Russell was born in Boston, and raised in Cambridge. Her mother is Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar. Her father is an engineer and CEO of GoLoco, a car-pooling and social networking company.
Russell displayed an interest in politics at an early age, and friends who had worked on the Clinton Presidential election campaign arranged a meeting on June 5, 1998 (when she was 10) with Bill Clinton after he delivered a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His advice to her was to stay in school, get to know as many different types of people as she could, and to understand their dreams and aspirations. She graduated from the Commonwealth School in 2005.