Emma Frost was born into a wealthy old Boston mercantile family that arrived from England in the 1600s. The second of three daughters, Emma also had an older brother named Christian who had turned to substance abuse as an escape from the drudgery of his life. Unknown to their family or themselves, the three Frost sisters were mutants whose telepathic abilities matured upon reaching puberty.
When it came time for their father to choose a worthy heir to the family fortune, Christian was automatically dismissed due to his drug problem. Whilst the older sister Adrienne seemed the most obvious choice, the father chose Emma. Surprisingly, she refused, choosing to make her own way through life.
Emma ultimately inherited a good deal of wealth, but most of her large fortune resulted from her professional success. She ascended rapidly to the upper echelon of the business world on the strength of her intelligence, drive, and personal charm, as well as the secret use of her mental powers. Also, at some point, the Dark Beast met Emma, and helped her rise to wealth and power.
Eventually, Emma became majority stockholder of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate principally involved in electronics and transportation - both the building of ships and aircraft, and their use for freight and passenger conveyance. Despite her relative youth, she was named chairwoman of the board and chief executive officer of the rechristened Frost International. She also became headmistress and chairwoman of the board of trustees of the Massachusetts Academy - a college preparatory school for students in grades seven through twelve located in the Berkshire Mountains in Snow Valley, Massachusetts.
Emma's success caught the attention of the Hellfire Club, an elite social organization consisting of the world's wealthiest and most powerful figures. When she learned that the club was hiring dancers, she promptly auditioned and used her telepathic talents to enhance her performance in their eyes. Unlike the other females in the Club, Emma was never uncomfortable with the strict dress code that required female members to wear lingerie at all times. She believed her revealing wardrobe to be one of many weapons in her arsenal, one that gave her an instant advantage over men.
Frost quickly became an ally of Sebastian Shaw, a member of the club's Council of the Chosen who were secretly conspiring to achieve world domination through economic and political means. At the time, the leaders of the club and council - its foremost Lords Cardinal, whose titles corresponded to the names of chess pieces - were White King Edward Buckman and White Queen Paris Seville.
Buckman threw the council's support behind Project: Armageddon, scientist Steven Lang's program to construct mutant-hunting Sentinel robots. Aware of Shaw's genetic disposition, Buckman told him the initiative's intent was to capture mutants as a means of helping the council attain power. Using her psionic powers, Emma learned that the project's actual purpose was the annihilation of all genetic deviants. After Shaw's lover, Lourdes Chantel, was murdered by one of the Sentinels, Shaw and Frost staged a coup that saw them seize control of the Council of the Chosen, which they renamed the Inner Circle. Shaw took the title of Black King, and Frost became the new White Queen.