By Rita J. Egan
After being crowned Miss Teen New York International in October, Dix Hills resident Rachel Goldsmith is ready to represent her state and share the stage with teens from around the globe. The New York competition was the first time the 14-year-old entered a pageant, and she is thrilled about competing at the Miss Teen International Pageant in Jacksonville, Fla., on July 30 and August 1.
When she won the crown at the New York pageant, Rachel said everything was a blur to her. “It was nothing like I ever experienced before,” she said.
However, the recent graduate from West Hollow Middle School is no stranger to the pageant circuit. Growing up she, along with her father Steven and brothers Daniel and Jonathan, would watch her mother, Lidia Szczepanowski-Goldsmith, participate in pageants and win titles such as Mrs. New York America and Mrs. New York International.
Rachel said she remembers her mother looking so beautiful on stage and thinking to herself that she wanted to be in pageants, too. She also remembers how much fun the family would have traveling and attending the events.
“The whole thing was just a really positive family experience. It was positive for my mom; it was positive for the future. It was amazing overall,” Rachel said.
The pageant participant said she is looking forward to meeting contestants from all over the United States, as well as the world, at the Miss Teen International event in Florida. She is also eager to present her platform, which is to raise awareness when it comes to teen suicide.
Rachel said she went through a rough time in middle school at first. However, she quickly learned to reach out to her parents and others. Her experience led Goldsmith to research teen depression and create the website U Will B Ok, where teens can visit for information and to share their stories.
“Middle school is that one time where if you ask any parent or older teen, they’ll all say that, ‘Yeah, middle school is awful.’ And, it’s that time when kids don’t really know who they are — they’re still discovering themselves, and they are in groups and they’re trying to figure out how to treat people. There are a lot of cliques. They don’t know who they are as a person, so they need to click off of other people to feel like they belong somewhere, and sometimes around that time it’s really hard for the kids that aren’t in the cliques,” Rachel said.
Her mom understands the demands on teenagers nowadays, with their studies, testing and extracurricular activities. While Rachel does extremely well in school academically and is a high honor roll student, her mother said, like many young teens, she had a hard time fitting in at first.
“It was very difficult at that transition time, where everyone is trying to find themselves, because she didn’t fit in anywhere,” Szczepanowski-Goldsmith said.
Over the last few years, Rachel has become more comfortable in her own skin and said she has adapted a punk fashion sense. Her mother said when you meet her, her daughter is the epitome of what you wouldn’t expect from a beauty queen. However, while her everyday style may not say pageant winner, her volunteer work does.
In addition to her website, for several years Rachel has been the teen ambassador and a volunteer for the National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness Inc., where she has participated in fashion shows and sold merchandise to raise money. The pageant winner also visits veterans and organizes parties with the organization Yes We Care Inc.
Rachel, who in her spare time enjoys archery, scuba diving and watching “The Walking Dead,” dreams of one day becoming a special effects makeup artist for movies, where prosthetics and makeup are needed to create monsters and zombies. She said if that doesn’t work out, she would love to do something in a creative field such as graphic design, illustrating, marketing or journalism.
For now, Rachel directs her energy toward preparing for the upcoming pageant, and she said she and her mother are having a lot of fun doing so. Szczepanowski-Goldsmith says her daughter’s decision to participate in this competition has provided them with more mother-daughter time. The two not only shop together to find the perfect outfits, but her mother also helps her prepare for the interview segment, sometimes even asking her questions in the car.
Rachel said she isn’t nervous about whether or not she’ll be Miss Teen International when she starts Half Hollow Hills High School East this September. She said she has learned from her mother to enjoy the overall experience of participating in pageants, including the preparation.
“You can’t just focus on the moment. You have to look at what it took to get to that point,” her mother said.
Szczepanowski-Goldsmith has also taught her daughter to go into a pageant with no expectations, and most important of all, to just be herself. “I just want her to have a positive experience. I know how wonderful and how much fun it was for me, and I think that it’s really all about the journey, and I think she’s going to have a great time,” Szczepanowski-Goldsmith said.
To visit Rachel’s website, go to www.uwillbok.com. To find out more about the Miss Teen International Pageant, visit their official site at www.missteeninternational.us.