Barbara D'Urso was born in Naples, Campania. Her father is from Laurenzana, and her mother was born in Sant'Eufemia d'Aspromonte. She made her debut in 1977 in the programme Goal, alongside Diego Abatantuono, Teo Teocoli and Massimo Boldi. The following year she took part in the variety show "Stryx". In 1979 she presented the programme Che combinazione broadcast on Raidue, and the year afterward, together with Pippo Baudo, she appeared in Domenica In on Raiuno. That same year, 1980 she also made her debut as a singer, with the single Dolceamaro, which was not very successful.
In 1984 she appeared naked on the front cover of Playboy and Playmen magazines. After that, she started working for the television network of Silvio Berlusconi: she participated in a television fiction, and in 1995 she also presented Agenzia matrimoniale, but she returned to the RAI with In famiglia together with Le ragazze di piazza di Spagna, Donne di mafia and Una donna scomoda.
Since then she has taken part in many reality shows. For three years d'Urso presented three editions of Grande Fratello, the Italian version of the Big Brother (one in 2003 and two editions in 2004). In 2005 she was the host of the Italian version of The Farm. D'Urso maintained this role for two years. On June 2005 she had a role in the TV series Ricomincio da me.
In January 2008 she presented Mattino Cinque, with Claudio Brachino; this was followed in the spring of 2008 with Lo show dei record, dedicated to the Guinness World Records. In autumn 2008, she presented the prime time show Fantasia, while in the season of 2008/2009 she hosted Pomeriggio Cinque and Mattino Cinque.
In the 2009/2010 season, she left Mattino cinque and became the presenter of Domenica Cinque, a Sunday afternoon programme, and as of 2011, she presents Pomeriggio 5. In the 2011 season she was replaced by Federica Panicucci.
In December 2010 she hosted (with the showgirls Veronica Ciardi and Serena Garitta) the New Year Canale 5's show Capodanno cinque and, in January 2011, left Domenica Cinque to host the primetime show Stasera che sera!, which aired for only two episodes and was suspended because of extremely low ratings. In September 2011 she hosted the program Baila! which was also cancelled after two episodes due to a court sentence for plagiarism of the program Dancing with the Stars