times when you compare yourself to others, but it is important to learn to embrace autonomy and be the very best version of yourself.

Jackie stated, “Ever since I was able to think, I knew this was what I was supposed to do and I love music in this world way too much to give it up”. She is currently working on a new album filled with Broadway hits and reported that “this album is the most authentically me album to date.” We will be there to cheer you on and celebrate your road to recovery and success with your new album.