This summer I had the chance to meet and speak with Lidia Szczepanowski – a true GIRL BOSS. Here’s what she had to say about pageant life, working as a female attorney, and standing up for yourself.
HC: When you were younger, did you ever think ‘one day I’m going to be a lawyer’?
Lidia: “It wasn’t until after I graduated from Hofstra University with a BBA in International Business that I even considered attending law school and becoming an attorney. During my college years, and for a short while after my graduation, I worked for Estee Lauder in Macy’s. I was offered a position as an Account Coordinator for the cosmetics company, but something inside me told me that was not my destiny. I decided to take the (LSAT) law school entrance exam and then I applied to just one law school, St. John’s University School of Law, seeking admission into their accelerated two-and-a-half-year program. Since chances appeared slim that I would be accepted, I thought that I would perhaps take a year off and teach windsurfing in Club Med somewhere. Well low and behold, I got into law school and the rest is history!”
HC: The law industry is somewhat male-dominated. Did you ever face obstacles based on your gender? If so, how did you overcome them?
Lidia: “I wish I had a dollar for every time I walked into a conference room and was asked whether I was the court reporter at a deposition or the title closer at a closing. Unfortunately, women are often judged by their gender and appearance. I overcame this issue by ‘putting my pride aside,’ showing composure, correcting the error graciously, and continuing what I was doing with dignity and confidence. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’”
HC: What advice do you have for other career-driven females working in a male-dominated industry?
Lidia: “The advice I would give to other women in male-dominated industries would be as follows: never compromise yourself or what you believe in, learn how to be assertive without being aggressive, don’t take everything personally, speak up, have a sense of humor and develop a thick skin, be confident, demand respect, and continue to keep your chin up and shoulders back even when you feel unsettled, and always support and empower other women because there is strength in numbers.”
HC: I’m really interested in learning more about The National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness, Inc. Could you give our readers a little insight?
Lidia: “The National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness, Inc. (‘NOWSA’), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity, raises awareness about sexual assault and other forms of violence against women and teens while promoting personal safety through education and various violence prevention and safety initiatives. The NOWSA reaches out to individuals, civic and corporate partners, schools, colleges, universities, public safety departments and government agencies and encourages them to help promote the message that sexual assault and other acts of violence against women and teens must not be tolerated. The NOWSA asks them to become ‘Voices for a Cause®.’ The NOWSA also gives victims of sexual assault and violence a forum where they can ‘Be a Voice’ and share their personal stories of tragedy and triumph to help build confidence and self-esteem. The act of sharing and telling is an act of empowerment, a way to reassert control over one’s life. Women and teens have the inalienable right to live violence free lives. Individuals and communities everywhere must take responsibility and take action to help maintain this fundamental freedom. The NOWSA also helps keep women and teens safer and build confidence and self-esteem through safety awareness seminars and initiatives which include efficient and practical methods of avoiding and defending against attacks. With assistance from several elected officials, the NOWSA has established November 1 – 7th as ‘Teen Personal Safety Awareness Week’ in the State of New York and the charity has launched several personal safety initiatives including the ‘I B SAFE’ silicone slap bracelet personal safety awareness campaign, ‘Voices For A Cause®’ programs, ‘Covers For A Cause’ book cover campaign, and the NOWSA’s informational website and blogs. www.TheNOWSA.org.”
HC: What inspired you to start NOWSA?
Lidia: “I was the victim of a sexual assault when I was 13, but I did not tell my parents or anyone that it happened until many years later. I started training in martial arts later in life and earned my black belt in karate, so I would never have to feel physically vulnerable or be a victim again. I created the dynamic, one-of-a-kind multi-media Stylish Safety® Women’s Safety Awareness and Personal Protection Seminars to educate women of all ages with simple, practical and effective defensive tactics to be used in real life situations. I wanted to share my story and my martial arts acumen in a unique and memorable way to help keep women and teens safer. I founded the National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness, Inc. (NOWSA) because I received such positive feedback about my Stylish Safety® seminars and I wanted to expand my message and continue to raise awareness about sexual assault and other violence against women and teens through additional educational programs and violence prevention and safety initiatives. The NOWSA would also be a formal organization through which these programs could be funded.”
HC: What thoughts were going through your head when the announcer crowned you Ms. World Elite 2017?
Lidia: “I was beyond elated and so proud when I heard my name called out as Mrs. World Elite. There were so many very beautiful, intelligent, and dynamic ladies who were vying for the title which made it that much more special to me. I knew at that moment that my year was going to be filled with fabulous appearances, new friendships and experiences, and I also knew that I would have a much bigger voice and audience with whom I would be sharing my powerful message of empowerment.”
HC: Were you nervous?
Lidia: “I would think that some people might consider me a beauty pageant veteran since I also competed in and won the titles of Mrs. New York America 2006, Mrs. New York International 2009, and Mrs. Corporate America 2013. When I competed in the Ms. World Pageant I was not very nervous at all. I was much more excited and really enjoying myself more than anything else.”
HC: Could you tell us a little bit about Everything Lidia?
Lidia: “Everything Lidia, Inc. is a multi-platform luxe lifestyle enterprise that celebrates smart, stylish, vibrant women and all their fabulousness! My positive message, delivered with passion, humor, and intelligence, is a rallying cheer for women of all ages who believe in ‘Getting, Having & Enjoying It All™’”
“As I have been previously quoted, ‘I want to inspire and challenge women to check their ordinary at the door and live the most remarkable life they can.’ The company shares progressive, cutting edge information and innovative and trendy ideas about health and beauty, career, safety, home, and ‘everything lifestyle’ while educating, challenging and inspiring women to feel fulfilled, successful and fabulous! Everything Lidia, Inc. spotlights topics from politics to pocketbooks and encourages women to realize their true self-worth and maximum achievement potential all while enjoying the ride and attaining genuine happiness. The company also offers thought-provoking, educational and inspirational events, speaking engagements, seminars, media offerings, and lifestyle products for the extraordinary woman who wants to live with great style and personality, confidence, elegance and panache!”
HC: What do you like to do in your free time (if you have free time, that is)?
Lidia: “During my free time, I enjoy cooking, dirt bike and quad riding, running (especially on the beach), playing tennis, skiing, just about every water sport you can think of including jumping waves in the ocean on my wave runner and challenging myself with extreme activities such as ‘Tough Mudder,’ ziplining, and scuba diving. I try to do these activities as often as possible together with my family. I also love to do anything creative including drawing, painting, writing or any fun project around the house. For example, I might buy a plain mirror and embellish it with shells that I collected on the beach.”
HC: What moment in your career did you think, ‘This is it. I made it’?
Lidia: “I’m still waiting for that moment to come.”
HC: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Lidia: “Through my company, Everything Lidia, Inc., I am launching a fashion line called Sculptura™ (the dresses are patent pending). Sculptura combines stylish design and luxurious fabrics with exclusive ‘sculpting tools’ to create the perfect body silhouette for any occasion. The exclusive dresses feature a figure-flattering design with elegant pleating and a super comfortable Spandex compression fabric lining to sculpt your dream figure. Also, my book, ‘There’s Something Fishy About That Skinny Bitch’ The unconventional, irreverent, and often unsophisticated guide to dining, losing weight and never dieting again! will be released soon! www.everythinglidia.com”
[Feature Image By Nikki McDonnell]