Former Miss California turns to volunteerism, interior design

Familiar Faces
By: Menka Belgal, Telegraph Correspondent
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Dianne Drisko was Miss California in 1972 and is still involved in the Miss America Organization. She and her husband Richard moved to El Dorado Hills in 1998 with their family from Danville. “When we moved here there was very little around,” she said. “There was merely a sign posted that read Town Center but it was void of any buildings.” She said it was exciting to see the growth in El Dorado Hills and to watch it become a hub for food, shopping and entertainment. What do you currently do? I have been in the interior design field for 25 years. In Danville my business partner and I started Veranda Interiors specializing in residential design and new construction. When I moved to El Dorado Hills I started Veranda Interiors North. I continued working in the design field while volunteering for the Miss California/Miss America Organization. How did you become involved in the Miss America Organization (MAO)? In 1972 I entered the Miss San Mateo County Pageant which is an official preliminary to the Miss California pageant. My win as Miss San Mateo County took me to the Miss California and eventually the Miss America pageants. After my year and experiences I found it enjoyable volunteering in order to help other young women learn who they could become potentially, and earn scholarship funds for college. I have produced and served as co-executive director of the Miss Gold Country and Miss Sacramento pageants. I was also asked to produce the California Outstanding Teen program which I stayed involved with for three years. The program was in its infancy and now shares the same stage with Miss California Pageant. As a matter of fact this year’s Sacramento Outstanding Teen, Sydney Claire Slaughter is a student at Oak Ridge High School. She is a very beautiful and talented young lady. I hope she continues her involvement with the MAO. Do you think the MAO program exploits women? I think we have moved far past that suggestion. The Miss America Organization is not the same as the Miss U.S.A. and Miss Universe pageants which are owned by Donald Trump. MAO is a non-profit organization that provides young women with the opportunity to continue their education with scholarship. How much scholarship does MAO offer? MAO is still the world’s largest scholarship foundation. Miss America received a $50,000 scholarship and last year the MAO and its state and local organizations made more than $45 million in scholarship assistance available. How are the women judged? They are judged in interview, swimsuit, evening gown, and talent and each contestant must have a platform they are committed to working with. For example MAO helped to raise millions for the Children’s Miracle network. What was your talent in the Miss America Pageant? My talent was ballet. I performed Black Swan from “Swan Lake.” Where did you receive your training? I received my training from the San Francisco Ballet in addition to studying at American Ballet Theatre in New York one summer. What are some interesting things that have happened to you? I received a telegram from Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, and I had a couple of interesting encounters with Congressman Leo Ryan. I was at a Fourth of July parade in San Mateo County as The Dream Girl for the San Mateo County Fair and sitting behind me on the reviewing stand was Leo Ryan. He tapped me on the shoulder and said that he had heard that I was a very talented young lady and had a good chance of becoming the next Miss California. I remember being surprised and delighted by his comment. In 1972, one year later, he introduced me at the State Capitol as Miss California. We had a delightful lunch and he gave me some pointers on how to handle the press. I was star struck by this man and deeply saddened by his death when he was killed in 1978 at the Jonestown Massacre. What were some of your favorite experiences? My favorite experience was the U.S.O. Tour I was on with Miss America. Our troupe of seven sang and danced our way through Korea, Okinawa and Hawaii. We performed in the heat and humidity on all kinds of surfaces entertaining our American Troupes. We performed at the real Camp Red Cloud and toured the M.A.S.H. hospital. I remember seeing a very large autographed picture of the cast from the movie M.A.S.H. which was proudly displayed in a very humble setting. Our troupe was also flown by three small planes to the D.M.Z. (de-militarized zone) in Korea. We performed and went in a room that held negotiations between the North and South Koreans. I remember sensing tension and the concern to get us in and out of the base safely. We had to leave before sunset to avoid having our plane shot. Do you have children? I have three girls and two boys, all of them are adult children. I also have been very blessed with two grandsons. My life has made a shift in the past year working less and traveling more to Utah to spend time with my grandchildren. What have been doing since you were Miss California? Of course, being Miss California opened many doors for me. It was up to me to decide what it was I wanted to do. I attended San Francisco State College and although I had ideas of becoming an actress and comedienne I eventually found myself in the interior design field. I started work in Concord, and met the man who would later become my second husband. I continue to do a little design mostly for friends although I did spend a few months in Utah this year working in the interior design field. I still keep in touch with many former Miss California (ladies) via Facebook and an occasional get together. We are a unique sorority or sisterhood that shares a unique experience. Did you know that a family has a better chance of having a son play for an NFL team than having a daughter compete at Miss America?