Dawn was born in Wales, but went to boarding school in Plymouth when she turned 11. She never felt she fitted in with her fellow pupils who were from wealthier, upper-class backgrounds. Her childhood memories are fond though, especially of her father, who she says "taught me to value myself".
After school, Dawn won a scholarship to study in New York. She later returned to the UK to train as a drama teacher in London. Here she met future sidekick Jennifer Saunders, but they didn't immediately hit it off. While Dawn loved her education and looked forward to emulating her drama teacher, she says Jennifer was there "to get free tickets".
A dynamic duo
A burgeoning friendship with Jennifer Saunders led to the two writing comedy together and performing at an end of term school show. When she graduated, Dawn pursued her ambition to become a school teacher. It was Jennifer who answered an ad for female comics at a London club; their subsequent success led Dawn to give up teaching to concentrate on writing and performing.
Making the grade
Dawn married fellow comedian Lenny Henry in 1983, but it wasn't love at first sight. Her first impression was that he was "loud and revolting". Later, when they started dating, Dawn was subject to an unusual test. Henry's mother decided to give Dawn so much Jamaican food on her plate that if she made it to the bottom, she would be accepted into the family. She did it. They have since divorced.
A big departure
After years of dressing in "clothes that were meant for women in their fifties", Dawn was sidetracked into the fashion business in 1991. Together with partner Helen Teague, she set up a company to produce clothes for women over size 16. Dawn has also been involved in producing books of knitting patterns, though she calls fashion "just another string in my bow; not an alternative to performing". She has recently slimmed down, however.