Rachel McLish was born June 21 1955 in Harlingen, Texas. She graduated from Harlingen High School, where she was a cheerleader. In 1978, she graduated from Pan American University with a degree in physiology and health and nutrition. While attending college, McLish worked at a health club in McAllen, Texas. When she graduated from college, she and the health club manager formed a partnership and founded the Sport Palace Association in Harlingen and opened two more facilities. She was inspired to compete in bodybuilding because the opening of her new health club would coincide with a women's bodybuilding contest and bodybuilding would give her a platform to promote fitness to women. In 1980, she won the inaugural United States Championships, as well as beating Auby Paulick to win that year’s first-ever IFBB Ms. Olympia contest. In a competitive career that spanned only four years, McLish proved a resilient force, never placing lower than third in any contest she entered. McLish was featured in the 1985 documentary Pumping Iron II: The Women which focused on her participation in the 1983 Caesar’s World Cup. She also acted in the movies Getting Physical (1984), Aces: Iron Eagle III (1992) and Raven Hawk (1996). These involved her acting the part of a physically strong woman. She was one of the first women to take such a role. She was also a star in Herb Alpert's 'Red Hot' music video. She co-starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the fitness instructional video Shape Up (1982). McLish has authored two books on weight training for women that made the New York Times bestseller list – Flex Appeal, by Rachel, and Perfect Parts. While attending Pan American University, she met John P. McLish, whom she married on February 3, 1979. They later divorced. In 1990, she married film producer Ron Samuels.
"If you want to affect change in the world, you have to change yourself."