Morgan Greco of Camas was named Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in Dallas last week. This is the second time in the past three competitions that a woman from Clark County has won this national scholarship event. Payton May of Vancouver won in 2019. Photo courtesy Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.
A talented singer, the Camas resident also wants to use her platform to encourage women to take self-defense classes
Organizers had some advice for the 51 candidates vying for the title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.
Teens representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia met up in Dallas for the three-day competition last week.
One of them was going to earn the crown.
Absolutely, it was going to be an incredible scene, an overwhelming experience. But please, please try to remember, organizers told the teens, try to keep smiling. And don’t allow your mouth to drop. It will be a picturesque moment, and those photos will be used in a year-long campaign.
No amount of planning could prepare Morgan Greco for that moment, though.
“I did the exact opposite,” Greco said, laughing at herself. “I was open mouth, crying.”
Down to the final two, Greco felt a wave of confidence just before the announcement.
“They said my name. They said, ‘Morgan Greco.’ A light switch went on. It was so quiet at first. I just looked at Miss DC (the first runner-up). Jaw to the floor, screaming. The rest is a complete blur. I knew I walked to the center of the stage. Honestly, it’s all a blur after that.”
Morgan Greco of Camas is the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen 2023. She excelled in her talent competition, performing an operatic vocal. She also impressed the judges with her social impact initiative, encouraging women to take self defense classes in order to gain more confidence. Photo courtesy Sheri Backous
It was the thrill of a lifetime for Morgan, her parents, family, and friends who were in the arena, as well as all of her supporters back home in Clark County.
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Miss America’s Outstanding Teen 2023.
Greco, who will be starting her junior year at Camas High School later this month, returned from Dallas late Sunday night, still aglow.
Greco became the second Miss America’s Outstanding Teen from Washington. Payton May of Vancouver, now a Skyview High School graduate, earned the title in 2019.
Interestingly, May was the first woman from Washington to ever win a national Miss America organization title. Now, there have been two winners from Washington from the past three Outstanding Teen competitions, and both are from Clark County.
Greco won the preliminary night one talent competition on Wednesday for her operatic vocal performance.
On Thursday, there was a focus on fitness as well as the opportunity to showcase an evening gown while answering a stage question.
From her victory on Wednesday and her solid performance on Thursday, she had a good idea that she was going to make it to the final 10.
But that is as far as her mind would let her go initially.
Sure enough, she was a finalist for Friday.
“I’ve done good already. I’ve done great already,” Greco remembered thinking. “I didn’t really have super high expectations for myself for the rest of the competition. I just wanted to enjoy the rest of the process.”
Before the preliminary events earlier in the week, the teens started the competition with an eight-minute interview session with the judges. This was the first time the judges met the candidates.
Greco said she was prepared to talk about what she would do if she were named Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, how she would represent America, and that she would encourage young women through her social impact initiative. Instead, the judges threw her a curveball, wanting to get to know her better.
“I did not expect the judges to be focused on who the girl was, the character questions, the get-to-know-you questions. It was kind of a shock,” Greco said. “I was glad they got to know who I was and who I would be as the title holder.”
Still, because she was not ready for that line of questioning, Greco thought she did not have her best moment. That would be in the back of her mind on Friday.
You see, the finalists perform their talents again, they model fitness gear and talk about the importance of health and fitness again, plus they showcase their gowns and take another question on stage.
Greco crushed it again with her vocals, singing The Jewel Song from the opera Faust.
“This one happened to show a lot of personality,” Greco said of the reason she chose that song. “The character, Marguerite, is a 16-year-old girl who doesn’t have big ambitions at first. But she falls in love with herself and realizes she could be a really beautiful woman. As a 16-year-old, I thought I could tap into that.”
Morgan said she thought she did a good job on Friday with that performance.
Her mother, Rose Weithas, who was in the audience, said Morgan did even better on Friday than when she won the talent preliminary on Wednesday.
There was the onstage question to answer, though. Morgan, still thinking she did not do her best during the eight-minute interview earlier in the week, put more pressure on herself.
“I have to redeem myself,” she remembered thinking. “I feel great. I look great. I get to the microphone. I answered it. But I felt I stumbled so bad.”
Greco went backstage, and her emotions overflowed. She was not disappointed in herself — after all, she was in the top 10 — but she also thought she had blown any chance at victory.
