McPhail was raised in Roseboro, North Carolina. She attended Midway High School located in Newton Grove, North Carolina.
As a rising senior, McPhail competed for the title of Miss North Carolina's Outstanding Teen 2013. As Miss Fayetteville's Outstanding Teen, a then 17-year-old McPhail won the coveted title on June 21st, 2013 at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. She played "All of Me" on the piano and her platform was G.R.E.A.T (Groceries Reaching Every American Today).
McPhail represented her home state at the 2013 Miss America's Outstanding Teen Pageant. There, she placed in the Top 8 and won the Outstanding Achievement in Academic Life Award plus the Instrumental Talent Award.
In addition to her impressive performance, McPhail was awarded one of two Chancellor's Awards from Troy University. This award, should she choose to attend Troy University, covered full tuition and out of state fees. The scholarship award was valued at $70,000.
After the pageant and high school graduation, McPhail's studies took her to Hollins University located in Hollins, Virginia. She graduated in the Spring of 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and a minor in Psychology. During her time, McPhail was on the Dean's List and a member of the prestigious Lambda Pi Eta and Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Societies. She also was the recipient of the Jane Lyell Stephens Ayers Scholarship and was awarded first place at the Hollins Student Conference in 2016 for her qualitative research project, "Contemporary Women's Travel Blogs and Millennial Identity."
During her senior year at Hollins University, McPhail won the local title of Miss Arlington. She advanced to the 2018 Miss Virginia Pageant. She was awarded one of the preliminary Delapp/Sellick Awards for Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimsuit. She also won the Keys to Your Success Scholarship and the 4 Points Scholarship
McPhail was crowned Miss Virginia 2018 on June 23rd, 2018 at Liberty University's Center for Music and Worship located in Lynchburg, Virginia. She will compete for the title of Miss America 2019 on September 9th, 2018 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.