Shia LaBeouf: The Unsettling Childhood That Marked His Destructive Path

Oh Shia LaBeouf, you have failed to disappoint us, from the wildly popular Even Stevens, to Holes, to Transformers, Indiana Jones, and Disturbia, all the way up to the hilarious DO IT! motivational rant, and the priceless “I Am Not Famous Anymore” stunt, you’re the best. But what drove this celebrity to exhibit the last 2 mentions? What made him the hostile, alcoholic mess he’s known for today? That’s what we’re going to find out in this article, without further a do..


Born In The Dangerous Echo Park Neighborhood

shia labeouf born

Shia Labeouf was born to an inevitably destructive path; he was raised in Echo Park, a gang-ridden, drug-infested neighborhood in Los Angeles. Children of Echo Park were deprived of basic necessities, and were endangered by violence; Shia was no exception.

Growing up, Shia was on the receiving end of a largely Latino community.

An Outlier On The Wrong End Of Cultural Warfare

echo park los angeles lantino gangs

At the time of Shia’s childhood, Echo Park was largely dominated by Latino individuals. Shia, as well as a few other outliers, were the only white boys in the neighborhood, and the schools. More often than not, their would be a cultural conflict; Shia experienced bullying on an ongoing basis, always looking over his shoulder, being a target of the bigger community.

Shia was no safer at home than he was on the streets. To start off, Shia grew up dirt poor.

Growing Up Poor

shia labeouf as a child

Shia was born to an incredibly poor and unstable family, which he himself would deem as “hippies.” His father, Jeffrey Labeouf, was a troubled Vietnam veteran, haunted by his bloody experience in the war. Shia’s mom, Shayna Saide, once owned a head shop, which went bankrupt; since then she resorted to low-pay gigs, many of them very shady.

Shia’s parents started a pushcart business to make ends meet, and Shia was forced to play an “embarrassing” role in it.

His Parents Made Him Dress As A Clown

shia labeouf clown child

The Labeouf pushcart business was no ordinary hot dog stand; Shia’s parents would dress as clowns to attract attention, and Shia was not excluded from that. From age 2, Shia was shilling for his parents’ hot dog stand, dressed as a clown. As Shia quoted “It was a hustle. We’d walk around the neighborhood in full clown regalia.”

But Shia apparently did not see this as an “embarrassment.” Here’s what he recalls.

The Embarrassment Factor Didn’t Exist

shia labeouf i am not famous anymore

“My embarrassment factor didn’t exist. I had fun, because I knew that in the middle of a performance my parents couldn’t fight. So, for sure, every day, there had to be some peaceful time for us, or we weren’t going to make it through the week financially.” Shia stated in an interview. For Shia, this was one of the few “daisy” memories he has from his childhood. Shia also stated that this was one of the “stepping stones” for his career, “I’m still doing the same hustle now. The only change is that, instead of my dad selling hot dogs from the cart, it’s Steven Spielberg selling the hot dogs.”

This brings us back to his family environment, the disturbances he had to endure as a child, in the confines of the Labeouf home. 

No Place For A Child

shia labeouf parents

As mentioned earlier, Shia’s father was a recovering Vietnam veteran; 2 of his favorite methods for coping with the scarring memories of the war was heroin and alcohol. From a very early age, Shia had seen his father beat his mother in midst of a heroin withdrawal, and found himself on the receiving end of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse at the hands of his father’s drunken tantrums.

Out of all the horrors Shia had to live through, one experience with his father still haunts him to this day.

A Vietnam Flashback Almost Killed Young Shia

shia labeouf playing his disturbed father

When Shia was about 3-years-old, His father was experienced a vicious PTSD episode; he had a gruesome flashback of his time in the war, and Shia found himself on the wrong side of it. In the midst of this flashback, Shia’s father pulled a gun on him, an event that will forever be ingrained in Shia’s psyche.

When Shia turned 4, his parents hit rock bottom, with destructive consequences for Shia.

