“I always knew I wanted to be an open book. That’s just who I am.” From Star Search and childhood fame as Curly Sue to addiction, motherhood and a second chance at a music career thanks to The Voice, Alisan Porter has a lifetime of experience under her belt despite being only 36 years old. A native of Worcester, Massachusetts and the daughter of a Broadway singer and a rock ‘n roller, Porter was born on June 20, 1981 and started performing for her family when she was three years old. Because of her mother’s own experience and her work as a voice and dance coach, Porter caught her first break by mere coincidence when her mother’s clients, Diane and Elaine Kilmaszewski (who would go on to become the Coors Light Twins), auditioned for an episode of Star Search. Entertaining her mother in the lobby by singing songs while the twins auditioned, the youngster impressed a talent scout and was invited to audition for the next episode of Star Search.
With perfect pitch at nine months old and an incredible set of pipes even at the age of five, Porter wowed audiences and became the youngest contestant in history to win the competition. Afterward, she had a handful of offers on the table and launched her acting career on television with cameos as Lil Punkin in Pee-wee’s Playhouse, as Young Maxi in I’ll Take Manhattan, and as a child in an episode of Family Ties. She ventured over to film in 1988 with her debut as Maggie in Homesick and followed up the role with a performance as Taylor Buckman in Parenthood and as Jenny in Stella before snagging a recurring part as Molly Peerce in a dozen episodes of Chicken Soup from 1989 to 1990. Adding in appearances in Perfect Strangers, When You Remember Me and The Golden Girls, Porter was at the height of her career in 1991 when she joined John Belushi in Curly Sue.
Despite her adorable performance in Curly Sue, Porter couldn’t find her footing in Hollywood and spent more time out of the spotlight as she focused on her studies at Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut. While there, she was a beloved member of the drama department and gave outstanding performances in the school’s productions of West Side Story and Cinderella before taking her talents to New York City where she auditioned for a string of Broadway productions and made her debut in Footloose. Later moving to Los Angeles and snagging a starring role in The Ten Commandments: The Musical featuring Val Kilmer and Adam Lambert, Porter spent the next few years playing with a handful of bands before the death of her ex-boyfriend sent her alcoholism and drug addiction spiraling out of control.
“I was at the end of my ropes with my addiction,” Porter said later. “I always knew I wasn’t in a good place. I would always hear myself saying, ‘If you could just stop this, you could probably do all these things that you want to do. If you could just get off this hamster wheel of just numbing pain!’ Whatever the reason is, it was a different reason every day and excuse every day to numb yourself. But I knew that if I changed my life—like really, honestly changed my outlook on things—that something eventually was going to happen.”
Eventually getting sober in October 2007, Porter was determined to make her way back into the music business but was content to be patient as she worked as a columnist for movmnt magazine and started writing songs of her own. During this time, her personal life blossomed as she met and married Brian Autenrieth, a former child star, in 2012 and started a family with the birth of their son, Mason, in 2012 and their daughter, Aria Sage, in 2014. “I was patient and I kind of just waited for an opportunity to present itself to me, because I didn’t have it in me to go out and find it myself anymore,” Porter said of her music career. “I knew that if it was meant to be, it would fall in my lap. I couldn’t have ever imagined that it would be something amazing as this, ever!”
That something amazing came in 2016 when Porter auditioned for a spot on the 10th season of The Voice. Singing “Blue Bayou” during her blind audition, coaches Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams, and Blake Shelton turned their chairs around to fight for Porter who ultimately chose Aguilera to coach her throughout the season. “It was a scary thing to even audition. I was so afraid to come and put everything into the show, but as soon as I started I knew that it was the right place for me to be,” Porter said. As for working with Aguilera, the experience was truly unforgettable as the pop princess coached Porter to a huge victory and proudly told the world, “Alisan Porter is born!” during the season finale. “Christina was so awesome to me from day one,” Porter said. “For us, I really feel like we won it together. We were really freaking out… She always encouraged me to follow my heart and supported me no matter what. She trusted my instincts and allowed me to really be me.”
Having already released Alisan Porter and Who We Are as independent albums, Porter’s win on The Voice guaranteed her a record deal with Republic Records, the same company that released The Complete Season 10 Collection: The Voice Performance after the show’s finale in May 2016. Even Porter’s singles throughout the show did incredibly well with her performances of “Blue Bayou,” “Somewhere,” “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Down That Road” selling nearly 200,000 copies combined. Of course, that’s encouraged Porter to focus even harder on her first studio album, an EP she released in 2017 titled, I Come in Pieces, followed by the single, “Change.”
Beyond her music career, the 36-year-old former child star can’t believe where her life and career have taken her as she embraces her work as a wife, mother and artist. “It’s so cool how my career started and I’m honored to have had a great career when I was young. It’s been years, decades since that was over and since then, I’ve been wanting this music career…” Seeing those dreams come true, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for the former Curly Sue!