A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Dorothy Jean Dandridge was born in 1922 to Ruby Dandridge and her estranged husband, Cyril. As children, Dorothy and her older sister, Vivian, traveled to schools and churches around the country performing in song-and-dance skits scripted by their mother, who longed for a career in show business. By 1930, Ruby Dandridge had left Cleveland with her daughters to seek her fortune in Hollywood. There the family survived on what Ruby could earn playing bit parts in the movies or on radio, usually as a domestic servant-the kind of character role typically offered to black actors and actresses at that time. Meanwhile, Dorothy was subjected to years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother's female lover.