Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Courageous Beauty Interview: Mrs. New York International 2009-Lidia Szczepanowski-Goldsmith

Angie: I had the honor of meeting this brilliant lady in Chicago. She's got personality plus and a huge heart that shows in every expression on her face.
May I introduce to you, Lidia Szczepanowski-Goldsmith!

Angie: What titles have you held?

Lidia: In 2006 I won the title of Mrs. New York America and I was a Top 12 Semi-Finalist at the Mrs. America Pageant.  I was also crowned Mrs. New York International in 2009. 

Angie: How did you learn about pageants?

Lidia: I entered the Mrs. New York America pageant in late 2005 after I “Googled” the phrase “Mrs. New York” on the internet.    The rest is history.

Angie: What is your platform?
Lidia: Women’s Safety Awareness

Angie: How do you build your platform and promote your work?

Lidia: In May 2007, Everything Lidia, Incorporated, formerly known as Stylish Safety, Inc., a company I founded, launched a nationwide campaign designed to benefit victims of crimes throughout the United States. The campaign, known as "Listen for the Whistle" consists of two parts - an innovative women's safety program and the promotion and sale of the "Diva’s Crystal Whistle," a designer brass whistle beautifully bejeweled with genuine European crystals attached to a soft black cord. 

The "Diva’s Crystal Whistle,” the symbol of this women's safety awareness campaign, is an invaluable yet simple safety device that is both functional and fashionable. As a visual and audible crime deterrent, women of all ages are urged to “Carry” the whistle, “Use” the whistle, and "Listen for the Whistle." The campaign advocates the notion that the sound of a whistle means that somebody nearby may need help.  A portion of the proceeds from Stylish Safety seminars and from the sale of every Diva’s Crystal Whistle is donated directly to the National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness, Inc.

Referred to by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as "a fresh and unique approach to a very important issue," the goal of the "Listen for the Whistle" campaign is to promote women's safety awareness and educate women on how to maintain their personal safety while raising money for this important cause. 

Featured on numerous media outlets, the “Listen for the Whistle” campaign is also supported by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who commended me "for [my] dedicated effort to educate women with defensive tactics that build confidence among women."

In November 2007, I founded the National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness, Inc., (the NOWSA) a non-profit corporation (IRS 501(c)(3)) registered with the New York State Attorney General’s Office, Charities Bureau. The organization was established to fulfill a fundamental need in our country to provide more information, awareness, and knowledge about women's safety issues.

I have also volunteered my time speaking to young women at the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect, the Girl Scouts, and many other non-profit organizations and other women’s groups such as the Long Island Women’s Agenda, Long Island Women in Power, and the Women’s Financial Network. I am active with “Project Safe Neighborhood” through the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, New York State’s Operation Safe Child, and I was invited to be a Conference Mentor at the Guardian Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Conference. 

In April 2008, I received the prestigious “Prevention Through Education Award” from Child Abuse Prevention Services, one of Long Island's leading organizations dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect and in October 2008, I was an Honoree at “About Face 2008: Making Changes,” an annual Long Island benefit for survivors of domestic violence, where I received an award acknowledging my ongoing commitment to improving the lives of women.  In June 2009 I was presented with the "Making a Difference for Women" Award by Soroptimist International of Nassau County.

Today, I continue to offer “Stylish Safety” Women’s Safety Awareness seminars to educational institutions and corporations throughout the country.

Angie: Why did you decide to compete?

Lidia: I wanted to have an even “bigger voice” with regard to my platform, Women’s Safety Awareness. I knew that as a title holder I would be afforded significant opportunities to share information about a topic I am so passionate about. I also wanted to exemplify today’s “Modern Day Renaissance Women”, a woman who is intelligent, confident, powerful, athletic, and beautiful; someone who possesses classic grace and someone who is complex and universal.  She has a special presence about her and while she is intriguing and confident, she is not arrogant.  She shines and exudes positive energy wherever she goes.  She’ll walk into a room and everyone will know she’s there.  It’s as if Ms. America just ascended through the door wearing her crown and everyone is wondering, “Who is that tiara donning woman?” 

Angie: Was this your first pageant?

Lidia: No, I also competed and won the title of Mrs. New York America in 2006 and placed in the Top 12 at the Mrs. America Pageant in Tuscon, Arizona. 

Angie: Was/is competition scary?

Lidia: Not at all.  As a litigator, I felt right at home in interviews and on a stage. I have also been presenting “Stylish Safety” Women’s Safety Awareness Seminars for several years now and have spoken to thousands of women on this topic.  I have also made numerous television, radio and other media appearances. 