The Family Hot Dog Stand Closed Down

shia labeouf with his dad in a game

When Shia was about 3 or 4, the family pushcart business, which was the one place that was free of his parents’ violent arguments, went bankrupt. This led to Shia’s parents divorcing; Shia lived mostly with his mother until the age of 10-11.

Following this event, Shia and his mom were on their own for a while, which would lead to a traumatic incident with his mother, one that still mortifies Shia to this day.

Shia Watched A Man Sexually Assault His Mom

shia labeouf mom

When Shia was 3, he recalled hearing a man sexually assault his mother. Discussing the incident at one of those group therapy sessions in rehab, he quoted “I froze,”  he proceeded to recall the event, “The man ran out, and my mom ran after him. Dave, (a neighbor that was looking out for them), came running over. I remember he had a crossbow … They never found the guy.” Shia claims that this incident gave him PTSD, and that he had been very protective of his mother since.

At the age of 4, following this event, Shia knew that he had to be the main breadwinner of the family, taking up comedy gigs to make ends meet.

Breadwinner At The Age Of 4

shia labeouf young age

Photo by twitter.com/vincemancini

The closure of the Labeouf hot dog stand rendered the family into meager territory, with 4-year-old Shia being the one who has to put food on the table. Shia started taking up stand-up comedy gigs; the money wasn’t great, but he would at least scrape the necessities of his family.

Poverty was not the only child-unfriendly setting in the Labeouf home. His parents openly encouraged drugs and alcohol.

Shia Was Raised In A Toxic Environment

shia labeouf breakfast with einstein

There is a reason post-(Even Stevens) Shia is battling with alcoholism. Growing up, Shia was accustomed to seeing his mother smoking joints, while walking around naked. He was all too familiar with his father’s use of heroin and alcohol. Apart from seeing his father terrorize his mother, Shia disturbingly stated that he would frequently watch his parents engage in inappropriate intimacy with one another, even after their divorce.

Drugs were like air in the Labeouf home; Shia’s father gave him his first joint when he was only 10.

Stoned At 10 Years Old

shia labeouf even stevens

Shia was accustomed to seeing his dad smoke weed at a very young age, and that’s no big deal (if not for the hard drugs he’d seen him do). However, at age 10, Shia’s father gave him his first joint, and from that point on, they would regularly smoke together.

Their was no money in stand-up comedy, so Shia pulled off a cleverly calculated stunt, which led to his first big break in Hollywood.

Pretending To Be His Own Manager

teresa dahlguist

At 11, Shia decided he’s had enough of nickle-and-dime stand-up comedy, so he went on Yellow Pages, and found an agent, Teresa Dahlquist. Shia made a cleverly manipulative phone call to her, pretending to be a British manager, managing a “hot young actor” named Shia LaBeouf. Teresa came on to the stunt, but was nevertheless impressed by his act, so she signed him in as a client, and even drove him to auditions and payed his rent.

Within a year, he achieved his first big break in Hollywood, casting on the wildly popular Disney show, Even Stevens. However, this break was not without it’s anguish, as this meant Shia would have to live with his father in Los Angeles, which was nothing short of a catastrophe.

His Chaperone During Even Stevens

even stevens

In order to play in Even Stevens, Shia would have to reside in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. To do that, he would have to move in with his dad, where they would live together in a cheap motel. His father was his legal guardian throughout the course of the show.

However, it was Shia who would have to chaperone his dad, as his alcohol abuse tanked.

Rehab Was Shia’s “Daycare Center”

shia labeouf with his dad

Throughout the filming of Even Stevens, Jeffrey’s alcoholism spiraled out of control, resulting in him being committed to AA on a 12-step stint. Shia was his father’s humble supporter, spending all of his free time attending AA meetings, which was pretty much his life outside the set of Even Stevens. “I was going to the Alano Club (a 12 step addiction programme) with my dad. That was my daycare centre,” stated Shia.

Shia was more than happy to support his father throughout the program, but Jeffrey’s destructive tendencies would prove to be a major liability for Shia on the set of Even Stevens.

