Mowatt was born in Gordon Town, St. Andrew Parish, Jamaica. At the age of 13, she became a member of a dance troupe which toured Jamaica and other islands in the Caribbean. Her initial ambition was to become a registered nurse. Her earliest musical influences were Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield, Dionne Warwick, Bob Marley, Marcia Griffiths, The Staple Singers and The Soulettes. A coincidental meeting with two teenage girls who were earlier in her dance troupe led to the formation of the Gaylettes, in 1967.