1-on-1 with Diana Meyer, the newest Mrs. New York American and Rochester native

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester native Diana Meyer has quite a resume, ranging from flautist, to Alzheimer patient and brain health advocate, to talent scout, to now Mrs. New York American.

At 25, she is headed to the Mrs. American in November in Las Vegas, where she will participate in a private interview, formal wear, swimwear, and answer a public question. The competition runs from the 11th-13th, and if she wins, she’s on to Mrs. World.

This competition is different than Miss America: Miss America requires that contestants are unmarried, whereas Mrs. America, according to Meyer, “must be at least 18 years old, a United States citizen, and a married woman.” The pageant’s motto is “We Are Family.”

Meyer married in October in 2020, making her ineligible to compete in the “Miss America” competition, but she can compete in “Mrs. American.” Her husband, Josh, is currently an enlisted member of the Army, Sergeant First Class, playing trumpet with the 198th Army Band in Rochester.

She adds that anyone can get involved, saying “it’s never too late to start in pageantry,” by going to this site and applying; also adding that she is happy to pass along advice to anyone that needs it.

Currently, she is working with local jazz radio station Jazz90.1 WGMC on collecting and donating new and gently used AM or FM radios to give to seniors in nursing homes or have Alzheimer’s or other brain health issues. The project is called “Rochester’s Gift of Music.”

“Diana came to us with this fantastic concept back in 2017, and we instantly wanted to join this effort.” said Jazz90.1 Station Manager Rob Linton in a press release. “We collected nearly two dozen radios, which were then donated to local memory care facilities. The program was so successful – and made such a difference – we wanted to do it again.”

Thursday the station announced that “over 50 radios (have been) collected so far.”

Following her Mrs. New York win ealier this month, with Meyer for a 1-on-1.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You did teen pageants, given my math about seven years ago now… What made you want to get started in doing pageantry?

I’ve always been in competitions, whether it was gymnastics, or playing my flute, and actually I never thought about competing in pageants because I was a competitive gymnast… I was almost like a tomboy.

Almost 10 years ago, I actually got a letter in the mail encouraging me to be a part of a pageant. And I said, “ah, this really isn’t for me.” But then the moment I saw so many titleholders serving in their community, being really articulate… (They) just knew who they were as an individual, and that was something that I knew I wanted to be.

I have a “Type A” personality, and that just seemed to really enhance who I already was. So I got involved with pageantry 10 years ago. I really like it for so many different reasons. I think you meet so many incredible people. You also have so many opportunities that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I’ve been able to serve my community and continue to raise more money for the Alzheimer’s Association, bring awareness of brain health, that it would have never had the opportunity to do before. Pageantry helps you just become a better person.

I think of course you prepare for every area of competition, but you really grow as an individual. And I recently heard before competing for Mrs. New York, “just give the judges your best self.” And I really think that’s what preparation for a pageant can do and who wouldn’t want to be a better well-rounded individual.

I think that might be something that sort of surprises people about the pageant world is that so much of it is about giving back. And one of the things you do is you work a lot with the Alzheimer’s Association in town and brain health. First, why is it important to you to get back to your community? What inspired you to give back to these Alzheimer’s and brain health institutions?

I’ve always really been motivated by people. I really find so much joy when somebody receives from me, and they’re better in some way.

For specifically for Alzheimer’s… We all age, and symptoms of Alzheimer’s is prominent in people when they age and, it’s a disease that doesn’t have a cure. And after seeing my grandmother go through that for eight years, it was really important to me to make a difference.

And I’m a flutist and I have been for as long as I can remember. So I created “Unlocking Memories Through Music” 14 years ago in honor, of my grandmother’s diagnosis.

And most importantly, as a flutist, I perform flute duets in memory care homes because when somebody hears her favorite song, like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” for example, they really light up with joy, and it brings back memories and emotion that the disease does take away.

I also collaborate with community organizations to collect portable radio donations that are then donated to a memory care home so that music stimulation can last long after the live performances are done.

