Testino grew up in Lima, the eldest son of a businessman. When he was young he wanted to be a priest. Testino recalls not being popular at school because of his flamboyance. He was good at math and went on to study economics at Universidad del Pacífico, where his insistence on wearing pink flares and platform heels around the campus ensured that everyone knew his name. In 1976 he went to London to study photography living in an unconverted floor of a hospital, without much money, he funded himself by working as a waiter. He had his hair dyed pink which helped him get noticed as a photographer.