Making her pageant debut, Wading River teen to compete for Miss New York 2020

Rachael Grieco is a newcomer to the world of pageants. But that hasn’t stopped the Wading River teen from vying to become Miss New York 2020.

Ms. Grieco, 18, will compete Saturday for the title of Miss New York in three phases of competition: an interview, swimsuit competition and evening gown competition. More than 170 women are scheduled to compete for the title and Ms. Grieco will be making her pageant debut.

It’s not necessarily the acknowledgment of looks that interests Ms. Grieco, who previously attended Borough of Manhattan Community College and is transferring to Suffolk County Community College to study business.

“Winning Miss New York would mean a lot to me because with this name, it would give me the power to change things in our state and potentially change things in America. Because then people will want to look to me because of where I am.”

Making a difference has always been important to Ms. Grieco, her mother, Virginia, said.

“She’s trying to stand up for human rights and she’s into helping people,” she said. “She’s a helper.”

Her life was changed after the death of her close friend Joshua Mileto, a 16-year-old Sachem High School East football player who died in a freak accident during practice in 2017.

“It’s affected me by just showing me that you really have to live every day like it’s your last,” said Ms. Grieco, who also attended Sachem East, where she graduated last June. “You have to tell everybody that you care about them because you never know when you’re never going to see them again.”

The experience inspired her to try to use Miss New York as a way to be able to make a change in the causes she cares about and help others, specifically the homeless community.

“I feel that there are not enough soup kitchens, and there are not enough places that they can hold homeless people,” she said. “Even when I was in Manhattan, you can see them everywhere and no one’s really fixing anything about it.”

Women’s rights is another issue that she said she feels strongly about.

“I would also like to talk about women empowerment [at Miss New York], because I feel that even though it’s 2020, women are still not getting the same kind pedestal that men are being given,” she said. “We haven’t even had a woman president yet. That’s just crazy to me. And I want to change that in our society.”

Ms. Grieco said that most important part of winning the competition to her would be the waves she would be able to make next at higher levels.

“I would like to start talking to the offices and the boards around Suffolk and Nassau County and New York City and start really making changes that a lot of people haven’t been able to do,” she said. “And as a woman, I feel that it’s perfect for me because I’m always about women empowerment.”

As for plans for the future, “I want to be an independent businesswoman,” she said. “And I would like to major in business entrepreneurship.”

The competition will take place at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, and Ms. Grieco will compete for the opportunity to represent the state at the national Miss USA pageant in the spring. In last year’s competition, the contestants were selected for the top 21 and then five finalists out of that group.

“I say it probably because she has been through so much — she has helped so many people get past things that have gone on in their lives,” her mother said.

Ms. Grieco added: “I think that things that have happened in my life are the reason why I wanted to do this so badly and change our society. I just want to say that I’m very thankful and extremely proud.”