Scherzinger was born in Honolulu to a Filipino father and an Hawaiian/Russian mother. Her mother Rosemary was eighteen at the time of Scherzinger's birth and lived in an inner city neighborhood and separated from her father when she was a baby. The family moved to Louisville, Kentucky when she was six years old, with her sister Ke'ala and stepfather Gary Scherzinger.
She stated she had a "conservative Catholic" upbringing. Scherzinger began her life as a performer in Louisville, attending the Youth Performing Arts School at duPont Manual High School and performing with Actors Theatre of Louisville. As a teenager, she was the first runner-up at the 1996 Kentucky State Fair's Coca-Cola Talent Classic contest. Scherzinger majored in theater arts at Wright State University but put her studies on hold in 1999 to sing backing vocals for the rock band Days of the New.