Before Halsey was a Grammy-nominated artist, she was a homeless teen who considered delving into sex work as a means of survival.
The 24-year-old singer, born Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, opened up about the hard times in her past while speaking at the Ending Youth Homelessness: A Benefit for My Friend’s Place gala on Saturday in Los Angeles, California. Youth homelessness is a “deadly epidemic,” she said, before describing how living on the streets was a matter of “life or death” for her.
“When I was living in New York, I was a teenager. My friends were picking out decorations for their dorms, and I was debating on whether or not I should let a stranger inside of me so I could pay for my next meal,” she said.
“It wasn’t because I did something bad. It wasn’t because something was wrong with me, and it wasn’t because my parents didn't love me, because they did very much," she continued. "But a series of unfortunate circumstances led me to be in that position, and it can happen to absolutely anyone.”
Halsey previously opened up about her rocky path to stardom in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2016. She was accepted into the Rhode Island School of Design but couldn't afford to go, and had no interest in local options. She got kicked out of her parent’s house after dropping out of community college and was left homeless with no phone service, health insurance, or money, she recalled.
“I remember one time I had $9 in my bank account, and bought a four-pack of Red Bull and used it to stay up overnight over the course of two or three days, because it was less dangerous to not sleep than it was to sleep somewhere random and maybe get raped or kidnapped,” she said.
She spent her time either couch-hopping among her friend group of “degenerate stoners” or occasionally staying with her grandmother, she said.
But as she shared at the gala on Saturday night, everything changed for her when she met music executive Jeremy Vuernick of Capitol Music Group, who would later give her a record deal.
“When I met him, I had crazy hair, I had one demo in my pocket and I was carrying a gray duffel bag,” she said. “Sat down in his office, sat down in his cubicle, and he asked me, ‘What’s in the bag?’ And I looked him dead in the eyes and I said, ‘This is my house.’”
She went on to say that everyone deserves help and support, regardless of whether or not they’re destined to be a star.
“While it’s very exciting that I am a record-selling, show-playing pop star, when I tell people that story, they go, ‘Oh my gosh, you went from being homeless to being a pop star, that’s amazing. We should help these people because we don’t know what they could become,’” she said. “Wrong. We shouldn’t help because we think because there’s a chance that they could turn into a celebrity. We shouldn’t help because they could really make something of themselves — because they are something right now.”
“I know better than anyone how important having a creative outlet is when you’re in a time of need, but this is so much bigger than arts and crafts,” she continued. “This is life or death, and I hope that you take it very, very seriously. I really do.”
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