Teri Polo was born in Dover, Delaware, to Jane (Gentry) and Vincent Polo, a stereo systems designer. Her ancestry includes Italian (from her paternal grandfather), German, and English. She has two brothers, Mike and Steve. Polo studied ballet for twelve years and was a dancer for the Delaware Regional Ballet at age 15. She dropped out of high school at 16 because she won a local modeling contest for a blue jeans advert in Seventeen magazine. Polo tried her hand at modeling, and was signed to Elite petite division.