Mariela "Mari" Pepin was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico where she spent her first few years of life before traveling the world due to her father's military career. Shortly after leaving their home island, Mari's family relocated to Germany and traveled Europe visiting France, Czechoslovakia, and Italy. Her love of travel and appreciation for different cultures was cultivated at a young age, apparent through her disposition for learning new languages. Mari's first language is Spanish. She studied French and American Sign Language in school, and continues to expand her vocabulary in each, with hopes to pick up a fifth language in the future.

Mari graduated from Towson University in 2018 with a Bachelor's degree in Communication Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Marketing from the University of Maryland while working as a marketing director at Maryland Plastic Surgery & PURE MedSpa.

Aside from her scholastic endeavors and professional career, Mari is extremely passionate about giving back, helping others and being involved in the community. Her parents instilled a passion for volunteering since she was a child. Mari has spearheaded numerous non-profit efforts in diverse sectors including women's health, children's initiatives, homelessness and veteran's affairs, among others. Mari has helped create and run various non-profit organizations like Moi Warriors, which helps women who have overcome medical obstacles, and the Make a Veteran Smile program, which provides free surgical procedures to veterans in need. She has also started her own initiatives for children, giving presentations about self confidence.

In addition to her philanthropic efforts, Mari has had a successful track in the beauty industry including pageant titles, modeling, and acting in a feature film. In 2013, Mari won her first-ever pageant, earning the title of Miss Maryland Teen USA while she was a freshman at Towson. She went on to compete at Miss Teen USA in the Bahamas, and subsequently began modeling with Click Models' Philadelphia and New York divisions.

Most recently, Mari won the title of Miss Maryland USA 2019 and competed at Miss USA, where she placed in the Top 10 finalists, closing out her pageant career.