Susanna Jamaladinova was born in Osh, Kirghiz SSR, to a Crimean Tatar father and an Armenian mother. Her Crimean Tatar ancestors were forcefully resettled from Crimea to the central Asian republic under Joseph Stalin during World War II, although her own relatives fought on the Soviet side.In 1989 her family returned to Crimea. Her maternal ancestors are Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh. They were well-to-do peasants until her great-grandfather's land was confiscated and he was exiled to Osh where he changed his Armenian name to make it sound more Russian.
Jamala speaks Russian as her mother tongue, and she is also fluent in Ukrainian which she learned as an adolescent. Though she wrote some songs in Crimean Tatar, she is not fluent in the language.
Her parents divorced for about four years so that her mother could purchase a house in Crimea for the family under her maiden name.During this period, Soviet authorities did not allow ethnic Crimean Tatars, like her father, to purchase property in Crimea.
She represented her home country Ukraine in the 2nd Edition of the Love Wave Contest. Jamala particapted in the 2nd half of the first Semi-Final with her song "It´s me Jamala".