Eva Mendes was born in Miami, Florida, to Cuban parents, and was raised in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale by her mother after her parents' divorce; Eva Mendes has said that her mother "suffered so much to make my life OK" during her early years. Eva Mendes was raised a Roman Catholic and aspired to be a nun. She is also fluent in Spanish.
Eva Mendes never saw herself as an actress while she was young and pursued other interests. She attended Hoover High School in Glendale and later attended California State University, Northridge to study marketing, but dropped out after wanting to begin an acting career. She studied acting under Ivana Chubbuck.