Massapequa-raised Jackie Romeo performs on NBC's "The Voice" Monday.

Massapequa-raised Jackie Romeo performs on NBC's "The Voice" Monday. Credit: NBC / Casey Durkin

Debbie Gibson protégé Jackie Romeo, of Massapequa, known to her hometown as a frequent performer of the national anthem for events at local parks, impressed the coaches on NBC’s “The Voice” during this season’s third round of blind auditions Monday night, landing a spot on John Legend’s team.

“What I loved was that it felt like it was just you. There’s, like, this openness and this roundness to your voice,” Legend, 45, told the 20-year-old singer after her rendition of Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” prompted chair-turns from both him and the country pop duo Dan + Shay. “I’d love to hear you just do more popular songs in that inflection,” he continued, inviting her on his team and later, to the camera, praising “the vibrato in her voice, the texture.”

“I’d been accepted to [Boston’s] Berklee College of Music, but I actually deferred [in order] to audition for ‘The Voice,’ ” Romeo, the daughter of accountant John Romeo and commercial-insurance salesperson Helen Romeo, told Newsday Tuesday morning. “They gave me a 95% scholarship, but I was, like, when else am I going to have this opportunity” to audition for "The Voice” coaches, who also include country music icon Reba McEntire and hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper.

Born in Port Orange, Florida, Romeo moved to Long Island with her family, including older brother John, when she was 2 years old. They lived in Bay Shore, Levittown and Bethpage before settling in Massapequa when Jackie was in sixth grade. She attended Massapequa High School and, simultaneously, Syosset’s Long Island High School for the Arts, graduating in 2021.

As a young teen, she posted YouTube videos of herself singing — and remarkably, even though just 14 years old, was still targeted by online trolls. “I was so insecure and I already didn't like how my body looked,” Romeo says. “And then after receiving hate comments, telling me that I needed to lose weight” and making crude and cruel jokes, “I'd be, like, ‘Oh my gosh, maybe they're right.’ And I believed it and I wore baggy clothes and I was super insecure.”

But upon seeing the 2022 Prime Video reality TV series “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” about plus-size vocalist phenom Lizzo, “I had this cathartic experience. I broke down crying. I was, like, ‘It doesn't matter what my chin looks like or my arms or my stomach, I'm beautiful. And I have to stop listening to these people who don't know me.’ Because it's the people who do know me and lift me up that matter the most. It literally took years to come to this point. But I look in the mirror and I see beauty, and I try to lift up other people and tell them that they're beautiful, too.”

Meantime, her career is off to a beautiful start. She performs regularly in the area, was a 2022 semifinalist at Amateur Night at the Apollo, and was taken under Debbie Gibson’s wing after attending the pop star’s Electric Youth Workshop. Gibson — who as far back as 2018 was touting Romeo to Newsday as “such a powerhouse singer” — wrote the song “Pretty Girls” for Romeo to perform, and had the youngster open for her at some dates on Gibson’s “The Body Remembers Tour.”

Massapequa itself also took Romeo under its wing. “Once I moved to Massapequa, I was so grateful to be in a place that cared so much about the arts," she says. "I did all the high school musicals and the whole community comes to watch and they really uplift you. They care so much about music. … I think it’s the core of Massapequa. Because I was surrounded by people who were uplifting musicians and saying, ‘You can do this and we care about this.’ ”

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