Despite being mother and daughter neither have played a huge part in the other's life. Shelby was hired as a surrogate by Rachel's fathers (Hiram Berry and LeRoy Berry) and was paid enough to live in New York for two years, she signed a contract that prohibited her from contacting Rachel until she turned eighteen. However, in Rachel's sophomore year, Shelby saw Rachel performing during the Sectionals and immediately recognized her. She sent the lead of her own show choir (Vocal Adrenaline), Jesse St. James to befriend Rachel. During Dream On it was revealed that Jesse was supposed to get Rachel to listen to a cassette tape of Shelby singing I Dreamed a Dream. Rachel refused at first, claiming she wasn't ready. In the end, Jesse put the tape on and then left, effectively forcing Rachel to listen to the tape. Shelby's reasoning was that after hearing her mother's voice Rachel would be compelled to find her and since Rachel would be contacting Shelby, Shelby would not be breaking her contract. Rachel and Shelby met each other in Theatricality when Rachel, along with Quinn Fabray and Mercedes Jones, heard Shelby singing Funny Girl to demonstrate theatricality to Vocal Adrenaline and following the number introduced herself as Shelby's daughter. Neither were comfortable with their relationship and found it awkward and so agreed to be grateful for one another from afar. They were reunited in I Am Unicorn when Shelby returns to Lima with her adopted daughter Beth, the biological daughter of Quinn and Noah Puckerman, as coach to a new Show Choir at WMHS, later named the Troubletones. The two have kept their distance since their reunion, coming into contact with each other mainly through relations between the two show choirs. In Mash Off Rachel asked Shelby to sign a pre-written letter of recommendation for NYADA, after Shelby told Rachel how proud of her she was, Rachel asked Shelby to write her own letter of recommendation. Shelby returns in Season Four after hearing about Rachel's Funny Girl audition through Facebook. She gives her advise and they perform together. Their relationship has improved a lot.
Rachel starts dating Jesse St. James, the male lead of Vocal Adrenaline. At the end of the episode the pair meet and kiss on the state at Carmel High School. When Jesse looks off-stage, it turns out that Shelby is in the wings smiling at the two teenagers. (Hell-O)Rachel attempts to discover the identity of her biological mother. Jesse secretly puts a tape labeled From mother to daughter in one of her boxes of childhood mementos. Rachel says that she is not ready to listen to it, she also expresses concern that her mother may be a terrible singer or worse, in her opinion, a better singer than Rachel herself. Later Jesse meets with Shelby in her car, Shelby reveals that she is Rachel's biological mother but that she signed a contract that prevents her from contacting Rachel until she is eighteen and so Rachel has to come to her. She insists that Jesse gets Rachel to listen to the tape and that that is the point of Jesse getting to know Rachel. She also stresses that she instructed Jesse to befriend Rachel, as opposed to seducing her. She explains that she answered an ad in the paper and that she was paid enough to live in New York for two years but also that she was never allowed to hold Rachel. She also says that it is her only regret. When Jesse sees Rachel again at her home he puts the tape on for her, despite her protests that she isn't ready, on the tape is a recording of Shelby singing I Dreamed a Dream, a dream sequence is then see where Shelby and Rachel are singing I Dreamed a Dream as a duet. By the end of the recording Rachel is in tears, meanwhile in her car Shelby is also crying. (Dream On)