You partnered with community jazz community Jazz90.1. Why did you want to team up with them for this AM/FM radio partnership?.

I’m partnering with Jazz90.1 for the second time. We did that a few years ago to collect portable radios from community members. I picked Jazz90.1 because I have actually known Rob Linton for a long time; (since) I was about two years old.

Rob, I think was a student of my mom’s. She just retired as the Hilton High School Band director. And Rob was actually one of my mom’s students and he’s also a professor at Fisher, which is my alumna.

So it just seemed to be really fitting that we could collaborate after so many years of him being a part of my life. And I’m really thankful for his support. And we really hope to donate at least 50 radios this year to a local memory care home in Rochester.

Saint John Fisher, you recently went to school there, you graduated, and this is something that also might be surprising to people… Pageantry is not your full-time job. You had an entire academic career and a full-time job.

I went to Fisher for bachelors in communications and a minor in Spanish. I really had the dream to be a news anchor. Life had different plans for me as a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association. At the time I secured a full-time job with them, which was so rewarding.

I’m really motivated by people. So that was really fulfilling. I gained the business development experience there, and as time went on now, I am at Robert Haft as a talent manager and I absolutely love it. It puts my Type A personality background in marketing and communications with business development, right at the forefront when I help people find careers in accounting and finance.

Bouncing around a little bit here… You said you’re a flutist and you still perform… How do you find time to practice?

Well I’m really lucky that I was very successful playing my flute in high school. So now it’s just muscle memory. I don’t practice as much as I would love to anymore, but it’s something that my mom and I love to do together.

As I mentioned, my mom is a former high school band director. She’s a flutist as well. And we really just enjoy the time playing actually during Christmas time playing flute duets together. It reminds me of the times we were able to do that for my grandmother when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

You said early that a pageant is was really a way to better yourself. This is something now that you’ve been doing for a long time. And you’ve said in your own words, that this fits with your “Type A” personality. What about yourself that you have seen change improve since you’ve started this whole process?

When I started competing in pageants 10 years ago I was confident, but not nearly as confident as I am back then. And I think you get this perception of pageant people or pageant women who participate that you have to be perfect and you fit this mold. And it’s really not about that.

As I continued on in my pageant journey, I’ve learned to really embrace who I am, and what makes me unique. And I truthfully believe that I am a down to earth, really relatable young woman who can connect with so many different people, whether it’s, you know, teens on my peer mentor tour — speaking to students about setting goals and making positive choices — and being ambassador for our national charity Victoria’s Voice, or whether it’s with seniors, helping them relive the most precious moments in their life, which is something that Alzheimer’s does take away with them.

So I really try to make that apparent, because I really want to make sure I can impact and put every person I meet right at the forefront and make them feel important. And I really hope that I can continue to do that in the national stage as well when I compete for Mrs. American in Las Vegas in November.

I found a project if yours called “Dialogue by Diana,” obviously communication and media is a thing that is important to you. What is that talking about? What do you hope to do with it?

It’s is a lifestyle blog that I created, of course, because I have a passion for writing, and media and communication because of my career at Fisher. But I’ll tell you a funny story:

When I was a kid, I used to carry around a notebook and write stories. So it just seemed fitting that I carried on that tradition by creating this blog. I really like to share some tips and tricks, professional, personal, and also interview some local professionals here in Rochester to connect people because networking is so powerful.

Some of the things that I hope to do with it… Who knows, maybe I’ll get some sponsors and things like that. But we’ll see, I’m really excited to in the future interview, some former or forever Mrs. New Yorks and share their experiences on the blog, because I really want people to know that this pageant can really springboard you into the future. And what does that look like?

Maybe you never thought about competing in a pageant and this opportunity on my blog will allow so many different people from so many different walks of life to see, wow, I can do that. And here’s how I can benefit.

One thing you talked about is your confidence increasing from when you’re younger until now. What would your younger self think, seeing where you are now, all the things you’re doing and the platform that you have… What would a little Diana say?

