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Actress Jennifer Morrison offers teen girls advice: be brave, fight for your fairy tale and don’t be a jerk

Jennifer Morrison speaks at the 2015 ANNpower Vital Voices leadership forum in Washington. (Micky Wiswedel)

Celeb: Actress Jennifer Morrison, who plays fierce mama/savior Emma Swan on ABC’s fairy tale soap “Once Upon a Time.”

Cause: Girl power. For four years, Morrison has been an advisory council member with ANNpower Vital Voices Initiative, a partnership between Ann Inc. (Ann Taylor’s parent company) and the Washington-based Vital Voices Global Partnership that works to imbue teenage girls with leadership skills.

Scene: Morrison looked every bit the accessible superhero she plays on TV as she strutted into a small Dupont Circle ballroom in a stark white pantsuit and blue button-down. “Hey, guys,” she said as the room previously filled with the electric chatter of more than 50 teenagers immediately switched to silent mode. You could hear a camera phone click — that is if any of the young women bothered with their devices once Morrison had arrived.

All eyes were on the actress-director as she flipped through a speech about identity, insecurity and self-worth. The woman best known for her role as a storybook princess wanted to shatter the Cinderella complex. “You can’t be brave unless you are afraid,” Morrison said. “Don’t wish for your fairy tale, fight for your fairy tale.” Some of the girls were taking notes. On paper.

Morrison was at her best — loose, unscripted and honest — during the rapid-fire Q&A session, answering questions such as how to deal with competition (“There’s room for everyone”), pressure (“Do it how you want to do it”) and breaking up with toxic friends (“What you are around is what you will become”).

The high-schoolers in the room weren’t holding back. Later, after the applause and selfies had died down, Morrison told us that she came prepared. She threw out nearly 100 handwritten pages of her speech and made friends listen to the final version and then “aggressively” ask her follow-up questions.

“This is not your regular group of girls,” Morrison said later.

Sound bite: “Why is it that our default is to pick apart other women? If I could ask you guys to do one thing when you leave this room is to catch yourself when you’re about to say something negative about another woman. Stop being a******s to each other.”