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Ashley Frangipane is is born and raised in New Jersey. Her mother, is of Italian, Hungarian, and Irish descent, while her father is of African-American descent. During her youth, she played violin, viola and cello before focusing on acoustic guitar at the age of fifteen. In one of his first interviews, Halsey states that he is diagnosed with bipolar disorder around the age of sixteen or seventeen.
At eighteen, Halsey has financial problems and music becomes a way for her to pay her rent. She chooses the Halsey stage name because it is the anagram of her name and the name of a street in Brooklyn where she spends a lot of time during her teenage years. She plans to study Fine Arts at the university but, lacking the necessary financial means, she enrolls in a community college to follow the creative writing program.