The Stunning Transformation Of Pentatonix's Kirstin Maldonado

Whether or not you're tuned into the a capella world, you've likely stumbled across the band Pentatonix. You may have seen one of their viral music videos on YouTube or heard one of the songs from their chart-topping holiday album. The perfectly pitched sound created by the five-member group has earned them awards, countless performance opportunities, and many fans. Since starting on a reality singing show, they've become one of the most, if not the most, well-known a capella groups in the world. Pentatonix's pop covers, as well as original songs, have made them the global sensation they are today.

As the only female vocalist in the band, Kirstin Maldonado has always stood out, and her mezzo-soprano is instantly recognizable in their performances. There's a lot to her story both in and outside the band. She and the rest of the group formed in 2011. In over a decade with them, she's grown and changed both as a performer and in her personal life.

She loved music and performance from a young age

Long before she became the Grammy-winning artist she is today, Kirstin Maldonado was a young girl like many others. She grew up in Arlington, Texas, raised by a single mom whom she credits with much of her success. "I had a really amazing mother who gave me so much support and such a great foundation of believing in me and grounding me in so much love," the singer told Civilian Magazine. "She was so selfless and did everything to make sure that I was taken care of and could go to music lessons and achieve my best."

Even as a child, Maldonado dreamed of being a performer. She used to tell her mother that she wanted to be like the kids she saw on TV. As her mother had always been her biggest supporter, she got her daughter into voice lessons at eight years old to help her start realizing those big aspirations. Around the same age, she did her first community theater show, deepening her love for theater and performance even more. From that point, she continued doing choir and musical theater throughout high school. "That was my plan — to be on Broadway one day," she said, but it turned out she'd end up in the spotlight in a different way than she'd planned (via Asian Fusion).

The group started as a trio in high school

As any fans of Pentatonix will know, the band is made up of five talented singers. But while the group wouldn't be what it is today without all those voices coming together, they didn't begin as a fivesome. In fact, it started as a trio. Kirstin Maldonado met Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi while they were growing up in the same area in Texas. She and Hoying became friends when she was nine, and the pair of them met Grassi as high school freshmen. The three of them were in the same grade and had many similar interests. Like Maldonado, Hoying and Grassi enjoyed theater and choir, so they spent a lot of their time together.

Eventually, they started performing together. "Scott, Mitch, and I formed a little trio for a radio contest and put something together," Maldonado said during an interview with Sweety High. "We ended up singing at a choir concert, and it got a lot of attention, so we just kept doing it." It would take a few more years before they met the other two members and became Pentatonix. But that high school trio was where it all began.

It was 'magical' when the band expanded to five

The group remained a trio, mostly singing together for fun, until they got the idea to audition for "The Sing-Off," NBC's singing competition for a capella groups. While they were already strong as three, they decided they'd do better in the competition if they had two more voices. They met Avi Kaplan, who became the band's bass singer, through a mutual friend.

With the fourth member secured, they just wanted a beatboxer to finish rounding out their sound. Around the same time, Kevin "K.O." Olusola released a video of himself beatboxing and playing the cello. Kirstin Maldonado said it felt like fate when his video went viral while they were on the hunt for their fifth member. "We just kind of stumbled across him and thought he was so amazing and so cool," she told Sweety High.

After K.O. agreed to join, they had the full group, but they were all in different locations. Although Maldonado had grown up singing with Hoying and Grassi, the full band didn't get to rehearse together until the day before they planned to audition for "The Sing-Off." Fortunately, in Maldonado's words, "The second we all sang together as a five-person group, it literally was magical." She continued, "it honestly was just amazing how well it flowed together [...] We had no idea, it could have been horrible," she said. They named the group Pentatonix, and the band was born.

Pentatonix won The Sing-Off

As a five-person group, Pentatonix only rehearsed together one day before their audition for "The Sing-Off." As such a new band, many people may not have bet on them to make it far on in the competition show. But, not only did they make it through the auditions, they also excelled on the singing series. Viewers were amazed by the group's harmonies and chemistry as they performed covers of hit songs, making them their own one week after another.