I don’t even think that she could believe it to be completely honest. I look back at myself and she really, really wanted to just be successful and be happy. And I really think that I’ve accomplished that.

I just want to encourage so many teens, and young girls, and boys that they too can do whatever they set their mind to.

I think of where I am now, I’m 25 years old, I’m married. I just bought a house. I have this incredible title that so many people strive for. And at 25 years old, I’m able to do that. But honestly, regardless of the successes that I have, I’m humbled. And I think that’s one of the things that is really important because sure, you can have all these things in your life, but it’s feeling content and happy and joy in your life. That really, really matters.

How’d it feel when they put the Mrs. New York sash on you?

I was one shocked. And I feel like this has been a 10 year journey and throughout preparing and during the pageant weekend as well, I got really emotional. There were moments where I cried and this was something that really, really means a lot to me. I never thought that I would compete again in a pageant as a married woman. And I’m just really, really happy to be here today, just promoting my initiatives and the Mrs. American organization and really excited to represent our home state at the national pageant in November.

Talk to us about the competition. When is it, what does it look like? How are you getting yourself mentally and physically?

The competition consistent, a few different areas. Uh, so first you have a private interview and they ask you questions about yourself, your family, what you’re passionate about. You also have the bathing suit competition, formal wear competition.

You even have a state costume. So I’ll have to put together something really fun that represents New York. And then you obviously have your onstage question as well, which is just an extension of the private interview. How I’m preparing of course is for every area of competition promoting my initiatives and passions, of course the Mrs. American pageant. But again, I really think it’s about being your best self and I will do anything I can to make sure I’m in the right mindset. I have, you know, everything lined up so I can be my best self on that stage in November.

I have to ask, will you do a garbage plate costume? Do you think that’s in the cards?

Literally yesterday, we were asked if your hometown could be a food, what would it be? And I said, well, the garbage plate, right? And I went onto my Instagram afterwards, my title holder Instagram, (asking about that).

You might have to check with your sources that improves or detracts… It might not be worth it if you can’t get the “W.” I like to end all of these kinds of one-on-one interviews with three sort of big picture questions. I call it the lightning round, but feel free to take your time. You’re obviously, from this area, Rochester native… What about this hometown has molded you inspired you, what is unique about it that has allowed you to be in the position?

Rochester is so special to me, not only because I grew up here, but I think we have so many important things that not every other place does. For example, our local businesses and restaurants. My favorite are, you know, The Hideaway, the Parkleigh, some of the restaurants on Park Ave…

Just those things make us unique and remind me of home. And all of these businesses provide local ingredients, local merchandise, which I think is really important to support local as well.

I carry that passion. And with me forward into the pageant for in November, and I’m really excited to run.

You’ve done so much in your 25 years. So you could probably fill up an entire sheet of this notepad with all the things you’re doing. But if you could — obviously the obvious goes without saying here, winning the November — but if there’s like a next thing you want to achieve, and next thing you want to do, and next sort of like check on the list or feather in your cap, what would that be?

That’s hard. I don’t know if I’ve thought about that yet, but I think one of the things that my husband and I really want to do is invest in property. It’s probably one of the next things on our list.

My husband’s a United States Army soldier, active duty. So whether that’s here in New York or in another state, we’d really like to expand our footprint and who knows? Maybe there’s kids down the road, fingers crossed, right?

But I think that’s far down the road and right now I really just like to live in the moment. So it really just preparing for the national pageant.

We’ve touched upon a couple of these themes already, what it did for you when you were younger. If you had any advice for anyone who is aspiring to go into pageantry or being an advocate for any kind of fundraiser, nonprofits?

Put your best foot forward and find what you’re passionate about, because if you’re passionate about a cause why not use an organization like Mrs. American to promote it further. And you know, if you want to get involved with your community, don’t just get involved again… Find what you’re passionate about, and that will really motivate you to make a difference.

For me, it was Alzheimer’s because of my grandmother’s diagnosis. So that really motivates me to be that top fundraiser, create my own initiative and be an advocate on so many different levels.

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