Diana Ross was born on March 26, 1944 in Detroit to Fred Ross, a Detroit factory worker, and his wife, Ernestine. Diana, along with her brothers and sisters, were raised in the Brewster Housing Projects in Detroit.
In the late 1950’s, Diana and two other neighborhood girls, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, formed a singing trio called The Primettes. She also worked afterschool as a cafeteria busgirl at Hudson’s Department Store in Detroit.
While Diana was student at Cass Techinical High School in Detroit, she tried out for the high school musical. Her teacher said that although she had a great voice, it was nothing special, and she was very disappointed. She was named the Best Dressed Girl in her class. She graduated from Cass Technical High School in 1962.
In the early 1960’s, Diana, Florence, and Mary went to the offices of Motown Records in Detroit to get a recording contract. But Berry Gordy, Motown’s founder and president, felt that they were two young, refused to sign them u until they finished high school. Then they went back to Motown, with their high school diplomas at hand, they were signed to a recording contract, and their name was changed from The Primettes to The Supremes.
The Supremes’ first record, I Want A Guy, was a flop. Their next few singles were also not successes as well such as Buttered Popcorn, Let Me Go the Right Way, Standing at the Crossroads of Love, When the Love Lights Start Shining Through His Eyes, and Run! Run! Run1.
Enter the songwriting team of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, who had written the song Where Did Our Love Go. They first presented it to The Marvelettes, but they turned it down because they felt that it was too juvenile. Then it was presented to The Supremes. They didn’t want to record it at first for the same reason. They felt that it wasn’t a hit, and they were desperate for a hit record. But they did record it, and in 1964, it became their first Number One Hit.
Eleven more Number One Hits Followed:
1. Baby Love
2. Come See About Me
3. Stop! In the Name of Love
4. Back in My Arms Again
5. I Hear a Symphony
6. You Can’t Hurry Love
7. You Keep Me Hangin On
8. Love is Here and Now You’re Gone
9. The Happening
10. Love Child
11. Someday We’ll Be Together
The Supremes were on the top of the music world. They were second in record sales in the 60’s behind the Beatles. They appeared on numerous television shows, toured all around the world, and even appeared in the 1965 film, Beach Ball, where they sung the title song and Surfer Boy.
In 1970, Diana Ross left the Supremes to pursue a successful solo career. Although her first solo record was Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand. but her next solo single, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (a remake of the 1967 hit by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell), went all the way to Number One.
She went on to have four more solo Number One Hits.
1. Touch Me in the Morning
2. The Theme from Mahogany: Do You Know Where You’re Going To?
3. Love Hangover
4. Upside Down
In 1972, seven years after she appeared in the film Beach Ball, Diana Ross was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in Lady Sings the Blues. Billy Dee Williams was her co-star. She played the drug-addicted blues singer Billie Holliday. However, she lost the Oscar to Liza Minnelli, who won for her performance as Sally Bowles in the film version of Cabaret.
In 1975, she once again co-starred with Billy Dee Williams in the film Mahogany. She played Tracy Chambers, a would-be fashion designer from the Chicago ghetto who goes to Rome and becomes a successful fashion model.
In 1978, she starred with Michael Jackson and Nipsey Russell in the film version of the Broadway hit, The Wiz; based on The Wizard of Oz. She played the role of Dorothy, but she was a Harlem schoolteacher, and not a Kansas farm girl.
In 1983, she reunited with Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong for Motown’s 25th anniversary special, which aired on NBC.
In 1994, she starred in a made-for-TV movie called Out of Darkness, where she played a woman who had schizophrenia. In 1999, she co-starred with Brandy in another made-for-TV movie, Double Platinum. She played Olivia King, a singer whose daughter, who she put up for adoption 18 years earlier, (played by Brandy) follows in her footsteps and becomes a singer. Both of these movies first aired on ABC.
Diana Ross has been married and divorced twice. In January of ’71, she married Robert Ellis SiSilverstein in Las Vegas, and gave birth to three daughters: Rhonda Suzanne in 1971; Tracee (who stars in the sitcom Girlfriends), and Chudney. But they divorced in 1977. In 1993, it was confirmed that her oldest daughter Rhonda was fathered by Berry Gordy, Jr.
In 1986, she married Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Naess, in a spectacular wedding ceremony in Switzerland. She had two sons by him: Ross and Evan, but that marriage ended in divorce as well.
Diana also had run-ins with the law as well. In 1999, she was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport for striking security guard (the guard had touched her breast during a routine search). In December, 2002, she was arrested in Arizona on a drunk-driving charge.
In 2000, thirty years after she left The Supremes, Diana organzied a Return to Love tour with two other members of the Supremes from the 70’s; Scherrie Payne and Lynda Lawrence. The organizers originally contacted Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong, but they said no. But unfortunately, the Return to Love tour was a flop and was cancelled after only a few shows.
Diana Ross, along with Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, and Liza Minnelli, has performed in all aspects of show business.