VanZant was born in Dundee, Oregon, and raised in Dayton, Oregon. Her parents owned a dance studio, and she was brought up dancing ballet, jazz, and hip hop for over 13 years. As a teen, she appeared in a mop commercial for Bissell. She was considered a tomboy while growing up, and loved the outdoors; her hobbies included riding dirt bikes and fishing. In high school, she was regularly bullied by a group of girls. The bullying started after rumors began to circulate in her high school in Oregon about VanZant having sexual intercourse with multiple boys at a party. In reality, VanZant was raped by multiple male classmates after they got her intoxicated at a party. The bullying included mocking her surname Sletten, which students changed to "Slutton". She eventually changed her surname legally to VanZant because of the persistent bullying. However, she has noted this experience as one of the reasons she likes being a martial artist and having the ability to defend herself.