What Most People Don't Know About Melanie Martinez

Don't be fooled: Melanie Martinez is nothing like who she is on paper. The artist, who initially rose to fame on "The Voice" in 2012, has a meticulously crafted persona. Her projects are largely told through the voice of her alter ego Cry Baby, a titular character she developed for her debut album, which has since garnered a fervent fanbase. At the time of this writing, "Cry Baby" has amassed more than two billion streams and secured platinum status, but while fans are well-acquainted with Melanie Martinez, the artist, they're only just beginning to see Melanie Martinez, the human being.   

Martinez has pulled back her pastel-colored veil to reveal a small town girl with a razor-sharp vision, an insatiable drive, and the slight tendency to let her emotions get the best of her. Though her 2020 EP "After School" is her most personal work to date, she's also admitted to PopCrush, "No one will ever know me fully," adding, "Everyone is just putting their own projection of who they think I am onto me." 

Throughout her career, the artist has largely stayed out of the tabloids, barring some specific instances drenched in scandal. Instead, her life has mostly played out through social media and her carefully curated artistic endeavors — whether that's music, makeup collaborations, or feature-length films. Here's a look at the real Melanie Martinez.

Despite her lyrics, Melanie Martinez actually has 'a great family life'

One of the first things that stands out about Melanie Martinez is her bright, baby doll persona. The star is often dressed in head-to-toe pastels, threading childlike imagery throughout her prolific visuals and painting her hair various shades of candy floss. This often feels at odds with the darker lyrical content of her work, which is steeped in themes of family dysfunction, depression, and trauma. This is particularly evident in her early songs "Dollhouse," "Tag, You're It," and "Milk and Cookies" (in the latter, she literally poisons the antagonist's cookies).

While some people misconstrue her songs as a reflection of her own experience, she admittedly had a well-rounded, healthy support system growing up in the suburbs of Long Island. "I have a great family life and my parents are super-supportive of everything that I want to do, and I'm grateful for that," she told Vogue in 2016. "But I had a lot of friends who had issues with their families, so I've always loved writing songs about things that a lot of people don't usually write about because it's an uncomfortable subject or just depressing or whatever."

In other words: she was "Folklore"-ing before Taylor Swift.

Of course Melanie Martinez's apartment is decorated like a baby's nursery

Melanie Martinez's unique, childlike aesthetic also extends to her apartment, which sounds like it could double as a daycare. In an interview with The Knockturnal, the artist revealed that her "apartment literally looks like a nursery just threw up everywhere" because it's filled with vintage toys (she specifically collects toys from the 1950s). She even hung a mobile on her fan.

"It's like pastel pink living room with fake grass ... I don't know, I've just always been obsessed with vintage little kids' stuff. I don't know why," she told the outlet. 

While she decorated her apartment after recording "Cry Baby," she's hesitant to say that either aesthetic inspired the other. She admitted that she just naturally gravitates towards "pastel colors" and "things that are inspired by vintage little girl outfits." "I think [the apartment] went hand and hand with the album," she told The Knockturnal. "And I don't know if it was a subconscious thing but I just kinda like it."

The inspiring story behind Melanie Martinez's Cry Baby alter ego

When Melanie Martinez made her platinum debut album "Cry Baby," she didn't say what kind of crying she was doing. As it turns out, it wasn't tears of sadness. This was a veritable rallying cry, lashing out against childhood bullies and helping her find strength. In an interview with Vogue, the star admitted that she was "called a crybaby" and teased for "being overly sensitive and emotional" when she was younger. She reclaimed the title as her alter ego, which served as the foundation of her career. 

"Growing up, I feel like a lot of people are taught that being emotional is a weakness, and I really wanted to overcome my insecurities with feeling out of control with my emotions," she said. "I wanted to write a song that would help me deal with that, and 'Cry Baby' was that song. I felt like that was me. It was just a self-description of how I've always felt my entire life."

