More than just a beauty contest

More than just a beauty contest

Mrs. N.J. from Mahwah stresses the value of community service

Paige Lippe entered the Mrs. New Jersey United States 2014 contest to honor the work of her father, Dr. Michael Lippe, with first responders.

Yes, the lovely woman crowned Mrs. Mahwah, and subsequently Mrs. New Jersey United States 2014, is Jewish.

And yes, the glamorous photo displayed here might easily explain her success in the national beauty pageant.

But, says titleholder Paige Lippe, she did not enter the contest to garner admirers but rather to publicize the work of her late father, Dr. Michael S. Lippe.

As the Jewish Standard reported in December 2010, Dr. Lippe, the longtime emergency room director at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, N.Y., was killed in a plane crash on the way to the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York. He was on his way to Geneva General Hospital in Geneva, N.Y., when his plane went down in a storm.

Looking for a way to showcase the memorial project created by her mother in memory of Dr. Lippe, his daughter learned that this particular beauty pageant circuit, Mrs. United States, requires that contestants represent a “platform,” or cause, with which they are closely associated. (There are many other circuits including Miss America, Mrs. America, Miss Universe, Mrs. Universe, and so on.)

According to its website, the pageant fosters an environment “where the value of community service and state pride is as integral a part of the overall experience as the competition itself. Our shared vision is to promote New Jersey’s married women, encourage philanthropic efforts, and draw attention to companies and organizations of interest to married women across the state.”

“That hook got me involved,” said Ms. Lippe, 36, who is a board-certified behavioral analyst, explaining that she had first become interested in the idea of pageants after hearing a segment on National Public Radio.

“I decided to see if there was anything for married women, and I came across this,” she said. “I told the [now former] director that I had no performance talent and was told that what I needed was a platform.”

She had one – and the contest provided a great opportunity to publicize it.

Indeed, Ms. Lippe said, “It is this, the opportunity to talk about my father’s legacy and connect with the community to help local volunteer first responders, that was the sole purpose for my involvement in a pageant for married women.”

The Dr. Michael S. Lippe Memorial Project reflects the late physician’s commitment to support emergency medical services. A big supporter of first response care, he taught in Rockland Community College’s paramedic education program and helped design its curriculum.

The project holds fundraisers to benefit the Hudson Valley Paramedics Association and provides scholarships to local students.

“We give stethoscopes and modest scholarships to paramedic graduates and Mahwah High School graduates who demonstrate an interest in first response,” Ms. Lippe said. “We gave a scholarship to a girl who volunteered with the Mahwah Fire Department. We’re hoping the scholarship program will grow.”

Ms. Lippe said she recently approached the Jewish Home in Rockleigh to speak about its experiences with first responders. Her visit, she said, led to her decision to volunteer there.

“I’ll plan a once a month visit with my daughter,” she said, noting that she would coordinate an intergenerational art activity. (Her daughter, whose name she prefers not to provide, is 20 months old.)

Her mother, Suzanne Lippe, also from Mahwah, is an artist. Recently the project sponsored a fundraiser where she taught a two-hour class on drawing the human form. An upcoming fundraiser will be Halloween-themed.

Ms. Lippe, who met her husband, Jared Stephans, at a gym, said she got a personal trainer for six months “and was in the best shape of her life” when she entered the contest. She agreed that we don’t usually think of Jewish women entering such pageants.

“As far as I know, there was only one other Jewish woman” in the contest, she said; she was Mrs. New York.

Ms. Lippe said that despite the association of beauty pageants with body image, she thinks the cultural imperative for women to “look pretty … is unfortunate and archaic.” That having been said, “I feel better about myself when I feel strong and fit. It’s complicated for a young woman to look attractive and feel good about herself.

“It’s important for mothers to have time and health,” she added, pointing out that she also has to be strong in her job, where she works with developmentally delayed people who need physical assistance.

Mrs. New Jersey United States said there is little stress associated with her pageant title, and she creates her own opportunities to speak.

“With Rosh Hashanah coming, and losing my dad, we needed a new chapter for our family,” she said. “This is about my dad and his legacy – to remember him. Such a good man!”

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