Halsey recently revealed that she considered turning to sex work when she was a homeless teenager living on the streets of New York City.
“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,” the singer said during a speech at the Ending Youth Homelessness: A Benefit For My Friend’s Place in Hollywood on Saturday.
The “Without Me” singer, born Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, was homeless for a period when she was 19 years old. Now 24, the singer and LGBTQ activist reflected on that arduous time in her life after she had dropped out of community college and her parents kicked her out of the house.
“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,” Halsey told the crowd. “But a series of unfortunate circumstances led me to be in that position, and it can happen to absolutely anyone.”
She recalled the moment she scored a record deal with Capitol Music and had to tell a label employee that she was homeless.
“I had one demo in my pocket, and I was carrying a gray duffel bag. Sat down in his cubicle at the time. And he asked me, ‘What’s in the bag?’ And I looked at him dead in the eyes and I said, ‘This is my house,’” she said.
Halsey reiterated the importance of helping all homeless youth, no matter their circumstances.
“I need you guys to realize that and while it’s very exiting 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 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.”
In a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Halsey discussed the lengths she went to to keep herself safe while she was homeless.
“I remember one time I had $9 in my bank account,” she told the magazine at the time. “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.”
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