A lover of the Old Spaghetti Factory and carriage rides overlooking the Ohio River, Louisville native Morgan Whitworth is a Southern Belle with a big smile and an even bigger personality. The 22-year-old also recently placed fifth in Hooters’ 16th Annual International Swimsuit Pageant at Fillmore Miami Beach. On June 28, she secured a top five spot out of 100 international finalists, a collection of women that had been selected from the 18,000 Hooters Girls working in 430 restaurants around the world.
“I’ve worked really hard to get where I am, but I was never somebody that was like, that is my dream, to just be a model,” she said. The interior decorator, turned model, turned bikini contest finalist is a self-described jack-of-all-trades who also works in a gun shop. Without her peers and a healthy dose of luck, Whitworth may have never ended up on the stage in Miami, let alone be working for Hooters.
Due to her pageant experience and outgoing demeanor, Whitworth’s friends from Shelby County had encouraged her to model in high school, but she didn’t think that career path was for her. “From what you see on TV and magazines, I’m never going to be that tall or really skinny. I’m your more natural, short, curvy girl,” Whitworth said.
The summer after her high school graduation, Whitworth was working in staging for Rob Marcum at Oz Art Galleries when Hooters approached him about using his Versailles castle and exotic cars for the 2010 calendar. Whitworth attended the shoot, providing drinks and chatting with the girls, such as Brooke Richards, director of marketing for the Hooters franchises R.M.D. Corp., which encompasses the Hooters restaurants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. Richards asked Whitworth if she wanted to model for the calendar, “just for fun.” Three months later, Richards called her, saying, “So you are in the month of January, and I need you to get a job at Hooters right now.”
After joining the DuPont Hooters staff, Whitworth immediately bonded with fellow first-time calendar model and Louisville native, Amanda Mertz, who is currently Miss Kentucky. The two attended various charity events together, and Mertz also mentored Whitworth, providing modeling advice and pushing her to compete in the Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant.
This year Whitworth competed in the contest for the third time, making it past the local round but didn’t advance after the regional finals round, despite making it to internationals the year before. As luck would have it, she received another surprising call from now-mentor “Momma Brookie” Richards, letting her know that as an alternate she would be heading to Miami for internationals.
From there she continued to excel, into the top five, one of many experiences Hooters has given her that will never be forgotten. “Every day what you do at Hooters is going to stick with me – having to go in and talk to people that you don’t even know and make them feel welcome,” she said, planning to take this skill with her in future endeavors.
After experimenting with fields as different from modeling as radiology and business, Whitworth realized her heart lies in cosmetology. Her mother owned a salon in Shelby County, where Whitworth fostered a love of hair styling, her Barbie dolls being the first clients. “A lot of people say ‘Oh, that’s the easy way out’ when girls do hair and makeup,” she said. “(My mom) didn’t want me to do it just because that’s what she did.”
Whitworth has since moved to Bowling Green, Ky., where she plans to use her hair and makeup license, but for now she is still busy traveling to hot spot destinations such as Las Vegas and Orlando for conventions. Yet, this is most likely the last year she’ll participate in the Hooters calendar and contests, as she thinks it’s time to give someone else a chance. “I really like the way my year ended, as top five internationally,” she said. “As of now I think I’m finished with it, (but) I know a lot can change in a year.”