Angie: What personal fear did you have to overcome?

Lidia: I am typically fearful of only those things that are “unknown” to me and which I have absolutely no control over.  To alleviate any personal fears before competing, I made sure to learn as much as I could about the competition itself and to be as prepared as I possibly could be.  Knowledge truly gives you power.     

Angie: What about your first competition, were you super confident?

Lidia: I wouldn’t say super confident, just confident.   When I competed in my first pageant, I was 41 years old, and pageantry was very new to me.  I think the advantage I may have had over younger contestants was my life experience.   

Angie: What did you have to learn to compete?

Lidia: I needed to curb my enthusiasm a bit and I had to learn how to smile for extended periods of time.

Angie: Please tell us about a goal, why it's been a goal, and what it means to you? 
Lidia: Although I am proud to say that I have reached virtually every goal I ever set for myself, I always continue to set new goals just about every day.  One goal in particular is to establish a “YOUTH PERSONAL SAFETY AWARENESS WEEK” in New York State and thereafter in the United States.  I will work through The National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness together with volunteers, local organizations and politicians and request that New York Governor David A. Paterson proclaim and designate that one specific week of every year be known as “YOUTH PERSONAL SAFETY AWARENESS WEEK”.  

This undertaking will be the first phase of a larger initiative and community education campaign that will be directed at teens in middle and high schools in New York State and eventually throughout the country.  The campaign will 1.) raise awareness about the crimes that are committed against our teens which tragically can lead to injury or even death and 2.) educate teens on how to prevent them.

After a New York model is established, the campaign will encourage every state’s Boards of Regents and/or Trustees to incorporate personal safety awareness into their school’s curriculum via health or physical education classes or otherwise.  “Covers for a Cause”, the NOWSA’s soon to be launched student safety awareness project, which combines youthful contemporary art with relevant safety tips, reminders, information and messages on visually appealing book covers, will be incorporated into “YOUTH PERSONAL SAFETY AWARENESS WEEK” as well.  I hope to accomplish this goal sometime in 2010.  
Angie: What do you still want to achieve?

Lidia: Do you have a few hours?  Where do I start?
I want to be the best mother, wife, daughter, sister, and woman I can possibly be while feeling fulfilled and fabulous in my personal and professional life.

Angie: There's an idea in society that pageants are just skin deep. How would you answer that?

Lidia: I would think that any person who makes this kind of statement has never competed in a legitimate pageant.  I had the great fortune of participating in two national “Mrs.” pageant systems and every single contestant I had the privilege of meeting  was truly extraordinary- intelligent, well spoken and beautiful!   I cannot, however, comment on “pageants” in general  because I believe all pageants are not necessarily created equally. 
Angie: The media has given Americans the idea that pageant girls/women are not intelligent and accomplished. What kind of an education do you have?

Lidia: I earned my BBA in International Business in 1987 and I received my Juris Doctor (Law Degree) in 1990.

Angie: What's your "day" job?

Lidia: I am a practicing corporate and commercial litigation attorney.  I am also the owner of Everything Lidia, Inc.,  which, among other things, presents Women’ Safety Awareness seminars to educational institutions and corporations and I am the founder and Executive Director of the National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
Angie: Do you have other creative talents you pursue?

Lidia: As much as I LOVE to draw and paint, my busy lifestyle does not afford me much time to pursue this passion.  I get my creative juices flowing, however, when I work on my business enterprise, which includes adding to my website, writing articles, and working on creative projects with The NOWSA.  I also LOVE decorating my home, particularly when I find the bargain of the century. 

Angie: Is it important for a person to look their best?

Lidia: People should look their best when they feel the need to put their best foot forward.   This would include, for example, important events, interviews, meetings, etc.  At all other times, a person should wear what makes them feel comfortable.  Personally, I don’t always wear makeup and dress up on weekends but I will not walk out of the house looking like I just rolled out of bed.  In my opinion, this shows a lack of self-respect .       

Angie: What do you hope to achieve with your title long term?

Lidia: I always knew I had a unique and special story to tell; a story that would inspire women of all ages and from all walks of life.  During my reign as Mrs. New York America and Mrs. New York International, I had the privilege of speaking to thousands of women and sharing this story.  I realized that my message was much bigger and more significant than I ever realized and that I had the ability and gift of having a positive impact and influence on women’s lives.  And that’s what I am doing and will continue to do: challenge and inspire women to live safer, more fulfilling and remarkable lives.   
Angie: Would you share about your fashion favorites, flair, or a tip that makes you feel beautiful?