To this day, Martinez still feels "so connected to the character" that sometimes she feels like she is Cry Baby. She's since expanded her alter ego's world with her sophomore album "K-12" and the accompanying full-length film.

Melanie Martinez taught herself how to play guitar

Unlike some stars, who have been meticulously trained, Melanie Martinez is a self-taught musician. In an interview with Billboard, she revealed that she was first inspired by her father, who would play tons of music around the house. His taste had a massive range — including "R&B, hip-hop, rock, singer-songwriters, as well as pop and Latin artists" — and this helped inform the music she'd eventually make. When she bought her first record player at 16 years old, it opened up a whole new world. She began exploring albums from cult indie legends, including Neutral Milk Hotel and CocoRosie (the latter's influence is wildly apparent to anyone who's a fan of both artists).

"Every genre had an element that I loved within it. I think that's why my music is a melting pot of all different influences from growing up," she told Billboard. "As well as the music I liked listening to from ages 13-18 like Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, and Bjork."

During this time, Martinez's parents encouraged her to create — whatever that creation might be. Her mother encouraged her in writing, painting, and photography. Her father bought her a guitar. The artist ended up teaching herself how to play through a mix of online chord diagrams and YouTube tutorials. "I was able to play electric guitar all night till six in the morning if I wanted to," she told Billboard. "Because my parents understood inspiration strikes at different times for different people."

The real reason Melanie Martinez auditioned for The Voice

Unless you're an alternative pop super fan or someone who frequented Tumblr during the platform's arguable golden era in the 2010s, you probably know Melanie Martinez from one of two places: the trailer for "American Horror Story: Freak Show," which used her single "Carousel," or Season 3 of "The Voice," where she made it all the way to the Top 6.

At the time of her 2012 audition, Martinez was just 16 years old. She had never appeared on TV before, but her rendition of Britney Spears' "Toxic" was so impressive that Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, and Cee Lo Green all turned around. She ended up going with the Maroon 5 frontman and was eventually eliminated along with Amanda Brown. Though Cassadee Pope ultimately won the season, Martinez never exactly planned to make it so far, anyway. In fact, she haphazardly decided to audition.

"I was 16 and had been writing songs in my parents' bathroom in Long Island," she told AZCentral in 2012, adding, "Hated high school. And I don't know, I really wanted to push music as an actual career, and I didn't know how to do that. So I went online and saw this ad. It was an open call in New York City and I went and I waited a couple of hours and just sang. And it kept going further and further." Further and further is the understatement of the century considering the star's platinum album. 

No, those aren't Bugle Boys Melanie Martinez is wearing

Melanie Martinez is not an artist who developed her persona over years of careful deliberation with a record label. She's had the same baby doll aesthetic since she was a teenager auditioning for "The Voice," which is a true testament to the artist's reputation. She's known for having a meticulously detailed creative vision, from her hair color to the fabric of her clothes. In an interview with The Knockturnal, she opened up about the inspiration behind her patented look.

As it turns out, Martinez's unique half-and-half dye job was inspired by Cruella de Vil, one of the most sinister Disney villains of all time. Typically, the star will keep half of her hair black and dye the other half varying pastel hues. She also admitted that her outfits are partially inspired by "Japanese Lolita style," and while she wears lots of vintage clothes, she told Us Weekly that she "[doesn't] own a pair of jeans." In recent years, she appears to have warmed up to denim enough to wear overalls, but there's no evidence of any other type of jeans in her wardrobe.

Melanie Martinez struggles with 'bad anxiety' on tour

Melanie Martinez is a seasoned veteran on the touring circuit, but that doesn't make it any easier. The star still struggles with her mental health when she's on the road. In an interview with Vogue, the singer admitted that she has such "bad anxiety" before and after playing that she has to "chill out and smoke some weed or watch some cartoons." This also extends to her celebrity, a word she's hesitant to use to describe herself.

