The untold truth of Billie Eilish

Rebellious, insanely talented, and increasingly popular, Billie Eilish is an artist who wasn't even on the pop culture radar a few years ago. Now, she appears to be ready to take the world by storm. Before she does that, you'd better learn a few things about the 17-year-old sensation from Los Angeles lest you find yourself out of the loop.

But understanding Eilish is more than simply knowing that her middle name, which she uses as a stage surname, is pronounced "like eyelash with a lish." This young star comes from a family that's both interesting and talented. She's got an evolved perspective of herself, fame, and the world. And she's also proven capable of speaking her mind from time to time.

Known for her deep and often dark songs, much of Eilish's music and style is inspired by her state of mind and her upbringing. So don't just skim the surface. Before she really blows up and becomes the superstar most are predicting she'll become, learn the untold truth about Billie Eilish.

An accidental viral star

Billie Eilish grew up in a musical family, but she never really set her sights on a career in music. Sure, she sang and wrote songs from an early age, but her rise to fame came about accidentally. It all started with a fun project that her dance teacher assigned her.

"One of my teachers asked if I would either write a song or have my brother write a song to choreograph a dance to," she told Teen Vogue. "I was like, 'Yes, that's such a cool thing to do!'" That's when her brother gave her the song "Ocean Eyes," one he wrote for his band but thought it would sound better in his sister's voice.

According to Eilish, they recorded the song and posted it on SoundCloud for her teacher to check out. The next day, she got a call from her brother. "He was like 'Dude, we got 1000 listens,'" she told Junkee. "That was such a big deal at the time, even though 1000 is basically nothing compared to everything else in the world. But at the time it was a huge deal. We just thought we made it. And then it just kept growing, and then it got really big." As of this writing, the song has been streamed over 13 million times.

The less famous brother

Amidst a whirlwind ascent to super-stardom, many things have changed for Eilish, but one of the true constants has been her brother Finneas. Not only has he written or co-written many of her hits, he's also produced or co-produced several of them. He's even played instruments and sung on some of her songs as well.

But Finneas isn't just in the background of Billie's music, he also has his own music career. He was in the band The Slightlys; he's a talented singer/songwriter; and he's even put together a quality acting career. Starting out in the film Bad Teacher, Finneas then starred in a movie with his mom, called Life Inside Out. To date, however, Finneas' most recognizable roles have come via a few appearances on Modern Family and the recurring role of Alistair on Glee.

Yet, in saying all that, Finneas isn't necessarily desperate to escape the shadow of his burgeoning superstar sister. "I've loved every minute I have [so far] spent recording, writing, and playing with my sister," he told PAPER. "She's so talented it blows my mind. She's taught me so much about how to be a true artist, and how to execute your vision and really be an incredible performer."

The Walking Dead fan

Eilish started off writing songs young, but it all began in class. Eilish and her brother were homeschooled by their mother, Maggie Baird (more on that in a moment), and one of the classes she taught was songwriting. Naturally, one of the homework assignments was to produce a song, which ended up being Eilish's first.

"The little assignment was that you had to watch a movie or a TV show and then write down all the parts that you thought were good hooks or good lyrics," she told Junkee. "So, I watched The Walking Dead — like, why not — and then I wrote down all this stuff. People don't even know that that's what it's about, because it sounds more like a longing heartbreak song. But nope, it's about zombies."

The brooding song, which was released to SoundCloud after "Ocean Eyes," is more than just influenced by the popular show's setting and context, though. "It's called 'Fingers Crossed,'" she explained to Harper's Bazaar. "I literally just watched The Walking Dead and I took little lines from it. Just watch all of The Walking Dead and you'll find some things that are in my song and some episode titles that are in my song."

Living with Tourette Syndrome

People of all different shapes and sizes have little tics or repeated movements that resemble tics. It doesn't always mean that the person suffers from Tourette Syndrome. So, when fans began posting little compilation videos of Eilish experiencing what appeared to be tics, many expected it to be nothing out of the ordinary.

