Halsey is bi-racial. She is of Italian, Hungarian, and Irish descent on her mother's side and African American on her father's side.
Growing up, Halsey learnt a portfolio of string instruments - violin, viola, and cello, before shifting gears when she was 14. "That wasn't cool anymore," she recalled to Billboard magazine. "I thought I was gonna be the next Alanis Morissette, so I bought myself an acoustic guitar."
Halsey was diagnosed with bipolar disorder around the age of 16 or 17. She told Elle: "The thing about having bipolar disorder, for me, is that I'm really empathetic. I feel everything around me so much. I feel when I walk past a homeless person, and I feel when my friend breaks up with someone, or I feel when my mom and my dad get into a fight and my mom's f--kin' crying over dishes in the sink."
She developed a coming-of-age blog to 14,000 readers. "I used to post art and drawings and photography," Halsey recalled to Pop Justice
. "I had a pretty eclectic life. I was dating weird people and we'd go on crazy adventures. I was dating this guy who was modelling for Ryan McGinley at the time, so he was travelling across the country and we were sharing our experiences on this blog and people started following me as like a lifestyle thing, living vicariously through me I guess."
Halsey started posting music on her tumblr account, including "The Haylor Song," a spiky parody of "I Knew You Were Trouble
" with lyrics about Taylor Swift's relationship with Harry Styles. It went viral and helped launch her career.
When "The Haylor Song" took off, Halsey was living in a grim, bohemian loft off Halsey Street in Brooklyn. "Picture a 2012 equivalent of the Chelsea Hotel," she said. "There were white rappers, a guy who plays the harp, someone doing holistic healing for dogs, copious amounts of substances. I was doing drugs, then cleaning up, fading in and out of psychosis. It was very Almost Famous."
Halsey's fortunes changed when she uploaded "Ghost
" onto SoundCloud in August, 2014. The song became an early signature song for the young singer-songwriter and five record labels were soon in touch wanting her signature. She chose Astralwerks and Halsey's debut album, Badlands
, was released on August 28, 2015.
Her real name is Ashley Nicolette Frangipane. The New Jersey native flipped around the letters in her first name for her performing moniker. It also acts as a reference to the street in Brooklyn when she first pursued a career in music full time. "Halsey is just a vehicle for me. Ashley is how I take my coffee. Halsey has a story to tell," she told MTV News. "I think you need to be able to separate the two because the nature of artistry is so egotistical. If I do a full day of interviews, the sun goes down and I just talked about myself for six hours straight. That would drive any person crazy. You detach. You depersonalize. It can be scary."
Halsey spent a few weeks in a psychiatric hospital during her high school senior year. "I had tried to kill myself," she told Billboard magazine. "I was an adolescent; I didn't know what I was doing. Because I was 17, I was still in a children's ward. Which was terrifying. I was in there with 9-year-olds who had tried to kill themselves."
Being cut off from the media was the hardest part of being hospitalized. "There was no TV, no music, no nothing," Halsey said. "The day I got out of the hospital I was in the car and I was listening to Imagine Dragons. It was a f---ing moment for me. I don't think I realized how important music was to me before that."
Halsey suffers from endometriosis, a condition that affects women in which the womb lining sheds internally causing organs to stick together resulting in pain. It can lead to fatigue, nausea, and possible infertility. During her acceptance speech for the 2018 Blossom Award, the singer admitted:
"Sometimes I'm bloated, I'm on an I.V. (intravenous drip), I'm sick, I'm on medicine, and I'm backstage, terrified that I'm going to bleed through my clothes in the middle of my show. That's the reality of it."
Halsey published her first poetry book, I Would Leave Me If I Could, on November 10, 2020, A week later she woke up to discover her collection of poems was #2 on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction list.