Born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, Velasquez is the fifth of six children and was raised by both parents, who were educators. Velasquez's mother derived from the Wayu group in Venezuela, while her father worked for UNESCO. Velasquez spent the first four years of her life in Paris, along with her family, after which they moved to Mexico for some years before finally returning to Venezuela.
Velasquez attended San Vincente de Paul High School, graduating in 1987 to go to college to study engineering and accounting. Velasquez was raised as a child to go into the Venezuelan oil industry, but when a friend of hers was to become a model, she sent photos to a casting call in Caracas, one of which included Velasquez; the agency asked for Velasquez and after one year's college studies, Velasquez headed to Milan, finding many successful callings working for various high-end labels and designers.
Velasquez also participated in the Miss Venezuela pageant, making efforts to avoid the stereotype of a model: after her first few shoots, Velasquez bought her family a new home, saw that her three brothers received college education, and has supported Hispanic rights, along with fair treatment of indigenous peoples and fighting against pediatric AIDS. Velasquez also formed a foundation that would help Venezuelans.