The truth, however, is that Eilish is actually diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. In an Instagram Story (via Billboard), Eilish addressed the matter with her fans, writing, "I've never mentioned [my Tourette's] on the internet because nobody thinks I'm deada**." She added, "As well as the fact I've just never wanted people to think of Tourette's every time they think of me."

For Eilish, her tics are physical and very subtle to the average person, but the Internet never sleeps and will catch anything perceived to be other than normal. "I've taught myself ways of suppressing my tics and certain techniques to help [reduce] them when I don't want to be distracting in certain situations," Eilish wrote. "Wasn't planning on talking about this on here maybe ever, but it's gotten to a point."

She can dance if she wants to

Eilish's great talents don't end with singing and songwriting. She's also a trained dancer. Not only was her first published song, "Ocean Eyes," created for a dance routine, she eventually released a second music video for the song, which allowed her to highlight her dancing skills. "I ended up being injured and wasn't able to dance for a long time," she told i-D. "So after all that has happened with our music this year, it is especially exciting to be able to do this video."

Dance plays a huge role in Eilish's music in general. After all, this is the person who said, "if a song doesn't make you or you can't dance to it, then it's not a song." According to SSENSE, it was dance that drew Eilish to music and, more specifically, her style of music in the first place. She started out in tap, loving Shirley Temple, but then graduated into hip hop and contemporary dance. It seems rather fitting that her music style now is a contemporary hip hop blend. "Like music, dance has always been my passion," she said to The 405. "[It is] a way to express how I feel."

A lesson in homeschooling

The school system helps shape who we are and who we become, but does that also apply for homeschooled students? Apparently, yeah, it does. Of course, not all homeschooled student turn into overnight music sensations, but learning from home allowed creativity to become a major part of the curriculum for Eilish and her brother Finneas.

"Homeschooling has been really interesting because it's kind of my parents' way of having us focus on things we're really interested in instead of being at school and being taught things that you don't really need to know in life — things you're never going to remember or use," Eilish said in an interview with PAPER. "It was a good way to do what I was interested in instead of doing something I was forced to learn."

But homeschooling was also a bit of a necessity for Eilish. According to SSENSE, the singer has an "auditory processing disorder," which means that "it's hard for her to listen and absorb meaning in standard ways." Being homeschooled provided her with the time and the environment to absorb the information properly and effectively.

Refusing to blend in

Eilish isn't about to do what's expected of her. She dresses in her own unique style and she rejects the standard pop culture demands. Her EP, titled don't smile at me, sounds like it could just be an appeal to the fans of her often emotional and brooding music, but the singer sees it very literally.

"I hate smiling. It makes me feel weak and powerless and small," she said to Harper's Bazaar. "But you know how when you're walking down the street and somebody smiles at you? You're forced to smile back, that's the polite response. It's like you have no control over it. If I don't smile back you're gonna think I'm horrible."

But Eilish's EP title also plays into her rejection of societal standards. In an interview with SSENSE, she said, "I'm not gonna look like anybody except what I am. I want to impress myself." This attitude might be something she picked up in her homeschooling. In that same interview, Eilish explained that she "never went to school, so popular was never a thing for me." She added. "I don't understand peer pressure." It seems that this attitude and presence of mind has bled into her music, allowing her to craft a unique sound and style.

2019: The year of Billie

The last few years have showcased how fast a talented musician can rise through the ranks of fame, but, when it comes to Billie Eilish, it seems we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg. That's remarkable when you think about it. Her debut EP was streamed more than 1.5 billion times, and her solo tour has been incredibly successful. How much higher can she go?