In an interview with Idolator, the singer revealed that while performing is "a beautiful experience," she often feels "trapped" in people's "perception[s]." She used this theme in her songs "Show & Tell" and "Detention, Detention," which she wrote when she was going through it on tour. "There are moments as a human where [performing] just feels really intense and it feels like you're almost being put on a pedestal," she said. "That whole thing was so hard for me to deal with because I'm like, 'I want people to see me as a human being.' You know what I mean? I want people to know me just as me and not at their perception of who I am."

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

A former friend accused Melanie Martinez of sexual assault

The "Cry Baby" artist's time in the spotlight wasn't all praise. In 2017, Melanie Martinez was accused of sexually assaulting her former friend, aspiring musician Timothy Heller. In a Twitter thread (captured by Newsweek before the original allegations were deleted), Heller claimed that Martinez "pressured her into sexual contact" and pushed her to divulge details about her sexual preferences two years prior. The assault, according to Heller, began with Martinez "bartering" with her and "beg[ging]" to touch her breasts, but escalated after an extended period of coercion into what Heller described as sexual assault while she "lay still, in shock, completely not reciprocating."

Martinez swiftly responded to the accusations, denying that an assault took place. Per Newsweek, who captured the now-deleted tweet, the artist claimed Heller "never said no to what we chose to do together." In turn, Heller told Newsweek that Martinez contacted her in an alleged attempt to keep the accusations quiet after she revealed that she was thinking about telling her story. "It doesn't matter that I didn't resist during the action. I had been broken down," Heller wrote (via Nylon). "She knew I didn't want to, I made that clear."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Melanie Martinez used to work at a bakery

Most artists have to work a normal job before they make it big. In some unfortunate cases, celebrities even have to pick up day jobs after they've become a household name (just remember Geoffrey Owens, who took some shifts at Trader Joe's when his "Cosby Show" checks started drying up). Luckily, Melanie Martinez's day job was short-lived. Since she was a teenager when she rose to fame, she only had to work a normal job in the days before she launched her music career. Like Harry Styles, she worked at a bakery to support her art — the art just wasn't music. It was photography.

Martinez gave a shout-out to her former employment in the music video for the aptly named track "The Bakery." It served as the lead single to her 2020 EP "After School," which had a more personal approach than her previous music. Though the visual is whimsical, the story that inspired it was rather mundane. In an interview with PopCrush, she revealed that she only worked at the bakery for less than a month while she was still in high school. She earned just enough money to buy "camera equipment," which enabled her to "focus on [her] photography." She turned that into a business and ended up making cash "doing what [she] loved, which was taking photos of people." As it turns out, Martinez has always been an entrepreneur. 

Melanie Martinez might have a high net worth, but her debut music video was fan-funded

Melanie Martinez has an astounding $8 million estimated net worth, but there was once a time when she was strapped for cash. In the years following her appearance on "The Voice," the star had yet to sign any record deal, let alone the likely lucrative record deal she eventually signed with Atlantic. Though she ended up self-releasing her debut single, "Dollhouse," in 2014, she didn't have enough money to make a music video. Instead, she asked fans for help.

"I raised $10,000 in a week for the video," Martinez told AZCentral. "So the 'Dollhouse' video is special for that reason. It was just a project I really wanted to do but obviously didn't have enough money and was able to get a lot of help from the people supporting me. It really meant a lot to me."

Before "Dollhouse" ever appeared on her debut album, it was released as the titular lead single of her first EP, where it peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums Chart. In one fell swoop, Martinez proved that she really could make it on her own.

There's a reason Melanie Martinez took four years to make her sophomore album

After the success of her debut album in 2015, Melanie Martinez was poised for an impressive full-length follow up. This did not come about quickly. Though the star had written all the songs for her sophomore effort, "K-12," by the time "Cry Baby" had its first birthday, the tracks didn't see the light of day until 2019. Why? The star abandoned the traditional one to two-year album cycle to bring her meticulous vision to life. This time, it involved more than visuals to match each of the album's tracks. It involved an entire full-length film, which she wrote, directed, and starred in.