Because the band was newly formed, working together and discovering how far they could go was also a big learning experience for them. Speaking about their development to Cosmopolitan, Kirstin Maldonado said, "During like the third or fourth week, I feel like we really hit our stride. We felt kind of like, 'Oh my gosh, wow. We feel unstoppable.' We feel so great and so positive in what we can do and what our sound is. And we're trying to explore more options and uncover what else we could do." They continued going strong in each episode, eventually reigning victorious as the champions of "The Sing-Off" season 3. From that point, their star was truly on the rise.

She released her first EP with the group in 2012

In 2011, Kirstin Maldonado and the other four members of Pentatonix were on top of the world. They'd just won NBC's "The Sing-Off" and signed a $200,000 record deal. But, they were dropped by the label suddenly after their win. Rather than let that stop them, they took to YouTube. They'd already gained some following from "The Sing-Off," and posting videos of their covers brought them to a broader audience.

They released their first EP in 2012. Like their YouTube music videos, "PTX, Volume 1" featured their a capella covers of popular songs such as "Starships" and "We Are Young." It hit number 14 on Billboard's 200 chart, and they didn't stop there. The band released "PTX: Vol. II" a year later, which charted at number 10.

Then, the band had their first chart-topping album in 2015 with the self-titled "Pentatonix." Unlike their EPs, the 2015 release was a full-length studio album. It also featured mostly original songs, along with a few covers. This was a change from how the band had started out and displayed more of Maldonado's and the rest of the band's talents, not just as vocalists but as well-rounded musicians.

She and her bandmates took home their first Grammy in 2014

Continuing to make a name for themselves in the music industry, Pentatonix achieved an impressive feather in their cap when they won their first Grammy in 2014. The band won Best Arrangement for their cover of "Daft Punk." Winning a Grammy is an incredible accomplishment for any band, and it was especially exciting coming just a few years into their career for a band that had risen to prominence mainly on YouTube.

During their acceptance speech, Kirstin Maldonado took a moment to thank everyone who'd helped her and her band members to come as far as they had. "I'd like to thank my mom for all her support throughout these years, my entire family, my friends, everyone that's always supported us," Maldanado said, going on to give a special thank you to the fans, saying, "obviously we wouldn't be here without all of them, and this is just such an incredible dream."

And if anyone thought their first Grammy win was a fluke, the band went on to win the same category the very next year for their rendition of "Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy." Their cover of "Jolene" awarded them Best Country Duo/Group Performance another year, and they've had two other nominations.

It wasn't easy going from making music on YouTube to being taken more seriously

After making their debut on "The Sing-Off" and growing their audience on YouTube, Pentatonix was quickly becoming a globally recognizable music group. Speaking to The Oklahoman in 2016, Kirstin Maldonado credited a lot of the band's success to using YouTube as their primary platform. "A lot of our videos in the past have gone viral ... YouTube has been super instrumental in our success as well, because I think there's something really important about seeing and hearing what we're doing." She explained that the visual aspect is essential for their a capella performances.

But viral internet success doesn't always lead to making it mainstream. With so many creators on social media, we've all seen people blow up online only to drop off the radar. However, Pentatonix took their internet fanbase to help them create successful albums, singles, and music videos, which gained recognition from listeners, critics, and awards such as The Grammys.

According to Maldonado, bridging the gap between internet stardom and mainstream success wasn't easy. Giving advice to any other musicians trying to follow a similar path, she said, "Keep persevering. A lot of people get bogged down by everything going on, and so many people are trying to do the same thing, so find your niche and stick with it. Stay true to what that is and create your own unique brand of what you are (via Hollywoodlife)."

She debuted as a solo artist in 2017

Kirstin Maldonado made a risky move in her music career when she put out her first solo work in 2017. This didn't mean she was breaking away from the band; she was just trying out her own sound and project. But, it was a big departure for someone who'd made a name for herself as part of a five-part a capella group to release non-a capella solo work. Her debut EP, "L.O.V.E.," includes her single "Break A Little" and five other tracks. "I want the entire EP to be a journey. It's my journey of how I've grown, and I think you can feel the change of perspective, from 'Break A Little' to the last song," she told Hollywood Life.

Working on a solo album was a very different and exciting experience. She told Build that when putting together an album for Pentatonix, there are a lot of criteria to meet since they have a specific sound already established. "And with this, I had no expectations; I kind of just went in, and the team I was writing with was really, really amazing, and it was really organic." The sound she said she naturally gravitated to was more dark than she'd done previously. "I like very deep moody things, and so I feel like my music is kind of deep and moody," Maldonado said.

