Jackie Evancho remembers the struggles. She'll never forget being told she wasn't good enough. She has brushed off the disappointments with bravado.
Sure, Jackie is only 12. And for the singing sensation, she has experienced nothing but success after being discovered on YouTube and rising to fame on NBC's "America's Got Talent."
But she did finish second to Michael Grimm in 2010.
The sellout crowd at the Naples Philharmonic almost didn't get a chance to hear her angelic voice. She almost didn't get discovered. She almost didn't become the youngest artist to ever break into the Billboard Top 10 with her debut album, "O Holy Night."
She actually tried out two other times for "America's Got Talent" in New Jersey and didn't make it past the producers.
"They turned me down both times," Jackie said in a phone interview. "Then I tried the YouTube audition and something was different."
And the rejections were only part of the tough road to stardom.
OK, she was only 8 at the time. So it's easier for her to remember her mom loading up the family van to try out for "America's
Got Talent." Yet, the van didn't go far. And Jackie spent more time in repair shops than in front of judges.
"It was really hard," Jackie said. "I remember sleeping on the side of the road because the van broke down so much."
Life isn't too hard for Jackie now.
Her first studio album, "Dream With Me," debuted in June 2011 at No. 2 on the Billboard charts and went gold in four weeks. Billboard named her one of the top music movers-and-shakers under 21 because her "spellbinding" voice has the ability to bring "listeners multiple times her age to tears."
"All my life I had to work to get where I am," Jackie said, sounding like Barbra Streisand or Carole King.
Her work also has taken her places. She sang in front of 100,000 people in Russia. She wowed sold-out crowds in Toyko (her favorite city). She performed for President Obama in Washington, D.C., at the lighting of the National Christmas tree.
And even though she's making much more money than she did with her former allowance, Jackie doesn't consider it work.
"I think of it as a passion more than a job," she said, "something that is super-fun and my thing."
Spoken just like a 12-year-old. And she said she still enjoys being one.
She says a typical day at home consists of schoolwork (she is home-schooled), singing practice and playing with her friends, family and pets. On the road, like in Naples, she said she will do schoolwork, rehearse, eat, do her hair and makeup and "give the best concert possible."
Despite the rigorous demands, she still has plenty of time to be a kid, she said.
"Most kids say they would be excited for soccer practice. My thing is singing," Jackie said, "and when I hear that I am going to sing in a recording studio it is basically like saying I'm going to soccer practice. I love it so much."
Her love for music is inspired by the "Phantom of the Opera." So it worked out perfectly when her label, Columbia Records, and her manager suggested a movie-themed album for her third release. Monday night, she will sing several of the well-known hits off her new album, "Songs from the Silverscreen."
"Music of the Night" from "Phantom" is her all-time favorite song, she said. She said she grew up — yes, all 12 years — singing these songs. But be careful about describing her singing style. Don't dare call it opera.
"I don't really sing opera," Jackie said with a nice-but-please-get-it-right attitude. "I sing classic crossover. It's pop and classic mixed. On ('America's Got Talent') I sang opera arias. I am still singing the same thing that I was, but my big break was in the opera arias."
Now Jackie is getting more big breaks.
She is modeling for Guess clothing and will be part of an upcoming Robert Redford movie titled "The Company You Keep." Redford actually called Jackie to play his daughter in the upcoming thriller.
"It's my first big role. Actually it's my only big role," said Jackie, who will star along Redford, Susan Sarandon, Shia LaBeouf, Terrance Howard, Anna Kendrick, Nick Nolte and Stanley Tucci in the movie.
Jackie said she's comfortable with her other career opportunities
"(In) modeling and acting you are playing a role," she said. "When you are singing you are playing yourself playing a role. You are giving emotion through the song with all of your heart and all of your passion. Well, at least that's what I do."