Sia's Tragic Real-Life Story

Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of drug and alcohol addiction, suicide, and mental health conditions.

You might not know her face, but you'd definitely recognize Sia Furler as the voice behind chart-topping songs like "Cheap Thrills," "Chandelier," and "Elastic Heart." Since the Australian native hit the scene in 1997 with her less-than-successful debut album "Onlysee," the singer has become a household name, written songs for the likes of Beyoncé and Rihanna, and captivated fans with her unique performances and music videos. Over the years, Sia has also taken to hiding her face behind paint or large black and white wigs, and she has become even more of a mystery as her fame has grown.

Although Sia has had a stunning transformation as an artist, her life has been far from easy. From heartbreaking loss to difficult relationships, from addiction to several mental and physical health diagnoses, the pop star has had to deal with seemingly insurmountable tribulations, but she has somehow managed to come out on the other side of it with grace. Here's the scoop behind Sia's tragic real-life story and how, throughout the course of her 25-plus year career, she's overcome so much.

Sia has a strained relationship with her father

Sia's parents split up when she was 10 years old, and although she still got to see her musician father, Phil B. "Philby" Colson, during the school holidays, they had a difficult relationship. In 2014, Sia spoke on "The Howard Stern Show" about her father's two different personalities that he would display while she was growing up. "One was called Phil and one was called Stan, and ... Phil was like, the best dad ever," she explained. Sia later added, "When Stan came around, stuff got scary ... It was an energy that came in the room that was intimidating."

When Stern asked if her father had ever been diagnosed with a mental disorder, she said, "For me, it felt like DID, dissociative identity disorder, but ... he's never been diagnosed as anything." Despite the "anguish" she dealt with throughout her relationship with her dad, the singer claims that they have a much better relationship now and that "Stan" doesn't show up much anymore.

Her boyfriend died in a car accident in 1997

We all remember our first love, and while it doesn't always work out in the long run, sometimes it's never knowing what could have been that can be truly devastating. Although Sia and Daniel Pontifex had previously broken up, they were in the process of rekindling their romance when he tragically died in 1997 at the age of 24. Sia was in Thailand when she received a call from her mother that Pontifex had been working at a restaurant in London on his birthday when he was struck and killed in a hit-and-run, and sadly, they never caught the driver.

Speaking with Gigwise in 2007, the singer admitted that the grief she felt after her boyfriend's death ultimately contributed to her difficulties with alcoholism. "I went back to his funeral in Adelaide and his friends in London were so nice, they rang me and said we know you've got a ticket here, come anyway and stay with us. So I came and there was like thirteen of us in a three-bedroom apartment and we were all grieving and we all got drunk for a f***ing long time," she said (via Daily Mail).

Sia dealt with drug and alcohol addiction

After her boyfriend died, Sia began using drugs and alcohol to cope with her grief and developed an addiction, as she told The Sunday Telegraph in 2007 (via Daily Mail), "Unfortunately, that bender lasted six years for me." Although she was writing beautiful songs, her mental health was suffering and she wasn't where she wanted to be in her career.

Sia has always been extremely vocal about her struggles in life, and in a 2013 interview with Billboard, she delved into her issues with drug and alcohol addiction. "I got seriously addicted to Vicodin and Oxycodone, and I was always a drinker but I didn't know I was an alcoholic. I was really unhappy being an artist and I was getting sicker and sicker," she said. Sia knew that she had to get sober if she wanted to live, let alone if she wanted to be successful. Thankfully, the singer joined a rehabilitation program and began working with chart-topping artists like David Guetta and Flo Rida. In September 2018, Sia commemorated eight years of sobriety with a tweet that read simply, "Eight years sober today. I love you, keep going. You can do it."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She almost ended her life

The "Unstoppable" singer was in the midst of her drug and alcohol addiction when she wrote the heart wrenching song, "Breathe Me." That same night, Sia had attempted suicide, but was thankfully unsuccessful. The dreary tune ultimately brought Sia her first big taste of fame when it was used years later in the final episode of "Six Feet Under," but her change in status didn't make her feel any more fulfilled.