Rachel has been rummaging through the dumpsters behind Carmel High School and from there checked the local fabric store and has come to the conclusion that Vocal Adrenaline are doing Lady Gaga. Consequently Rachel, Quinn and Mercedes go to spy on Vocal Adrenaline and see that they are indeed doing Lady Gaga, however Shelby insists that they aren't getting what theatricality is all about so decides to demonstrate by singing Funny Girl, upon hearing Shelby sing Rachel realizes that Shelby is her mother and so introduces herself at the end of the number. The two have a tense conversation about their similarities, what it feels like to not achieve your dream, whether Shelby ever regrets giving Rachel up and why she chose to contact Rachel now before Shelby says that she shouldn't have contacted Rachel and promises to call her before leaving. During New Directions' own theatricality assignment Rachel goes to Shelby for help with her Lady Gaga outfit which she gladly provides. However, when the two meet again they mutually agree that their relationship isn't working and that it feels wrong. Shelby explains that she is Rachel's mother, but not her mom. They agree to be grateful for each other from afar, at least for a while and Shelby gives Rachel a glass cup with a gold star on it as that is her thing, unaware that it is also Rachel's thing. Before Shelby leaves Rachel asks her if she will sing with her and so they sing an acoustic duet of Poker Face ending with Shelby complimenting Rachel on her voice before leaving. (Theatricality)
Shelby gets offered a job a McKinley coaching a rival Glee Club, which worries Rachel that her mom is here to betray her once again or try to get to know her better. Rachel auditions for Maria and Shelby helps her prepare for it. (I Am Unicorn)
Rachel asks Shelby to sign a pre-written letter of recommendation for NYADA. After Shelby tells Rachel how proud of her she is, Rachel asks Shelby to write her own letter of recommendation which she accepts. (Mash Off)
In this episode, Rachel stops Quinn because Quinn is going to tell Mr. Figgins about Shelby and Puck's relationship so The Troubletones will lose the competition. Rachel and Quinn have a small talk and in the end Quinn doesn't do it. (Hold on to Sixteen)
At NYADA, Rachel decides to train herself for her audition with some Funny Girl classics, prepared to sing Don't Rain on My Parade and various Barbra songs. But suddenly, Rachel hears a voice and sees Shelby, her biological mother and lets out a huge grin. As they excitedly reunite, Rachel asks what she’s doing here to which Shelby says she’s tracking her down because of the Funny Girl audition. Rachel wonders how Shelby knew that to which she replies that they’re Facebook friends and when Rachel posted as Barbra, she knew. Shelby reminisces, as she re-tells how she never got to play the main part in Funny Girl to which Rachel seems a bit disappointed. Shelby also reveals that they are in the same city meaning more visits to each other more. Despite Shelby’s dreams of wanting to study at NYADA and perform songs by Barbra, her bigger and better dream is to see Rachel perform them. But not at her audition, which shocks Rachel. Shelby says to get the producers attention, Rachel needs to not become a carbon copy but rather become an original. To get Rachel warmed up and to try things differently, Shelby then pulls out the music sheets of Next to Me, and the piano man begins to play the piano as Shelby and Rachel sing. Together, they sing in harmony with their power voices. At the end of the performance, they hug each other. (Sweet Dreams)
- Almost every episode they had a dialogue on they also had a duet.
- They both seem to share the same enthusiasm about gold stars. (Shelby said to Rachel "Gold stars are kinda my thing.")
- Almost every time they've talked, it has been in an auditorium. Three of those times they were next to a piano.
- The first gift Shelby ever gave Rachel was a glass cup with gold stars on it.
- Shelby could never have anymore biological children after she had Rachel.
- Shared the same role - Shelby played Maria from West Side Story 18 times, Rachel 3 times.
- The actresses who portray them, Lea Michele and Idina Menzel - actually look a lot alike.
- Both actresses were found for the show off Broadway.
- Quinn has been a rival for both of them at some point (for Rachel in Season One; for Shelby in the beginning of Season Three).
- They have both been kissed by Noah Puckerman at some point of the show.
- They're friends on Facebook. (Sweet Dreams)
- Instead of Rachel calling her "mom," she calls her by "Shelby." However, Rachel calls Shelby "mom" in Theatricality.
- They have both liked Will at some point.
- Shelby's portrayer, Idina Menzel, voiced Elsa in Frozen and was the original singer of Let It Go. Interestingly, Rachel sings it in Loser Like Me.
- Both have coached show choirs because they failed at their dreams of stardom (though Rachel's stint was only temporary).
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