Diana was born on March 26, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan, United States. She was born the second of six children of African-American parents Ernestine Lillian Moten, a schoolteacher, and Fred Earl Ross, who served in the army. She grew up in Detroit's Brewster Housing Projects.
Her mother actually named her Diane, but an error resulted in her name being recorded as Diana on her birth certificate. She was actually listed as Diane on early Supremes records. Her friends and family still call her Diane, too.