In 2010, Sia was still using drugs and alcohol and had formulated a plan to end her life. Speaking with Rolling Stone in 2018 about this trying time, Sia explained that it was a surprise phone call from a friend that changed her mind. "There must have been a part of me that really wanted to live, because in that moment, I thought, 'There's a world out there and I'm not a part of it. But I might like to be.' The singer called a friend who she knew had already gotten sober and by the next day, Sia had joined a rehabilitation program. Sadly, Sia still struggles with her mental health and suicidal ideation, and she checked into rehab in 2022 after her well-being took a hit.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat

She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder

Sia has been extremely open about her mental health and diagnoses she's received throughout her life. This includes her bipolar disorder diagnosis, a mental illness characterized by episodes of depression and mania. While speaking on "The Howard Stern Show" in 2014, she quipped, "I'm fully medicated, I'm like, medicated for bipolar II to the hilt."

When Howard Stern asked Sia whether she believed the development of bipolar disorder in individuals to be something they're born with or a result of a distressing childhood, the singer gave her theory. "I don't think it's f***ed up childhood in my case ... I refrain from blaming anything on my parents. I think that everyone does their best and that if they didn't do their best, they're just sick, too," she explained. Instead, Sia believes that she "smoked too much pot as a kid," and that dabbling with marijuana at the age of 13 was why her bipolar disorder developed. While more research is still needed to determine the exact cause of certain mental illnesses, it is understood that bipolar disorder originates primarily from genetic factors. However, environmental factors do play a part as well.

If you or someone you know needs help 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.

Sia was bedridden for three years after her divorce

The "Cheap Thrills" singer has made an effort to keep her love life primarily out of the spotlight, but she was rising in popularity while dating filmmaker Erik Anders Lang, known for directing music videos for Escondido, DA & The Jones, and Moby. The couple married in August of 2014 in Palm Springs, but the marriage had only lasted two years when Sia filed for divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences." She and Lang released a joint statement that read, "After much soul searching and consideration we have made the decision to separate as a couple. We are, however, dedicated to remaining friends."

While Lang went on to create the production company Pictures, Pictures in 2016, Sia became depressed and was creatively stunted. Speaking with "Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1" in 2023, the singer divulged the details of her mental health following the end of her marriage in 2016. "I got divorced and that really threw me for a loop ... That was such a dark time that I was like in bed for three years, and really, really severely depressed. And so I couldn't really do anything for that period of time," she said.

After struggling to write songs for years, Sia managed to bounce back and even found love again. She made her first public appearance with Dan Bernard in 2021 and the following year, the couple got married in Portofino, Italy in an intimate ceremony.

She has faced backlash over her relationship with Maddie Ziegler

In March 2014, Maddie Ziegler had been starring on "Dance Moms" when she got a message from Sia asking to collaborate. The young dancer performed in the "Chandelier" music video, wearing a blonde wig and nude leotard, and it went viral. In an interview with the "Zach Sang Show," Sia explained, "As soon as I met Maddie, I felt this extreme desire to protect her and I think that it was part of my own healing. I felt just extreme compulsion to protect her and yet the irony is that I didn't want to be famous and I threw this child into the spotlight."

Ziegler soon became synonymous with Sia, dancing in several more of her videos as the two grew incredibly close. Back in 2017, the dancer told People, "I've actually lived with [Sia] this year more than I have with my actual family, so it's fun," and even went as far as to call Sia her "second mom."

However, their close relationship has caused onlookers to share their concerns about the power dynamic between the two and that Ziegler being Sia's muse may come at a detriment to the young dancer's wellbeing. That said, Ziegler has praised Sia as her "guardian angel" and credits the "Elastic Heart" singer as having helped her get out of her "Dance Moms" contract.

