Villanova’s Piccolo Girl is still trying to figure out how she became the face of March Madness. At some point while Roxanne Chalifoux was playing in the band that day, a year ago, her phone died.
It was just as well. Her team had just been upset in its second NCAA tournament game. The Piccolo Girl was crushed, according to ESPN.
Afterward, she was commiserating over dinner when highlights of the game flickered on. She didn’t want to watch. Then someone shouted, “That’s you on TV!”
And there she was, on “SportsCenter.” Chalifoux was dutifully playing the piccolo in the Villanova band as tears welled and rolled down her cheeks. The camera lingered, Chalifoux tightly framed.
Villanova’s Piccolo Girl had gone viral. She was all over Twitter. She was on highlight shows. She was Piccolo Girl.
Chalifoux would become one of the lasting images of last season’s tournament. She appeared in “One Shining Moment,” the video played after the championship game.
Twitter users photoshopped her into increasingly bizarre situations. There is Chalifoux, playing “My Heart Will Go On” in the movie “Titanic.” In another, Chalifoux is crying as J.K. Simmons, in the movie “Whiplash,” screams “Not my tempo!”
“The whole thing was always just a little uncomfortable,” Chalifoux said earlier this week. “I was definitely overwhelmed. It wasn’t really something I wanted to happen just because I’m a pretty private person in general.”
Now, Roxanne Chalifoux is smiling at a chance at redemption. Villanova has stormed to the Final Four. And on Saturday, Chalifoux will be there to watch.
She still isn’t sure why she was the subject of so much fascination. She was emotional because she was a senior, and “it was just hard knowing all of those memories were over,” Villanova’s Piccolo Girl said.
She said most of the online comments were positive. The few negative ones she avoided.
Her viral fame came with perks. Jimmy Fallon invited her to “The Tonight Show.” She played the piccolo with the Roots. Fallon gave her a gift basket.
“You’ll get ’em next year,” he told her.
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum contacted her about making a commemorative bobblehead. She turned it into a fundraiser for the Villanova band.
The band got $2,000, and “I have my own bobblehead,” Chalifoux said. Which I never thought would happen.”
Then, life went on.
“I still went to my classes, I still had to finish my degree, and I had a lot of work to do,” said Chalifoux, who was a biology major and a psychology minor.
Chalifoux now attends the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, where she watches Villanova games when she has time. (And, yes, where students study tear production.)
People still tweet at Chalifoux. She doesn’t respond. Other involuntary viral stars have taken her place. This season, a saxophonist in the Kentucky band was shown on the broadcast crying and hugging her instrument.
Villanova’s Piccolo Girl said her friends and family helped keep the experience positive. The team was supportive, too. Forward JayVaughn Pinkston, now playing in the NBA Development League, found the situation hilarious, she said.