If you’re not aware, actor and comedian Pete Davidson is really having a moment right now. In addition to his successful career on Saturday Night Live and in standup comedy, he was recently cast as Joey Ramone in the upcoming Netflix biopic I Slept With Joey Ramone. This is hot on the heels of starring in The King of Staten Island last year (a movie which he also co-wrote).
Pete Davidson’s star seems to be shining bright than ever, but things haven’t always been so great for him, though. In fact, he’s had a harder life than most successful celebs. And we’re going to take a closer look at the difficult moments in Davidson’s life that led to his absolutely stunning transformation.
His dad died on 9/11
Despite his future career as a successful comedian, the early days of Pete Davidson are mired in personal tragedy. That’s because his dad died on 9/11 when Davidson was only seven years old.
Davidson’s father Scott Davidson served as a New York firefighter who responded to the terrorist attack. He was last seen entering the Marriott World Trade Center. He was 33 years old.
The trauma of losing his dad in the attacks left an indelible mark on Davidson’s childhood. “It was sad how sad he was growing up,” his mother Amy Waters Davidson said in a 2015 interview with The New York Times.
Later, Pete started mentioning the loss of his dad as part of his comedy routines. It was a way for him to process his grief through comedy and laughter. “I was hoping if I did a bit about it or I made fun of it in some way like it would go away,” he said in a 2016 radio interview with Pete Rosenberg.
Issues with childhood bullies
While the death of his father largely defined Davidson’s childhood, he would soon face other major difficulties in the form of school bullies.
In the same interview with Pete Rosenberg, Davidson revealed that “people were mean” when he was growing up. This was on top of other issues he faced. “I was in school having a rough time grieving so I was acting out a little bit,” he said. “I didn’t have any friends.”
Ironically, Davidson eventually realized that some of the bullies were mean to him because they didn’t like his acting out. Davidson, in turn, thought his acting out would be funny to them. Fortunately for both Davidson and his fans, he would soon get some serious lessons in comedy.
Comedy changed his life
Davidson only made one real friend when he was in high school. And by the time he was 16, Davidson and his friend were performing at open mic nights in New York City.
Initially, his mother thought of these performances as a way to make her son feel better. As she told The New York Times, she would have done almost anything he wanted, and performing standup made “made him really, really happy.”
As for Davidson, he told The Times, “I just blended in perfectly” at these events. And his early successes in standup comedy would lead to him being selected for Saturday Night Live a few years later.
He became one of the youngest SNL cast members in history when he was cast on the show in 2014 when he was just 20 years old.
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Kid Cudi saved his life
Success at standup comedy helped turn Davidson’s life around. But there was only one person who can take credit for saving his life, and that’s rapper Kid Cudi.
On The Breakfast Club podcast in 2016, Davidson revealed, “I would’ve killed myself if it weren’t for Kid Cudi.” Listening to Cudi’s albums such as Man On the Moon kept Davidson from committing suicide during the lowest periods of his life. “I truly believe if Man on the Moon didn’t come out, I wouldn’t be here.”
He went on so say, “It’s comforting to know your hero goes through the same stuff you do. I think that’s why a lot of kids my age can relate to Cudi and people love him so much is because he’s a very emotional dude, and he saves all of us.”
Dealing with Crohn’s
In that same Breakfast Club interview, Davidson admits that he suffers from Crohn’s disease. “Whenever I wake up, if I don’t hit the bowl or something, it’ll feel like someone punched me in the stomach,” he said.
And Crohn’s affects different people in different ways. While a change of diet helps some people, Davidson revealed that healthy foods he eats “just goes right through” his body. This is why Davidson is such a fan of marijuana and a particular fan of CBD: they help get his pain under control when he has to go to work.
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He has Borderline Personality Disorder
It sounds like something out of one of his comedy bits, but Pete Davidson can honestly say he is the one man who found out he didn’t have a drug problem by entering rehab.
Davidson had been treated for mental health issues since age nine, but in 2016, things got worse. “I started having these mental breakdowns where I would, like, freak out and then not remember what happened after. Blind rage,” he told Marc Maron on his WTF podcast in September 2017. He thought that his extensive marijuana use was to blame and ended up checking into a rehab facility for treatment.
While in rehab, Davidson received a surprising diagnosis. “I found out I have BPD, which is borderline personality disorder,” he said. “I’m depressed all the time.”
Armed with a diagnosis, Davidson is now able to seek proper treatment. But BPD has had a major effect on his life, and especially on his relationships.
A wild love life
Growing up as a troubled child, Davidson often felt alone and outcast. Chances are that his childhood self could never imagine that the adult Davidson would have such a torrid love life!
In 2016, he began dating Larry David’s daughter Cazzie David. These two kept things low-key and broke off the relationship in 2018.
In May that year, Davidson began a whirlwind romance with pop star Ariana Grande. By June, they were engaged. But by October the relationship was over. That breakup was a bit messy, and Davidson would pepper references to it in his SNL appearances and comedy specials.
He rebounded from that relationship with actress Kate Beckinsale from January–April 2019. Davidson was 25 and Beckinsale was 45 at the time.
Most recently, he began dating Bridgerton star Phoebe Dynevor. Rumors about the pair began in March 2021, and Us Weekly confirmed they are a couple on April 5. Things are quite strong between them, and Buzzfeed reports that the two are now wearing adorable matching “PD” necklaces.
Over the years, Davidson has accumulated quite a few tattoos all over his body. Some of them celebrated relationships, like when he got a neck tattoo of the phrase “mille tendresse” to match one Ariana Grande had. After their bitter breakup, Davidson had that tattoo changed to read “CURSED.”
Recently, though, he decided to get rid of all his tattoos. In typical Davidson fashion, he turned his regrettable choices into an amusing bit of comedy. During a Weekend Update segment on SNL, he opened up about why the tattoos had to go.
“I saw a picture of myself without a shirt and I look like a toddler went to prison,” he joked. “I look like I’m carrying a shiv but only to poke open a Capri Sun.”
But there might be a more practical reason behind Davidson’s choice to remove his tattoos. According a tweet by film critic Mike McGranahan, at a virtual Q&A for The King of Staten Island in December 2020, Davidson “said it takes 3-4 hours in the makeup chair to cover them, so he figured ‘it would be easier to get them burned off.'”
Removing the tattoos is also a way of giving himself a fresh start. Not only will this remove the evidence of painful past decisions, but it makes him that much easier to cast in major movie roles. Davidson is following in the footsteps of many SNL alumni and branching into a movie career. Removing his many tattoos may open a few more doors for him.
Already his film career is heating up and showcasing that he can move beyond comedy. He’s starring in James Gunn’s DC Comics reboot The Suicide Squad in August 2021. And with his upcoming role as punk rock legend Joey Ramone in a new biopic from Netflix and STX Films, Pete Davidson’s transformation is just beginning.