She achieved her dream of being on Broadway

Before becoming part of an award-winning a capella group, Kirstin Maldonado loved singing and performing, and she planned to be on Broadway. But her music career took a turn, with Pentatonix bringing success in a way she hadn't imagined and keeping her very busy. Still, Maldonado did eventually realize her Broadway dreams.

In 2018, she made her Broadway debut playing Lauren in "Kinky Boots." Even before she was cast, Maldonado was a fan of the show, which made joining the production all the more exciting for her. "I am just so excited to be in the show on Broadway! ... It's something I've always wanted to do. Everyone that I've met has been super amazing, super friendly, super kind. And I'm only like my third rehearsal in, but I'm like geeking out," she said soon after joining the cast (via Kinky Boots on Broadway).

Performing on Broadway was a huge milestone for the singer, who said she hopes to do more acting in the future. "Even before Pentatonix, I always thought that I would be out here in New York doing Broadway and doing musical theater. That was what gave me the passion for music in the first place, so it's been really, really, cool," Maldonado told Forbes.

She became a mother in 2022

Between her solo projects and being the only female vocalist in Pentatonix, Kirstin Maldonado has had plenty to keep her busy. But she's also made time for her personal life and started a small family of her own. In 2018, Maldonado started dating Ben Hausdorff, a photographer and filmmaker who has worked on Pentatonix music videos since their relationship began. The two creatives have been together ever since and had a baby in 2022.

In an Instagram post announcing their daughter's birth, the singer shared that the delivery had been "unexpected and difficult" but was more than worth it. Despite the bumpy road, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl on June 28, 2022. "We are soaking up every beautiful perfectly imperfect newborn moment; every late night cuddle, feed, cry is all worth it with our sweet baby and my perfect partner in crime," the singer wrote in the Instagram caption. She continued, addressing the message to her newborn, "Elliana Violet, your mommy and daddy feel so lucky to have you and love you SO much, it's insane!! We had no idea our hearts could expand this much. You are worth everything and more. Welcome to the family, sweet Evie baby."

She got engaged in 2023

Prior to her current relationship, Pentatonix singer Kirstin Maldonado was engaged to Jeremy Michael Lewis, who proposed to her in Paris (via People). Sadly, they later called the wedding off. But, it seems everything happens for a reason, as in 2023, she had another surprise proposal in a romantic location. The Pentatonix singer's current partner and father of her daughter, Ben Hausdorff, popped the question while they were in Japan as part of the Pentatonix tour.

The singer was so overjoyed by the proposal that she shared four Instagram posts in a row announcing the engagement. The first post shows a blurry photo of her holding up the ring and the overjoyed caption, "AHHHHHHHHHHHHH." Once she'd had a little time to calm down, she shared a few more heartfelt posts, including photos from the two of them together in Tokyo and her and her bandmates celebrating her engagement right after coming off the stage. In another post she shared with photos of herself and her fiance, she wrote, "Well, now Japan is forever cemented as the best place in the whole wide world! Will miss you all SO much! Thank you for beautiful, heartfelt shows. Can't believe I got engaged in Tokyo!"

She's brought her family on her world tour

The unbelievable success of Pentatonix has led to many opportunities for Kirstin Maldonado. She and her four bandmates' voices have reached fans around the world, taking them on tour to perform for crowds across continents. Fortunately, as she's started her own family, the world-famous a capella singer has found a way to be present for her loved ones while keeping up with her busy tour schedule.

Speaking to People in 2023, Maldonado explained how she's balancing her career and family life by bringing her fiance and baby, Elliana Violet, with her on the road. She shared how special it's been for her to watch her baby's milestones while traveling the world. "We're in different places all the time which makes those memories stronger in a way ... Her first train was in Japan, the bullet train, and first crawls in Fiji," she said.

Not only is Maldonado creating amazing memories in beautiful locations with her family, but she's also loved seeing how her bandmates and everyone on the tour have embraced Elliana. "I feel like Kevin [Olusola] gives her love because he's a dad, so he's always engaging her. Matt's [Sallee] always picking her up and loving on her, and Mitch [Grassi] is always being sweet. Scott [Hoying] is like remixing all her baby tunes," the singer said about her Pentatonix bandmates. "She's definitely a very loved baby, obviously, from parents, but also from the entire tour," she added.