In an interview with Idolator, Martinez revealed that she first recorded the "K-12" album in its entirety before writing the film. She then spent months revising the script, only to graduate into an "intense" pre-production. "It was like, 'Go to the pre-production office at 9:00 AM, come back at 10:00 PM, work all night,'" she said. "I wouldn't even sleep. I was literally working all night on all the answers that I had to give people the next day."

All in all, Martinez revealed that pre-production was a three-month process. They ended up shooting the film in Budapest over the course of 31 days, and eventually, it premiered in 2019. Though it admittedly reads a bit like a Wes Anderson-inspired fever dream, it has a 90% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, so the effort wasn't wasted.

Doing things DIY will always be Melanie Martinez's style

Even though Melanie Martinez has a major label money, she's still doing everything DIY. The artist has her hands on every single piece of her art, which is particularly evident in her video for "The Bakery." In an interview with Billboard, the singer went into the meticulous detail the video required.

Martinez started the process by making all the storyboard drawings. Though she worked with producer Seth Josephson and set designer Kendra Bradanini, she designed all of the costumes herself, sourcing fabrics and scrutinizing the way certain material held pleats. As she put it, she searched "downtown endlessly for the right trim, ribbons, pearls, gold charms, and chain I needed to string together and then hand sew onto trim." These hand-sewn pieces were all sent to a seamstress.

Martinez also developed all of her own dance moves but tapped choreographer Brian Friedman to "refine certain moments." After that, she directed the shoot, which took place during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing the singer to find creative work-arounds when it came to safety. "I had to refrain from having any cast members except my best friend who lives with me because I didn't want to put anyone elderly at risk [to play the old woman]," she told V Magazine in 2020. "I made her have prosthetics to look like an older woman [laughs]." 

Basically, the video was a lot, but so was Martinez's vision.

Melanie Martinez broke new ground in the perfume industry

The idea of a celebrity makeup collaboration or branded perfume isn't exactly novel. These are historically massive money makers. As StyleCaster points out, Beyonce pulled in more than $400 million from her Heat fragrance collection since it debuted in 2010. Overall, celebrity fragrance sales are a billion dollar market — and Melanie Martinez's Cry Baby Perfume Milk is just a small piece of that. Nonetheless, her fragrance's business model has never been seen before.

According to Billboard, the singer's perfume is the first ever "to be directly distributed by a record label." This came after her deal with Atlantic, and the idea for the perfume had been kicking around since she finished writing her debut album. True to her "warped childhood aesthetic," the product comes in a literal baby bottle and smells "nostalgic and sweet."

This wasn't Martinez's first foray into the world of cosmetics. She also had a collaboration with the indie makeup brand Lime Crime, which helped her craft two shades of lipstick that she later sold along with t-shirts at her concerts. Again, celebrity makeup collaborations aren't new, but selling lipstick at the merch table definitely is.

Melanie Martinez isn't afraid to get personal -- but only on her EPs

As fans already know, Melanie Martinez's work is largely fictional. The artist has been slowly crafting Cry Baby's world over the course of two full-length albums, detailing a dark fiction that includes kidnapping, poisoning, and plastic surgery. Though some of it is more relatable — like the dismal prospect of no one showing up to your birthday, which she sang about in "Pity Party" — it's a caricature of her most extreme emotions. Going forward, though, the artist plans to show fans a more personal side, something she's already done with her "After School" EP.

"Naturally, I think over the course of these three years I've just been expressing myself freely without the limitations of a specific overarching storyline," she told PopCrush. "Any EP I put out in the future will most likely be a collection of personal songs. But all of my albums in the future will be a full and concise story line through the character's lens, accompanied by a film."

Though fans already know Cry Baby like an old friend, it looks like they might get to know Melanie Martinez, the artist behind the beloved character, after all.