Using Pageantry To Empower Women

  Photo provided by Lidia Szczepanowski  Lidia Szczepanowski, of Dix Hills, is a litigation attorney by day, and a serial beauty pageant contestant by night.

Photo provided by Lidia Szczepanowski
Lidia Szczepanowski, of Dix Hills, is a litigation attorney by day, and a serial beauty pageant contestant by night.

By Janee Law

Lidia Szczepanowski first stepped into the world of pageantry to spread her message of women empowerment.

A little over a decade later, Szczepanowski has been named Ms. Poland and has now set her sights on the Ms. World title, which she’ll vie for later this month.

“I love the fact that I’m doing a beauty pageant at the age of 52 and I’m competing for an international title,” said Szczepanowski, of Dix Hills, a litigation attorney with her own Melville-based practice. “If I win, I’m going to be sharing this amazing, great message and celebrating smart, stylish, stiletto clad women.”

The first pageant Szczepanowski competed in was for the title of Mrs. New York America, which she sought in 2006. She won the title, and went on to win Mrs. New York International in 2009 and then Mrs. Corporate America in 2013.

Along with spreading a message, she said, Szczepanowski started competing in pageants because she needed a little glamour in her life.

“I was basically an attorney, a professional, a wife and a mother, but I kind lost myself and that’s something that I think a lot of women go through,” she said.

As founder of both Everything Lidia, a multi-platform lifestyle enterprise, and National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness, a nonprofit that works to help prevent crime and violence against women of all ages, Szczepanowski promoted her causes through pageantry. She said it’s been a great way to promote her message of women empowerment.

“Beauty pageants are not objectifying women as being a physical being. It’s about who they are as a person,” Szczepanowski said. “It’s recognizing women’s strengths and their accomplishments. It’s allowing for personal growth, self-expression and development -- all of that -- which is so wonderful.”

Szczepanowski has lived in the Town of Huntington her whole life. She graduated from Walt Whitman High School in 1983. Today, she has three children of her own, two who graduated from Half Hollow Hills High School East, while the youngest is currently enrolled there.

When Szczepanowski earned the Ms. Poland award in March, she was very proud because of her Polish background, she said.

“My parents are both Polish immigrants and when they were children they lived through World War II. I was certainly honored to be even considered to represent a country that has had such a huge impact on my childhood, and my upbringing,” she said. “Being the daughter of polish immigrants, I worked really hard to get to where I am, I financed my own education and nothing was given to me. It’s really an honor to be able to have that title.”

At this point in her life, her purpose is to give back, to share knowledge, information, and encourage and inspire, Szczepanowski said.

She added, “Everyone that has the ability to give back should do it. I feel very strongly about that.”

As she readies for the second annual Ms. World pageant, which is set for May 26-28 at Everett Performing Arts Center in Everett, Washington, Szczepanowski is particularly excited because of its unique qualification guidelines.

“What’s great about this pageant is it doesn’t matter what your marital status is, this is about you as a person,” Szczepanowski said, adding that some pageants have strict qualification measures. “I do believe that’s one of the things that distinguishes it from the other pageants. Any woman can compete and be a part of it.”

The competition consists of an interview, an evening gown and fitness wear portion, and an on stage question. Szczepanowski said her expectations are to enjoy herself.

“As much as I would love to win, it doesn’t make a difference if I walk away with the crown or not,” she said. “I think that it’s all about the journey, so my expectations are to just have a great time.”