Hale is a native of Memphis, Tennessee. She was named after one of her great-grandmothers. Her mother is a registered nurse. She has an older sister, Maggie, who is a teacher and a step-brother, Wes. Hale was homeschooled. During her childhood, she took acting and singing lessons. In August 2012, Hale revealed she had suffered from an eating disorder.
She first appeared on television in the reality show American Juniors in 2003. She was part of the vocal quintet formed with the top 5 finishers. After American Juniors, Hale moved to Los Angeles at age 15 in the hopes of getting a record deal. Shortly after, she started auditioning and received a minor role on Drake & Josh and other guest roles on shows such as Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, The O.C., and How I Met Your Mother. She appeared in two episodes of the Disney Channel show Wizards of Waverly Place.
Hale appeared in NBC's short-lived re-imagining of the Bionic Woman as Becca Sommers, younger sister to title character Jaime Sommers (played by Michelle Ryan). She made her big screen debut in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 portraying Effie, the younger sister of Lena Kaligaris (played by Alexis Bledel). Hale then co-starred in the CW series Privileged as Rose Baker, with Ashley Newbrough and Joanna Garcia. She starred in the Lifetime TV movie Sorority Wars.
In December 2009, Hale was cast as Aria Montgomery in the TV series Pretty Little Liars, based on the book series by Sara Shepard. Hale won a 2010 Teen Choice Award ("Choice Summer TV Star: Female") for her portrayal of Aria on the show. In January 2010, Hale guest-starred on the CSI: Miami episode "Show Stopper". In August 2010, she was cast in a cameo in Scream 4.
Hale was cast as the lead for A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song. Filming began in February 2011 and the film aired in January 2012. She hosted the April 25 episode of Punk'd where she successfully pranked Ian Harding, Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Hutcherson.
On June 11, 2013, Hale announced that she is the new Ambassador of the beauty brand Mark Girl. On July 29, 2013, it was announced that Hale and Darren Criss would co-host the 2013 Teen Choice Awards on August 11, 2013.[