Wayans was born in Harlem, New York City, son of Howell Stouten Wayans, a supermarket manager, and his wife Elvira Alethia (Green), a homemaker and social worker. His father was a devout Jehovah's Witness. The family later moved to Manhattan's Fulton housing projects, where he primarily grew up. He attended Seward Park High School during his teenage years, and attended Tuskegee University on an engineering scholarship. He entertained his friends at college with made-up stories about life in New York. One semester before graduation, he dropped out of school to focus on comedy.