How Halsey Went From Being Homeless to a Superstar
In one of her earliest singles, Halsey boldly proclaimed herself to be the “New Americana.” This is ironic, considering that Halsey’s life has embodied one of the oldest American tropes: the rags-to-riches story. Many of the great American works of art, from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, revolve around a rags-to-riches story, but Halsey’s rags were particularly bad. During the most desperate period of her life, Halsey wasn’t just poor; she was homeless.
Halsey told Rolling Stone that, as a teenager, she was accepted into a college that she liked but could not afford to attend. This led her to deem the college that she could afford a waste of time and she dropped out at the age of nineteen. To punish her, her parents kicked her out of the house. Homeless, Halsey would do her best not to fall asleep because she was afraid that if she did fall asleep she might be sexually assaulted or kidnapped. She has vivid memories of using some of the last of her money to pay for a six pack of Red Bull so that she could drink it to help her stay awake.
Later, she was able to take up residence with her grandmother. Soon thereafter, she began writing the first of her songs to gain any sort of release – “Ghost.” She quickly uploaded the track, a lament over a relationship gone wrong, to the music streaming site SoundCloud. Within several hours, five different record labels had contacted her with offers for a record deal. A few hours after that, “Ghost” had begun to climb the charts.
Looking back on her early life, Halsey has said “It’s, like, 19 years of my life feel like they don’t even…matter. They could’ve just not happened, like they were some weird incubatory period. I’m just this…kid who made it. I was buying my clothes at T. J. Maxx, then woke up one day and was going to L.A. to film music videos.”
Inspiration for activism
Halsey has tried to use her life story to draw attention to the issue of homelessness. Earlier this year, she spoke at a gala called Enduring Youth Homelessness. There, she said the reason that she became homeless was not “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. But a series of unfortunate circumstances led me to be in that position, and it can happen to absolutely anyone.”
She eloquently added, “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 [homeless] people because we don’t know what they could become.’ Wrong. We shouldn’t help … 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.”