Musical prodigy Jessica Sanchez is all grown up, ready to take the stage at Chicago Pride Fest.
Jessica Sanchez, whose parents recognized her gift for singing when she was 2 years-old, was showcasing her talents on national television before she was even in high school. By the time she was 10, Jessica was performing on shows like Showtime at the Apollo, and America’s Got Talent. She also was a final contestant on American Idol and later appeared in Glee.
Sanchez is a strong supporter of the LGBT community. She performed at St. Louis PrideFest in 2017, where she sang "Right to Fall,” which she said is a rallying cry for the LGBT community, particularly, the right for people to love whomever they want. “We can’t care what they approve of, can’t let them tell us who to love,” Sanchez sings on the track.
Here, Jessica Sanchez talks about her experiences, being true to yourself and her love for the LGBT community.
BT: So Jessica, tell us, where are you from?
JS: I’m from San Diego, born and raised! I’m half Mexican and Filipino. My dad is from San Antonio and my mom is from the Philippines.
BT: You are probably most well-known for your appearances on America’s Go Talent when you were just 11 years-old and American Idol in 2011. Tell us a little bit about your experiences there?
JS: I was on the first season of America’s Got Talent when I was 11, and it was an awesome experience. I think that was my first real learning experience of being rejected, when it came to singing. I cried because I was so young and wanted it so bad, but I needed that. It really ignited the fire inside of me. For the next couple of years, I did covers on YouTube and then decided as soon as I was old enough to try out for American Idol. I was only 15 when I tried out and had no big expectations of making it that far, especially after hearing the other talents. So many freaking talented contestants. In both experiences, I learned a lot and was very blessed and grateful for making it as far as I did and for all the opportunities that came after the competitions.
BT: After American Idol, you started your career in 2013 when you released your first studio album, Me, You & The Music. Tell us about that experience and the inspiration behind the music. And is a second album in the works?
JS: It’s so freaking cool. I worked with a lot of amazing writers and producers. I recorded most of the album while I was traveling with the other contestants of American Idol for the Idol Tour. It was pretty hectic and I feel like I was still finding myself, not only as an artist, but as a person too. After the release of Me, You & The Music and the few singles following after that, I’ve had a few years to really figure out who Jessica Sanchez is. I’ve been writing and working on music that really feels authentic to me. I recently released two new songs in the past few months called Caught Up and Millionaire. I’m currently working on more tracks leading up to an EP. I can’t wait for you guys to hear the rest of the music.
BT: You’ve also done some acting, appearing on Glee’s fourth season, starring as the character Frida Romero. What was that like?
JS: Glee was so much fun. Everyone was so nice, the staff and the cast. It all happened so fast and I still can’t believe that my first acting gig was Glee. It’s still so surreal to me.
BT: What ways did you relate to your character on Glee?
JS: Frida’s character was this super confident girl from the competing school that was just ready to destroy anybody and everybody (who) came in her path. Seemed so sweet, but actually super sassy and actually maybe even a bit of a bitch. I don’t know if I completely relate. Hopefully people don’t think that I’m a bitch! [laughs] But I can definitely relate to people saying I’m super soft spoken, but come off super confident on stage. The stage is like my second home.
BT: In the 2016 election, you publicly supported Hillary Clinton. And Clinton even used your song “Stronger Together” after her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. That had to be exciting. Can you share the message behind your song and what it means to you that it was used by Hillary Clinton?
JS: ’Stronger Together’ was actually recorded and given to me a few days before the DNC, so it was one of those last minute things that I had no hesitation accepting. The song’s meaning is everything I believe in, so there was no doubt in my mind to be a part of this and support her and the campaign with this song and its strong message. The meaning of the song really is being stronger together. Uniting as a community and as a country. While others try to bring us down with discrimination and hate against each other, we must stay strong and be there for one another.
BT: Last year, you got down on one knee while performing the last notes of the National Anthem at the Oakland Raiders vs. Los Angeles Chargers game. Why did you decide to join the ‘Take a Knee’ protest?
JS: I knew of the protest and thought about the negative feedback that would come my way if I had done it, but my only excuse not to do it was that I was afraid to be judged and criticized for my decision. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that being afraid of what other people think isn’t a good enough reason to not stand up for what’s really important, which is making people aware of the real message, the painful truth of the police brutality and racial profiling that’s still happening today.
BT: What kind of feedback have you received?
JS: Lots of negative. But, I was happy that it happened because it really filtered a lot of people out of my life.
BT: So, you’re coming to Chicago! How do you feel about performing at Chicago Pride Fest this year?
JS: You don’t even understand how excited I am. I’m pumped. I’ve been getting my set list together and I can’t wait to feel everyone’s energy while I’m on the stage. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.
BW: What can fans expect from your performance at Pride Fest?
JS: Upbeat songs! It’s gonna be like a party with covers and originals.
BT: What does the LGBT community mean to you?
JS: Most of my friends are gay and I’ve seen a few of them really go through it when it comes to coming out. It hurts me to see them be so hesitant to be who they really are in public because society has made them believe that what they feel is wrong. People in the LGBT community are not only verbally abused, but have been physically abused. We need more love and more acceptance. I’m a full supporter of the LGBT community.
BT: Finally, what’s next for Jessica Sanchez?
JS: I’m working on music for an upcoming EP. Again, I have two new singles out called ‘Caught Up’ and ‘Millionaire’, so you can check those out.
Chicago Pride Fest 2018
Jessica Sanchez performs the North Stage at 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 16. Chicago Pride Fest, which is organized by the Northalsted Business Alliance, runs June 16-17 on Halsted Street between Addison and Grace. A $10 donation is recommended. The Chicago Pride Parade is the following Sunday, June 24 at noon.