By Andrew Wroblewski
After spending a week competing in an international beauty competition, how will a 14-year-old spend the rest of her summer? Preparing for high school.
“I’m going to be focusing on starting my freshman year, classes, social life and my other hobbies,” said Rachel Goldsmith, of Dix Hills, a soon-to-be freshman at Half Hollow Hills High School East.
Some of those other hobbies include archery, painting and graphic design, which she’s carefully woven into her pageantry career over the last year. Goldsmith, who was crowned Miss Teen New York International on Oct. 4, returned home on Sunday from the 2015 Miss Teen International beauty pageant in Jacksonville, Florida. She was the competition’s youngest member, going head-to-head with 37 teens hailing from across the country, Australia, Bahamas, Canada, Haiti, India, the Marianas Islands and Philippines. Goldsmith made the trip with her mother and pageant coach, Lidia Szczepanowski-Goldsmith, who herself has made waves in the world of pageantry. She was Mrs. New York International in 2009, among other titles.
The week, Goldsmith said, included traveling, sightseeing and socializing amidst the pageantry, which included interviews with the pageant judges on Wednesday and stage-work including fitness wear and gowns on Thursday.
On Saturday, Goldsmith’s run in the pageant came to an end as the competition was narrowed to a top-11. The soon-to-be Hills East Thunderbird wasn’t deterred, however, and said she views the entire experience as a positive one.
“I got to meet really cool people, had a great time and it was really cool to be able to travel,” said Goldsmith. “At first I thought I would be intimidated because of my age. I thought the girls would be able to pick me out of a crowd. But after meeting them, I really felt at home and got along with them great.”
Szczepanowski-Goldsmith said she was extremely proud of her daughter, calling her “a winner before she even left for the pageant.”
“I’m most proud of her for going through such a difficult time in her life and taking that negative and turning it into a positive,” she said.
Using her state title, Goldsmith has worked to raise awareness about teenage depression, something she has battled herself. Along with her mother, she runs the website UWillBOK.com, which gives struggling teens a safe place to share their stories.
“One in five teens suffer from depression and over 500 teens take their own lives each year because of it,” Goldsmith said. “It’s a very serious issue, but it’s often overlooked because people are too scared or too embarrassed to talk about it.”
Goldsmith doesn’t want those teens to be scared or embarrassed any longer, she said. She wants them to know that they’re not alone and wants to use her platform as a means to give them a voice.
“It’s incredible that she’s able to talk about this issue, she’s 100-times further ahead than I ever was at her age. That’s what this is all about,” Szczepanowski-Goldsmith said.
With September closing in, Goldsmith set her sights on High School East. That means, she said, she’ll be making room for the exams, sports, hobbies and socializing and taking a break from pageantry – for now, at least.
“I’ve had a great experience and, in the future when I’m a little bit older, I might look to go back, but for now I’m good,” she said with a laugh.
Rachel Goldsmith returned home Sunday after a competing for the 2015 Miss Teen International beauty pageant in Jacksonville, Florida.