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After starting out in adult entertainment under the names Serena, Ingrid Elliot, and Penny Morgan, she eventually had plastic surgery on both her face and breasts and adopted the name Rachel Ryan. By 1991, she underwent breast reduction surgery due to health concerns.
She is regarded as one of porn's first "anal queens". Many of her scenes involved anal sex, and due to her willingness and skill in this, she earned the nickname "Rubber-rectum Ryan" (among others) within the adult film community.
She reportedly had a rivalry with porn actress Patti Petite.
In 1988, Ryan had a small role in Clean and Sober, starring Michael Keaton; she and Keaton had a widely reported affair in the early-90s. On April 27, 1992, she married comic actor Richard Mulligan, but this union only lasted two years.