Her mother, as well as her step father Rick and her dad Mark Greco, and the dozen or so other family and friends who were there, did not see it that way.
Rose Weithas said there are times when people are on stage, they say something but they don’t actually hear what they have said. Or they remember it wrong.
“We thought her answer to her onstage question was dead on. We all looked at each other. ‘She nailed it. She nailed it.’ It was exactly what they wanted to hear,” Weithas said.
Backstage, Morgan was prepared to not hear her name when they announced the final five.
“I thought that would be the end of my night,” she said.
There was Miss DC, Miss Minnesota, Miss Texas, and Miss New York. Greco, Miss Washington, was the final name called.
“I was completely floored,” Greco said.
There were a few more activities for the show, allowing for the drama to build.
Greco still was not allowing herself to consider herself worthy of the crown.
“I had no question in my mind that I was going to be a runner-up. I was waiting for them to call the fourth runner-up, and I was waiting for them to say Miss Washington. They didn’t,” Greco said. “Then I was waiting for them to say third runner-up, and I was waiting for them to say Miss Washington. And they didn’t.”
Eventually, it came down to the final two. The District of Columbia and Washington. That was the first time all competition that Greco figured she would be crowned Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.
“I had this sense of calm. I knew I was the winner at that point,” said Greco, who was wearing the same dress that May wore at the Miss Washington competition in 2019.
Still, there was that quiet moment before the official announcement.
Then. It. Happened.
“It’s always great to hear your name and see 50 girls crying and screaming and being super happy for you,” Greco said. “That was really a great scene for me.”
For her family and friends, too.
“It’s a moment where everything is coming at you so quickly,” Rose said. “It’s such a huge and intense moment. Everything is kind of a blur. I kind of lost track of what was going on. There is such a surge of emotion that is rushing through you.”
Tom May, the father of Payton May, gave Rose some advice prior to the competition. Focus on the moment and try to watch it.
Morgan Greco of Camas, left, dazzled in this dress at Friday’s Miss America’s Outstanding Teen combination. It is the same dress that Payton May of Vancouver wore when she won Miss Washington in 2019. May went on to win the national event that year. Greco won the national event last week. Photo combination courtesy of Tom May
One problem with that, Rose said with a laugh. As soon as Morgan was announced as the winner, everyone was hugging each other and screaming at the top of their lungs.
“You kind of lose your senses. You go into sensory overload. It’s such a rush of joy,” Mom said.
The thrill of victory quickly turned into a mission of purpose for Morgan Greco.
For the next year, Greco will travel throughout the country, spreading the message of the Empowerment Starts With Me initiative. Greco is all about encouraging women to take self defense classes. She is a four-year student of Krav Maga.
“Every woman deserves to feel safe wherever she goes,” she said.
She will also sing the praises of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen and the scholarship program.
“It means more than people think,” she said of the crown. “They think it’s just a fashion show or a girl walking in pretty dresses who says she cares about world peace.”
No, it is about performing on stage. It is about speaking out about important issues. It is about gaining confidence in oneself.
Plus, it is a scholarship program. Greco earned $30,000 in scholarships with this crown, giving her $53,000 in all of her competitions this year from Miss Clark County to Miss Washington.
Greco said she first became interested in the program when she was 12 years old. At the time, it was just to have another place to perform. She did not even know about the scholarship opportunities.
She has learned so much, and so much about herself.
“I could barely have a conversation with an adult,” she said, referring to the start of this journey. “Now I’m standing in front of a whole room full of adults, and I’m speaking about political issues, social issues, and the opportunities associated with being Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.”
Lessons learned that will be with her for the rest of her life.
“I can walk into any job interview and crush it,” Greco said.
Greco’s communication skills are top level now, and she is needing them this week as she tries to answer every text, every call on her phone. She had more than 300 messages, and by Monday night, she had only replied to about 100.
Oh, she will get to everyone, she said.
“I can only say one thing: Thank you so much for all of the support,” Greco said. “All of the messages, all of the prayers, I took them with me through the whole experience. I don’t think I’d be where I am today, with this title, if it wasn’t for those people.”
She wants to keep the communication lines open, too.
Morgan Greco can be found on Instagram: @maoteenwa or at @maoteen.
“If there is any young girl out there who feels like they would want to join the Miss America organization, I want them to reach out to me,” Greco said. “I want to be accessible to all young women across America.”