Well, according to Forbes, Eilish is on the verge of super-stardom. The publication listed her in its "30 Under 30" and named her as one of the stars to watch in 2019. With Eilish's first full studio album still yet to be released as of this writing, a tour that sold out in Europe and the UK, and a favorable spot in the Coachella lineup, it does appear, that 2019 will be a mammoth year for the young singer. Some music writers are even predicting that Eilish could be the unofficial headliner of Coachella if her album drops before the festival. And based on her history on the Billboard charts, with six singles in the Top 100, no one should be shocked if and when that album becomes one of the biggest of the year.

idontwannabeyouanymore

Speaking publicly about mental illness is becoming more prevalent in pop culture, but some stars appear to be more open, or at least more aware, of who they are and what they feel. Eilish seems to be on the forefront of this movement. Maybe it's her lack of inhibition or her "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" attitude, but Eilish speaks freely, even when discussing something as personal as depression.

In an interview with Genius for its "Verified" series, Eilish spoke about the meaning and the inspiration behind "idontwannabeyouanymore," a song about a person who can't stand the person in the mirror. According to Elish, she has never "said anything that I meant more than that."

"I really, really, really, really hate myself," she said in the honest interview. "You can feel so unbelievably lost and horrible and like you're nothing and you're invisible for no reason at all, which is almost worse than having a reason. It's the way that my brain works."

The problem with social media

At the beginning of Eilish's career, she seemed to embrace the spirit of a true internet troll, relishing in any kind of social media interaction with both her fans and haters. "I love being judged, so any judgement of any kind I'm really pumped about. Which is very strange," she said in an interview with A Beautiful Perspective. " Nobody should feel like that, but I do. I don't really know what it is, but I like getting in people's heads whether it be a good or bad thought. I don't care if you think I look bad or you don't like me. You're still thinking about me, and I'm going around in your head."

Still, it may be the Internet and the spotlight can scar even the strongest of wills and scare off the most rebellious of celebrities. About a year and a half after her "judge me" comments, Eilish's tune changed slightly. "I used to read every single comment and every picture I was tagged in and respond to every single DM, but now I barely go on Instagram because I can't handle that s**t," she said to NME. "I just don't wanna see all the horrible things people say. I don't wanna see that I should have died instead of this artist. It takes not looking at my phone to stop myself from engaging."

Unsavory neighbors

When Eilish talks about her upbringing, she speaks highly of her family and her home, but her childhood neighborhood may be another story. "I grew up in Highland Park when it was very sketchy and there were lots of gunshots," she said in an interview with Music Connection. "It was fine, it wasn't horrible and miserable, and I wasn't scared for my life," she added. But, aside from the occasional gunshot, it seems that crime lived quite close to the Eilish family.

Billie's mom, Maggie Baird, told a strange story about the family's neighbors in Highland Park, Los Angeles. Curious about what her neighbors did for a living and why they always carried filled garbage bags to and from the house, she found out one day when they asked her for help.

Baird explained that she was asked to help the neighbors move a safe one day, and as it was placed into her minivan, the "FBI," "customs," and "Homeland Security" pulled up to stop them. Apparently, the neighbors "were money launderers, and there were three safes total." Within the safes was approximately $1 million. But the nefarious neighbors must have been on the hook for even more than that, because later, when Eilish's family actually bought the house where all of this white collar crime went down, the money from the sale was seized on closing day. 

She's got an eye for politics

You would think for someone so young, Billie Eilish either wouldn't care about politics or wouldn't be informed enough to speak on such topics, but she is a smart cookie. Not only is she interested, but she's involved. Despite not being able to vote herself, Eilish teamed up with Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti (pictured above), to encourage people to vote in 2018. She also called political commentator Tomi Lahren "a p***y h**" in a now-deleted tweet (via L'Officiel), but that might be another matter altogether.

But this isn't just an act for Eilish. She believes that young people need a voice and deserve to have a say in what happens to their country. In an interview with NME, the singer said, "Bro, teenagers know more about the country that we're living in right now than anybody." She then added, in a rather hilarious Billie-Eilish-style, "The world is ending and I honestly don't understand the law that says you have to be older to vote, because they're going to die soon and we'll have to deal with it. That doesn't make any sense to me."