Teigen was born in Delta, Utah. Her mother is Thai and her father is of Norwegian descent. Her surname is pronounced /ˈtaɪɡən/ by the family, although she later came to prefer the "wrong" pronunciation of /ˈtiːɡən/. Teigen's father worked as an electrician and the family moved often. After living in Hawaii, Idaho and Washington, the family eventually settled in Huntington Beach, California when Teigen was a teenager. She was discovered by a photographer while working in a surf shop.