Caroline Fermin was born in Houston, Texas and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her mother, a white Southerner, stayed at home throughout Fermin's childhood. Her father, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, was a tenured professor at Tulane University in New Orleans. Fermin attended the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and received a B.F.A. in dance from the Juilliard School in New York City. She later lived in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and worked as a professional dancer and dance teacher.