Born in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Velásquez, the fifth of six children, was the daughter of Venezuelan parents. Her father is mestizo and her mother a member of the indigenous Wayuu people. Her parents were both teachers; her father also worked for UNESCO and as a result, she spent her childhood in Mexico and France. She attended San Vicente de Paul High School, graduating in 1987. In 1989, she participated in the Miss Venezuela 1989, where she represented Peninsula de la Goajira, and placed as 2nd runner-up. After 3 years of Engineering college studies, Velásquez left for Milan, Italy, in pursuit of a modelling career.