Three Kids from Detroit
Another friend from Mary and Flo's junior high school days was Diane Ross. Born in Detroit on March 26, 1944, Diane was the second child of six. Diane's father, Fred Ross, held several jobs to support his large family. Diane's mother, Ernestine, took care of the children and worked part-time jobs to make ends meet. One of Ernestine's jobs was cleaning a movie theater. While her mother cleaned, Diane would sit and watch bits of movies as the projectionist was preparing the films. Watching the movies had a big influence on the dreams Diane had for herself.
Young Diane, like Mary and Flo, enjoyed singing and performing. As a child, she performed for her family members, doing song or tap dance routines. She was an athletic tomboy who enjoyed riding her bike, swimming, and running. As a youngster, Diane was competitive and had a real drive to excel at the things she loved doing. Mary later said of Diane, “She was always very energetic and talkative. I really admired her. In her I found a missing part of myself, a more aggressive side I could never express comfortably.”
Diane was also a music lover. Her childhood idol was the blues singer Etta James. Inspired by James's emotional voice, Diane dreamed of becoming an entertainer. She said, “Singing became my life. I lived, ate, drank, and breathed it. It was all that I cared about. I had a dream, and I was completely determined to make it real. Nothing could deter me or discourage me for very long.”
When Diane was fourteen years old, the Ross family moved to the Brewster Projects. Though she was the same age as Mary and Florence, Diane did not attend the same school as the other two girls. Diane attended Cass Technical School, where she was required to keep a B average to remain at the school. Diane kept her grades up and focused on the classes she loved, including fashion design. She had a knack for making her own clothing and was voted best-dressed student during her senior year.