By now you've probably seen the viral video of "Crying Piccolo Girl" from Saturday's NCAA tournament game between Villanova and NC State more times than you can count, and maybe even turned it into a meme or two, or more. But just who is the person behind the tears? We found out.
Meet 22-year-old Roxanne Chalifoux, a Villanova senior from Peters Township, Pennsylvania. A biology major and four-year member of the school's pep band, Chalifoux has balanced her piccolo playing with a rigorous academic schedule throughout college. In August, she'll head to optometry school, but not before she enjoys the last few months of college riding out her sudden stardom.
We chatted with Chalifoux on Tuesday morning, just hours after her appearance on "The Tonight Show." Answering the phone with a hilarious "Hi, this is Piccolo Girl!" she clearly is embracing her Internet fame.
espnW: Can you describe the final moments of the game on Saturday? What was going through your head?
Chalifoux: It was obviously disappointing to see the team lose. I love going to their games, and this was my first time getting to go to the NCAA tournament. The band always goes, but as a bio major, I just haven't had time in the past. I was really excited to get to go. They ended up losing, and that was sad, but it was also sad as a senior and knowing that was my last game. The band has been my life for four years, and knowing that I wouldn't be playing with them anymore and that it was all coming to an end was really difficult.
espnW: And that's why you were crying?
Chalifoux: I hate seeing the team when they're sad, and I was sad because I leaving the band. It was just a really emotional moment ... that someone happily caught on camera, I guess.
espnW: At what point did you realize you had gone viral?
Chalifoux: My phone had died after the game so I didn't really know that I had gone viral for a while. I had gotten a couple of texts saying there were pictures of me crying on the Internet before it died, but at that point I didn't think it had gone viral or anything. I was out to dinner after the game and they were showing the highlights from the game. I was sitting there rolling my eyes, like, "Don't make me watch this again!" and then all of a sudden I was on there! Everyone was like, "That's you on TV!" I finally got back to the hotel with the rest of the band and charged my phone and there were a ton of texts saying "Don't go on Twitter!"
espnW: How many texts, messages and tweets were waiting for you when your phone turned back on?
Chalifoux: I definitely can't put a number on any of those. People reached out to me who I haven't talked to in years. Things like "Are you good? Are you OK?" It was very, very sweet how many of my friends and even random people on the Internet were just standing up for me and saying I shouldn't be embarrassed. In my opinion, it was overall a really positive reaction from people.
espnW: Even on Twitter?
Chalifoux: Yes! And that's what I was worried about too, but it really didn't seem that way. It could have gone the other way, but somehow it didn't.
espnW: What's your favorite meme that you've seen?
Chalifoux: I really like the "Whiplash" one. I think that one is hysterical. I like all the "Titanic" stuff, too. Those are pretty funny. I mean, my face with "My Heart Will Go On" written over it? That's pretty great. Might as well embrace it, I guess.
espnW: What has the reception been like on campus?
Chalifoux: I actually haven't been back to campus yet, I haven't made it back yet! I'll find out today though, I'm finally attending my classes. I'm sure it's going to be mostly positive, especially after being on the "The Tonight Show." The Villanova campus as a whole is just so supportive. Everyone I've heard from has been incredible.
espnW: Have you heard from any of the players or coaches?
Chalifoux: I haven't heard from anyone but I actually did run into Pat Farrell from the team. He was really supportive, which was great because I didn't know how the team would be feeling. I didn't know how sad they were or anything. But I haven't seen anyone else.
espnW: What's the coolest thing that's happened to you over the last few days?
Chalifoux: I don't think you can beat being on the "Tonight Show." Jimmy Fallon was just incredible; he is the nicest man, on and off camera. I was just so grateful that he invited me.
espnW: What was it like when you got the call inviting you to the show?
Chalifoux: I was with the director of Villanova's media relations and he told me. He said "I don't want to get your hopes up but I just want you to know that 'The Tonight Show' has reached out and they want you to come on tonight." I was like, "You don't want to get my hopes up? Too late!" He said he had to make a few phone calls first to make sure it was OK and then about 30 minutes later we were buying train tickets and heading up to New York. It came together so quickly but it was amazing, and totally worth missing class for.
espnW: So did you have to tell any of your professors that you would be missing class to appear on "The Tonight Show?" That had to be a new excuse for them.
Chalifoux: Yes, I did! I had to send an email to my microbiology professor and my psych professor. And my psych professor actually took an adorable class picture, where she put my crying face on the projector and it said something like "Don't cry about missing class, Roxanne. You're on the 'Tonight Show!'" and my whole class was in front of it. I thought that was just adorable.
espnW: How was playing with The Roots?
Chalifoux: They are unbelievable -- so gracious and so kind. The fact that they let the "Piccolo Girl" play with them is just amazing. They learned "V for Villanova" to play. I felt so grateful that they let me do that with them. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It doesn't get better than that.
espnW: Taylor Swift (see Fallon video) knows who you are. How does that feel?
Chalifoux: Isn't that crazy? It was crazy enough that Jimmy Fallon knew who I was, and now Taylor Swift? It's pretty amazing.
espnW: Do you think she'll let you up on stage with her?
Chalifoux: Oh my god. Taylor Swift and the "Piccolo Girl." That would be seriously wild.
espnW: How did you start playing the piccolo?
Chalifoux: I started playing flute when I was 11. My mom and aunt had played when they were growing up, and I wanted to be just like them. When I joined marching band in high school, it just made more sense to play piccolo because it's louder. I've been playing it ever since.
espnW: How often do people mistake it for the flute?
Chalifoux: Often. If you don't know much about instruments, you're not really that far off honestly. They pretty much are the same instrument; the piccolo is just an octave higher. I thought it was really just unbelievable that people were debating if it was a flute or a piccolo on Twitter. I think it's great that people stood up for the piccolo, but I did not expect that to ever happen.
espnW: There were a number of sad fans shown on TV throughout the weekend. Why do you think you were the one that struck such a chord nationally?
Chalifoux: That's a great question. I don't really understand why it went viral but I think what I'm getting out of it is people thought it was either amusing or really sad or were impressed that, despite the tears streaming down my face, I kept playing. I guess I appreciate that. I'm in the band, if it's time to play the fight song for the team, I'm going to play the fight song for the team. It doesn't matter if I'm smiling or crying. So for me, it was pretty much business as usual. I think to everyone else, it seemed like I was either bizarre or ... I'm not sure.
Chalifoux: Yes, that's the perfect word. I hope, anyway.
espnW: Will you watch the rest of the tournament?
Chalifoux: Absolutely. I enjoy watching even if my team is out of it. I like to see how the other teams do and I love watching the upsets. Except for the one on Saturday, that is.
espnW: What advice do you have for the next viral star who might emerge from tournament over the next two weeks?
Chalifoux: Just embrace it. Just have fun with it. You could be embarrassed, or you could be sad, but in my case, I've just had so much support from people all over -- even NC State fans, and even some people who don't watch basketball -- it's made it really amazing. Just enjoy the ride; there's no point in being upset. And make sure to get sleep. I'm kind of exhausted and can't wait to do that.