Rachel Webb was born to Erma Webb and Chun Aquino in Honolulu, Hawaii on February 11, 1998. Erma Webb was doing relief work on the small island of Molokai when she dated and became pregnant by Chun Aquino, a Filipino migrant worker. Erma delivered her daughter, Rachel, on Oahu.
Rachel spent the first nine years of her life on the islands of Hawaii. Although the islands feature dozens of different ethnic backgrounds, Rachel was well aware of her mixed heritage. Depending on which group was taunting her, she was either laughed at as a haole or derided as a poor Filipino.
Undaunted by the teasing, Rachel did well at school, her hard work and determination making up for what she lacked in natural talent. She was active in school life and signed up for many after-school activities.
Rachel's hours in the classroom were the only time she was out from under her mother's thumb. Erma picked out Rachel's clothes, packed her lunch, and told her exactly when to leave the house and when to return. Some of Rachel's teachers from that time thought Erma's iron hand was the reason Rachel was so loath to leave school each day.
When Rachel was nine, her mother moved them to Clarksdale, Mississippi, where Erma had taken a position running an outreach program in the Delta. Once again, Rachel was an outsider. This time, she was one of two non-African American students in the school. As usual, Rachel poured herself into school activities to avoid her mother's domination.
As Rachel grew up, she turned into a lovely young woman, and her mother began entering her into beauty pageants. Erma picked out her costumes, designed her talent routines, and wrote her speeches. Rachel didn't necessarily enjoy the pageant circuit, but she enjoyed winning and the pathway it gave her to escape her mother's control and create a life of her own.
Even as Rachel was doing extremely well in pageants, she still chafed at her mother's domineering tendencies. At dinner, Erma told Rachel precisely what she must eat and drink and how much.
At one evening meal, Rachel boiled inside with fury as Erma kept telling her to eat one more ounce of chicken but no more than that. Rachel ended up scarfing the food down just to finish the meal. She just wanted the meal to be over as soon as possible and hardly chewed her food. Soon after she retreated to her room, Rachel began feeling ill. She had eaten too quickly, and in short order, she was in the bathroom, vomiting.
She didn't tell her mother what had happened. Instead, Rachel turned on the shower to cover the noise, cleaned up, and went back to her room. Her throat hurt from the acids, but for the first time in years, Rachel actually felt good. She felt happy. The next time she felt the anger and resentment start to roil, she remembered that happiness and strove to recapture it.
Eventually, Erma moved to Oxford, Mississippi. She thought the more cultured city with the university and rich literary heritage would greatly benefit Rachel and her pageant career.
Even though Oxford was by far the most diverse and cultured place Rachel had lived, she still hated it. It was still a small town in the poorest state in the nation. She longed to travel and experience more, and she ached for freedom.
In Oxford, Rachel met Barbara Dubois. Rachel loved how Barbara seemed in charge of her own life. The two bonded, and Rachel came to respect and admire Barbara. Observers noted that, although the two were competitors, they seemed more like sisters, encouraging each other through each pageant's trials. Others said that when Rachel and Barbara exchanged glances, it was if the two shared the unspoken language of close confidants who know each other's secrets.
In 2021, Rachel was consumed with winning the Yoknapatawpha County Literature Festival Pageant and using that as a springboard to the Miss Mississippi competition. Friends said Rachel felt that winning both crowns would give her enough money, contacts and sponsors to finally break away from the life her mother had planned for her.
They remarked how Rachel said her whole future depended on the Yoknapatawpha pageant and she would do anything to win because it was time for her to take charge of her own life.