Sia suffers from chronic pain

One in 5,000 people worldwide are affected by a rare genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a disorder that affects connective tissue, causes fatigue, and can result in chronic pain. In October 2019, Sia took to Twitter (via Mirror) to share that she had been diagnosed with the condition, as well as a neurological disease. "Hey, I'm suffering with chronic pain, a neurological disease, ehlers danlos and I just wanted to say to those of you suffering from pain, whether physical or emotional, I love you, keep going. Life is f***ing hard. Pain is demoralizing, and you're not alone," she wrote.

Sia previously shared that she also suffers from the autoimmune disorder Graves disease, which can cause a hyperactive thyroid. The singer shared that she had undergone thyroid hormone replacement therapy and it had made a huge improvement in her life. There is unfortunately no cure for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, but with the correct treatment, Sia will be able to live a less painful life.

She was tricked by Shia LeBeouf

Fans will remember the highly controversial 2015 music video for "Elastic Heart" in which Shia LeBeouf and Maddie Ziegler danced together in a birdcage. At the time of filming, Sia had been married to her then-husband Erik Anders Lang, and LeBeouf was with Mia Goth. The "Transformers" actor had been the face of controversy several times over the years, but he again came under fire a few years after his appearance in the music video because of his ex-girlfriend FKA Twigs' allegations of sexual, emotional, and physical assault.

In December 2020, Sia opened up about her relationship with LeBeouf and showed her support for FKA Twigs in a tweet that read, "I too have been hurt emotionally by Shia, a pathological liar, who conned me into an adulterous relationship claiming to be single. I believe he's very sick and have compassion for him AND his victims. Just know, if you love yourself- stay safe, stay away."

Sia claimed that she had been dating the actor while he was with FKA Twigs and when his divorce from Mia Goth had yet to be finalized. Speaking with The Sunday Times just two months after her tweet, Sia said, "It turns out he was using the same lines on me and Twigsy, and eventually we found out because we ended up talking to one another." However, despite the hurt and distress LeBeouf caused, the "Unstoppable" singer claimed she was "always gonna love" him.

Her 2021 movie was poorly received

When the trailer for "Music," the 2021 movie written and directed by Sia, was released, the internet flooded with criticism. The film stars Maddie Ziegler as an autistic girl named Music alongside Kate Hudson, her newly sober half-sister who must take care of her. "Music" was very poorly received and received a dismal 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. But, what was so controversial about Sia's film?

Not only did people take issue with the fact that Ziegler herself has never claimed to be on the autism spectrum, meaning the film lacked representation, but there was also a scene in which physical restraint was used to calm her character down. The Director of Advocacy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Zoe Gross, even spoke out against the film in a statement, saying, "MUSIC doesn't just promote harmful stereotypes about autistic people — it shows restraints that have killed members of our community as necessary and loving acts. This film should never have been made, and it shouldn't be shown."

Sia took her film's reception hard and, after tweeting a public apology, she ended up deleting her Twitter account due to the scathing criticism. The "Together" singer later explained that her mental health suffered greatly during this time and, in an interview with the New York Times, she explained, "I was suicidal and relapsed and went to rehab."

Sia opened up about having PTSD

Tragically, Sia has witnessed and experienced a horde of traumatic events that eventually led to her diagnosis of complex post traumatic stress disorder, which is when she learned she was not in fact bipolar and had been misdiagnosed. Sia spoke on the "Grounded with Louis Theroux" podcast in 2020 about the trauma she faced from childhood onwards.

"There's some childhood trauma just 'cause my mom had ... postpartum depression. My dad is a very eccentric person," Sia said, as she elaborated on her father's alter ego. Sia added that she had also been sexually abused at the age of 9.

Sia spoke about her boyfriend who had died in a hit-and-run, a neighbor who had died by suicide, and having witnessed a horrific act when she was coming home from a gig in London. She explained that a group of children had attacked a man and he was seriously injured, so she called an ambulance and had to stay with him until the paramedics arrived. "And then I had to go to court to try and identify the kids and ... they read out my home address in front of the perpetrators and he just looked at me and he said, 'you're next.' It was just really scary," Sia said.

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).