Warning: This story discusses sexual assault and suicide.
In her new memoir The Half of It, Madison Beer admits right off the bat that it isn't about everything she's been through in her 24 years of life to date.
But, she writes, it is about the stuff that a person might never guess was roiling beneath the surface by just looking at the "Selfish" singer, who started off posting her performances of pop classics on YouTube and ended up with a record deal at 13 not long after Justin Bieber shared one of her videos on Twitter.
And still, Beer notes in her introduction, writing the book "opened some unhealed wounds" and made her realize how much she had been "sugarcoating" her experiences in an effort to make everybody else—and herself—more comfortable.
She calls the result "the most openly honest" she's ever been and, through her series of raw revelations, Beer explains that she hopes the big takeaway will be that choosing kindness and empathy is usually the answer, because you never know what another person is going through.
Here is what Beer shares about her experiences:
Dealing With Online Hate
Beer writes of being mercilessly harassed online, basically from the time she started making a name for herself at 12. The "tipping point" as she remembers it came when she was 16 and dating "a boy who was more popular than me online."
The Long Island, N.Y., native "was called endless names—labeled a whore for having him as my boyfriend, for dressing a certain way," she writes, "for the most insignificant pieces of my personality."
Beer says she wishes it didn't affect her relationship, but it did—and she felt she was being encouraged to "lean into" being objectified, believing how she dressed and her sex life (which was "nonexistent" at the time, she writes, noting that before this relationship she'd only kissed a few guys) were the most interesting things about her.
The negativity also made her anxious about performing live, she shares, and she recalls wanting to cancel a day before she was supposed to open for her boyfriend at one of his shows. But, she writes, her mom talked her down from the self-loathing ledge, reminding her that the people who booked her for her talent were the ones to trust, not the trolls online.
Ultimately, she writes, when she went onstage "all the nightmare scenarios I'd spent hours playing out didn't happen."
Beer says that to this day she's still hurt on a regular basis by nasty stuff she reads online, an it-comes-with-the-territory downside of fame that she feels no one should have to get used to.
The Lasting Trauma of Sexual Assault
Beer writes that she was sexually assaulted as a child and then again when she was 14 at the first-ever party she attended in Los Angeles.
She predicts that the trauma will be with her forever, but she writes that she told "nobody" about what had happened to her, including her aforementioned boyfriend, who she calls the "first person to ever touch me consensually."
Beer writes that, though she still "can't make sense of" being assaulted at that party, she is not ashamed and it made her an advocate for victims of sexual violence. "I am proud that I get to relate to others who have had similar experiences," she states. "I find strength in that."
Dealing With Rejection
In hindsight, being dropped by her label and manager at 16 turned out for the best—and it was an "amicable" split at the time, she writes—but it also admittedly made her feel like a failure.
Her whole family had moved to L.A. to support her while she chased her dream, she recalls, and she guiltily felt as if she'd messed up her one big shot.
Suicidal Thoughts After the Nude Photo Leak
Beer writes that she also blamed herself for her label cutting ties because, even though no one ever told her as much, she suspected the decision had to do with "the nudes incident," when she sent an intimate video to a boy she liked and it ended up online.
That was one of many times she recalls feeling that "the only way out was to end my life."
She writes that one day she climbed over the edge of her balcony in L.A. and stood there, not planning to jump but reassuring herself that she could if it came to that, until her little brother saw her and screamed for their parents.
Listening to them freak out was surprising, she notes, because "the thought of killing myself was so normal to me at that point that I had forgotten it wasn't something everyone pondered on a daily basis."
Self-Harm and Substance Abuse
By the summer of 2019, while still "actively suicidal," she writes, Beer had become increasingly dependent on drugs like the anti-anxiety medication Xanax to help her sleep.
She enjoyed the "strange numbness" that Xanax provided, Beer explains, but ultimately she found herself "completely addicted to it and began majorly abusing it." She details losing her appetite, not being able to focus and wanting to sleep all the time.
She also "struggled heavily with self-harming," Beer continues, and she found that being "abusive" toward herself had led to allowing other people to treat her badly as well. The Life Support artist points out that she always had her arms covered in paparazzi photos taken around that time.