Lidia: There are three words that describe my fashion favorite, flair and tip.  “Accessories, accessories, accessories!”  Shoes, jewelry, hosiery, scarves and handbags all have a huge impact on your appearance and how you feel about yourself.  
Angie: You've written a book, will you tell us a little about it?

Lidia: I actually wrote a book proposal back in 1995 and it is still a work in progress.  My book will be the first to analyze select qualities which defined the traditional renaissance man and then illustrate to readers how they can apply these traits and characteristics to their own lives to achieve a more fulfilling, successful, intriguing and remarkable living experience.  The book will offer a new perspective on why certain women are fulfilled and admired while challenging readers to strive to acquire or develop these qualities in order to feel a greater sense of self worth and contentment and experience life’s nirvana. The imagery of the “tiara”, which has enhanced the dignity and beauty of women for centuries, will be incorporated into everyday experiences and women will be taught how to get in touch with their “inner sparkle”.   The actionable insights to be provided in the book will be useful, simple, and entertaining and will show women how by developing a confident attitude and well rounded life results in a more remarkable life.

Angie: What compliment do you receive most often?

Lidia: I have been told more than once that I am very approachable and that I exude a ton of positive energy when I walk into a room.  People also tell me often that my passion for life is empowering and that I am “a true inspiration to the female species!”

Angie: What are you most confident about?

Lidia: I am most confident about who and what I am.

Angie: How did you earn that sense of confidence?

Lidia: Over the years, I have recognized my unique talents, skills, and other positive qualities, and I have opened my heart, mind and soul to developing these gifts while challenging myself to take on new experiences and living life to its fullest.  I have recognized the benefits of learning for the sake of learning, and am led by the notion that all knowledge should be embraced and natural capabilities and passions developed as fully as possible.  I earned my sense of confidence by living this philosophy. 
Angie: What would you like to share?

Lidia: I have a story to tell and it transcends the message of my platform.  When I was 13 years old, I was sexually assaulted by a relative.  Ironically, although I cannot recall what I ate for dinner last night, I can remember very clearly all the details of an evening that occurred over 30 years ago.  I remember the clothes I was wearing, the type of car I was in, and the smell of booze on my perpetrators breath.  I also remember being too scared and too embarrassed to tell my parents what happened.  I held this secret inside for over 5 years and when I finally did tell my parents, they said they believed me, but I sensed some skepticism especially after my mom and dad told me that he denied everything and said I was “exaggerating.” 

      I had two choices:  I could move forward and perhaps learn something from this, or I could use this incident as a crutch for not succeeding or an excuse if something did not go my way.  I chose to stand proud and confident.  In fact this incident was a catalyst for me to never be a victim again, whether physically, psychologically, financially or otherwise. It also drove me to never settle for second best and I worked that much harder to achieve and surpass my personal goals. I financed my College and Law education, earned a Black Belt in Karate, earned the titles of Mrs. NY America and Mrs. NY International, launched Everything Lidia. Inc. and my “Stylish Safety” seminars, and founded the non-profit women's organization. N.O.W.S.A.   I am currently raising a family, practicing law, and writing a book. Today I am using these achievements to help women be more safe and confident.
My “Stylish Safety” seminars are one of my greatest achievements.   Women who attend this seminar do not roll around on a smelly gym mat and learn self defense. What I offer is something very different.  It is a concise program where women attendees receive a realistic and practical education, learn effective yet simple safety tactics and strategies such as the “Stiletto Stomp” and “Hand Bag Hurl” while receiving something that I believe is much more valuable than a black belt -- and that is EMPOWERMENT.  Women walk away from these seminars feeling a greater sense of self esteem and confidence.  They walk out with their shoulders back a little further and their chins up a little higher. 

And I know that these benefits transcend a woman’s life and help her be, not only safer physically, but also make her feel like she can literally “kick butt” in every single aspect of her life! 

I want to continue to share my story, my martial arts acumen and my positive message with women everywhere.   

My websites include www.EverythingLidia.com and www.TheNOWSA.org.

Angie: Very inspiring, Lidia, thank you for being with us today!


*Natural Queen* said...

Great platform, Lidia! :D Keep up the great work!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Lidia has charisma!
What nationality is her name?

Rachel Roberts said...

I LOVE LIDIA!!! What an amazing woman!!!! She was my roomate at Mrs Intl and we had a blast!! She always made me feel good about myself and made any situation fun! I miss her dearling and feel so blessed to have had such a wonderful time with her in Chicago!!! :) She is one of the reasons why my Mrs. Intl pageant experience was one of the best experiences in my life! :) Love ya Lidia!!

Mikes Sumondong said...

Love the post!