Accused Of Sexual Harassment By An Unnamed Actress

shia labeouf dad sex offender registry

Shia’s father is no stranger to the sex offender’s registry; back in 1981, Jeffrey was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor, for which he was forced to register as a sex offender. However, Jeffrey did not seem to learn his lesson, and continued to engage in indecent conduct with women. Sometime during the filming of Even Stevens, an anonymous actress accused Jeffrey of sexual harassment, a major debacle for his son Shia.

The tip of the iceberg occurred sometime after this accusation, when Shia’s dad attacked a Disney Executive. More on that next.

Jeffrey Assaulted A Homosexual Disney Executive

even stevens scene

At one point, during an event that was held in celebration of Even Stevens’ rampant success, Shia’s father did something that polluted Shia’s reputation with the Disney Company. Jeffrey saw an openly homosexual Disney executive giving Shia a congratulatory hug; fueled by the inherited Labeouf temper, Jeffrey confronted this executive. He goes “Are you trying to talk to my boy, you chicken hawk?” He proceeded to assault the executive. Shia was stunned, but out of respect for the boy, the executive did not press charges, and he let it slide.

Needless to say, Shia had a fruitless career despite the obstacles he faced with his father. However, Shia was not without his own disturbances.

Shia Goes Haywire

shia labeouf goes haywire

Far right photo by: ANTHONY DELMUNDO-POOL/GETTY IMAGES

So with all that said and done, Shia succumbed to a destructive destiny. He became a cantankerous alcoholic just like his father, reenacted his father’s violent tendencies, and had his own share of run-ins with the law. Shia’s childhood caught up with him, as he suffered through emotional breakdowns on more than just a few occasions.

Despite this unfortunate upbringing, Shia has a shocking view of his childhood. More on that next.

The “Gasoline” Of Shia’s Career

shia labeouf man down

It all started before Shia hit 3, when he would dress up as a clown in order to charm people into buying hot dogs; Shia was already performing then, and following his parents’ divorce, he took up stand-up comedy, which eventually led to his career in Hollywood via Even Stevens. But, that is not what fueled Shia into becoming a Hollywood mega-star. Shia states that his contentious relationship with his father gave him the tools necessary to successfully act out scenes that involved intense emotions. “That dude was my gasoline,” Shia stated about his father. Whenever a scene required Shia to concoct intense emotion, his father would stand next to the camera, just off set, so that Shia could see him. “I could work myself up into a frenzy. He’s the whole reason I became an actor,” Shia remarked.

During an interview, when asked about the unusual tattoo on his left wrist, Shia had some rather colorful things to say about it.

A Souvenir Of His Childhood

shia labeouf left wrist tattoo

On the underside of his left wrist, Shia has a tattoo reading 1986-2004, which resembles the numbers that were tattooed on concentration-camp inmates. Story has it that Shia’s grandfather was a Polish Holocaust survivor. Shia quotes “Yeah, it looks like a Holocaust tattoo, it’s there for me to remember my childhood.”

Despite all the hardships, Shia cherishes his childhood. As a matter of fact, he is in the process of filming an autobiographical movie about it. 

Honey Boy (2019)

honey boy 2019 film

Following a string of revelations, conjured up during rehab, Shia decided that it’s time to open up about his childhood, and he figured that he may as well open up in the best way he knows. He decided to write an autobiographical film depicting his calamitous childhood, focusing on his father in particular. The film tells the story of Otis Lort (based on Shia), a young child star juggling an increasingly fruitful career and the poisonous relationship with his law-breaking, alcoholic father, James Lort (based on Jeffrey).

Among those staring in the film is Shia LaBeouf, who will play his father. Noah Jupe will play pre-(Even Stevens) Shia, and finally, Lucas Hedges, who will be depicting a grown Shia, after Even Stevens.

The film will touch on various turmoils, ranging from his father’s heroin/alcohol addiction, to his father pointing a gun on him at age 3 (possibly), and much more.


To conclude this article, it is important that we remember Shia’s childhood whenever he pulls one of his baffling shenanigans. Being in his shoes, we could all understand the mental gymnastics going on in this dude’s head.

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