The ensuing speculation online that something was wrong was sweet in a way, she recalls, because it showed that people were concerned about her, but it mainly made her want to never leave her apartment.
Beer describes one particularly bad night in August 2019: She had just been dumped for another girl, she'd had an argument with one of her close friends and her timeline was full of hateful comments. So, she writes, "I took a handful of whatever pills I could find and prayed that I wouldn't wake up in the morning."
But, she continues, she woke up as normal, got dressed, went to the studio and kept on compartmentalizing.
Too Many Pills, Too Afraid to Go to the Hospital
Beer also recalls an instance of taking too many pills in the summer of 2021 when she came home late from the studio one night exhausted after a day of powering through an encroaching panic attack. "I didn't want to die," she writes. But she writes of taking whatever she thought might help her fall asleep and, even after she felt decidedly not right, she didn't even tell her boyfriend as they were getting into bed that she'd just taken a bunch of pills.
But soon she felt as if she'd "swallowed a brick," she writes, and she called her best friend, Lena Fultz (who she calls her "true guardian angel"). Lena asked if they should call 9-1-1. Beer recalls being too worried about what people would say if it came out that she'd been rushed to the hospital, so she assured Lena that she was fine, she only took four. Lena insisted they at least call for medical assistance, promising Beer that it was against the law for the paramedics to tell reporters about treating her.
Paramedics showed up, Beer continues, and they recommended that she go to the hospital just to be safe. She flatly refused, she writes, and had to get on the phone and speak to the hospital herself to confirm she was refusing care.
Benefiting From Therapy
Beer admits she was initially skeptical that therapy could help her—and she writes that she's since realized that, at the time, she wasn't interested in getting "better," that she thought she was ahead of the game by realizing that life kinda sucked and everyone who looked happy was faking it.
And, she notes, she was scared of what might come up during therapy, hardly excited to revisit her worst moments.
When her therapist first referred to what she had gone through as "trauma," Beer writes, she pushed back, saying it wasn't as if she had PTSD or something. The therapist explained, "'Trauma is stress without resolution,'" and Beer acknowledged that was how she felt about the nude photo leak from when she was 15.
Battling a Xanax Addiction
Meanwhile, she details secretly abusing Xanax at the same time she was in therapy, which admittedly got in the way of her progress because she was mistaking numbness for feeling better.
Beer recalls getting a wakeup call when her brother was at her place hanging out and asked if she was on drugs. When she denied it, he told her she was acting like a "'zombie'" pretty much "'all the f--king time now.'"
She detoxed and stopped taking it for a few months, Beer writes, but then "relapsed time and time again." Staying away entirely was still a work in progress as she was writing, the singer explaining, "I am currently off it, but six months ago I was not."
Borderline Personality Diagnosis
While different doctors told her different things—including one who suggested she was schizophrenic—multiple physicians agreed on diagnoses of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), Beer writes.
Being able to put a name on what she was dealing with came as a relief, she recalls, but she also grieved the time when she didn't know she had these conditions that might color the rest of her life. She kept the BPD diagnosis to herself for a long time, she writes, but eventually started to share her experience in hopes of removing the stigma attached to it.
A Close Call
Making the music video for her song "Reckless," one scene required a water tank and, Beer recalls, that was going to be the last scene they shot that particular night before calling it a day.
While she was exhaustedly getting ready, she writes, her manager came in and informed her that the tank had burst and all the water had flooded into the parking lot. They ended up shooting the scene later that very night in Beer's pool at her house and everyone agreed that the underwater shots they needed were better than if they'd used that relatively confining tank.
As everyone was packing up, Beer recalls, a crew member told her that the lining of the tank was made of plastic. It ripped from the bottom and all the water sucked down like a funnel, he explained, and if she'd already been in the tank, she "'would have been dragged under, too'" and been badly injured or stuck underwater.
Beer recalls how devastated she'd felt when the tank broke—but now she had the perfect shot, and she hadn't been hurt in a freak accident. "I'll never know exactly why it happened," she writes, "but I went to bed that night feeling oddly grateful that it had."
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