Homemade banana bread and a pot of black tea is a welcome sight as spreads go, especially if you’re sitting next to Diana Noriega Weng, Miss Redwood City-San Mateo County.
Weng and her mother, Mary, are more accommodating than people could expect to be at 8:30 a.m., on a day when the sky’s perpetually overcast and the ground is damp.
Their Foster City home is intimate and the definition of cozy, complete with a four-foot tall stuffed animal taking up half a couch.
Weng, the 2012 Miss Sing Tao pageant winner (run by the eponymous Chinese language newspaper based in San Francisco), was recently crowned Miss Redwood City/San Mateo County.
“[Miss Sing Tao] was my very first title and it was very special to me because Sing Tao is a multimedia company, its global actually and ... I connected with the staff and the other contestants, my court — it was a very special experience and it was my favorite pageant, actually, and I loved all the people there,” Weng said.
The scholarship program that organizes the pageant is an official preliminary to enter the Miss America Pageant, where she will first compete in the Miss California pageant in Fresno in June.
“The competition is going to be very difficult, but I’m also very confident in my abilities to be successful, it doesn’t mean to win, because it’s very difficult to win, but just to be successful and content with my results and my performance there,” Weng said.
The pageant will have contestants representing all 58 of the state’s counties, judged upon criteria such as: swimsuit, evening gown, questions and answers, judges’ private interviews with contestants and talent presentation. The latter two categories are the most heavily weighted.
“[To prepare for the interview portion], I had to catch up on my current events and read up on politics, the government and what is happening around the world with health and different types of industries, so it was a tough process,” Weng said.
She is preparing for the pageant by honing her approach to interviews, swimsuit portion (which is used as a barometer to physical fitness) and talent presentation.
“I’m preparing by eating healthy, working out very often, which is part of my personal platform, which is ‘Healthy and Active Lifestyles.’ I’m also in the midst of choosing my evening gown, which is the best part of it all, because it’s the gown you could possibly be crowned in, you have to choose the right style the way it fits on you, the right color, but it should always be true to yourself and who you are.” Weng said. “I’m also working on my talent. That’s the difficult part — it has to be technical, yet eye-catching and entertaining for the judges to score high on [your presentation].”
Currently a student at San Francisco State University, Weng has a scholarship to Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, where she will major in Spanish and minor in dance. Weng admits, like other students, paying tuition is one of her major challenges, along with graduating in four years.
Studying Spanish for two hours a day, Weng is working on her certification for translation and interpretation, after translating two published books already.
Aside from written works, she sees a practical application for her language skills.
“I would love to work for Redwood City or the county and use my translation and interpretation skills,” she said.
Love of dance
Using her knowledge of dance, Weng is an instructor in after-school programs for elementary to high school age students. Two teams made up of high school dancers she teaches are Hyperactivez and High Voltage, with performances at community events such as the San Mateo County Fair.
“I’ve been teaching dance for what seems like five to six years already, and I’ve had various teams over the years, I’ve actually been asked to coach and train the Miss Teen Chinatown Girls, along with dancers from the VYDC (Vietnamese Youth Development Center),” Weng said.
Besides working for the county and youth dancers, Weng has aspirations to help her community on a wider scale.
“I would love to one day set up my own [recreation] center ... it’s going to be open to young adults, because they need the most guidance, especially at that vulnerable age, that’s the time to guide them and implement good values and morals in to them, dance classes are on offer, we could have Sunday school, we could have language classes ... I would love for teens to have some place to go to,” Weng said.
When Weng looks for her own role models, she doesn’t have far to go, as her mother and sister inspire her work ethic and dedication to education.
“My mother is fluent in seven languages and is a language teacher and she teaches all over the Peninsula. ... My sister is a ballerina and she has studied ballet for over 10 years, even though she has scoliosis, she fights through the pain and she’s a beautiful ballerina,” Weng said.
Living in Mexico with Chinese and Mexican ancestry for the first 12 years of her life strengthened her and her family’s resolve to succeed.
“[It] was not the easiest of situations, we dealt with discrimination, my sister and I dealt with bullying and it was difficult growing up there, but [my mother and sister] were very strong,” Weng said. “And even though my sister is younger than I am, I look up to her because she’s a role model for anyone her age.”