We all know what it’s like to be a teenager trying things. On the show and in subsequent interviews, Dianna has been open and candid about falling off track during her later teenage years. She was living in California after high school and decided she needed to participate in adult films to make it. And while some might let this type of past keep them from mentoring children, Dianna has said that it’s actually helped her in coaching.
Being a person that has made mistakes in life, I use my life as a walking, talking blueprint as of what not to do. I tell the girls, also that it’s something that you can utilize as a lesson of what God can bring you from. A lot of times, as teenagers we can say, ‘You shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that.’ And they’re looking at you like ‘Womp womp. You’re an adult, you just don’t want me to do it because we’re not supposed to.’ But most of the time kids don’t understand that we’ve done this before. We’ve kissed boys, we’ve snuck out of the house. I don’t know many people that haven’t. Everybody’s done something, nobody’s squeaky clean. And for me, these were things that I felt like I needed to do at that time. And not realizing that later on in life, here I am sixteen years later, they could come back and try to almost haunt and literally take me out.
The girls know about my past. We’ve talked about it. They know about why I did what I did and why I felt like I needed to and what I should have done. And I explain to them that I didn’t have the support that system that they have. So they should really take advantage of the opportunity that they have. Not just myself but they have every parent that’s there. And believe it or not Selena is all about Sunjai but she’s also about all the other girls as well. She looks out for Kayla, Crystianna, Camryn, all the other girls that are on the team. All the parents look out for each other. I know Mimi is one of the biggest people that is an advocate for making sure the girls are ok, not just [Camryn] but all the girls as a whole. There’s a 103 of them y’all. And they all look out for each other. So the girls know that my life is something that you should use, and say if Dianna did this– maybe it’s not the best decision to make. I should use what I’m trying to do and compare it to what she did and say, ‘You know what, let’s not do that. Let me try something else.
MN: How has it come back to haunt you?
People try to utilize things that are negative to try to hurt you. And it’s been, for me, that whole situation has been something that I have been dealing with since I made the choice to do it. Moving from California to Mississippi, was a choice that I made to try to change my life and better myself to do things differently than what I was doing at that particular time. And when I say physically, grief and emotions can literally make you sick, physically. It can physically make you ill. And at the time when the opportunity presented itself, for the show, I originally said no because I felt like my past was going to hurt my kids. There was absolutely no way that I could allow something that I did to hurt somebody else’s child when I’m all about uplifting. That’s not the point. And after talking to the producers about my life and making decisions that could benefit somebody else and getting over it basically. That’s when it all kind of came full circle. I prayed about it. I talked to my husband about it, who was aware when we started dating. I mean, I’m an open book. And it’s the best choice that I could have possibly made, not because of the show but for me because I’m so at peace with myself right now. But it took a minute for me to even get to that point. So that’s what I mean, I was literally sinking behind it.
Abby Miller from “Dance Moms” often catches a lot of flack for being too hard on her dancers. How do you find the balance between correcting but not being too hard on them?
I don’t compare myself to Abby Lee Miller at all. You know her set coaching style is her style. And if that works for her studio, that works for her. My style works for me. But I’m still a tough coach. I don’t see anything wrong with the way Abby pushes her girls. She’s just pushing them to be amazing. I don’t see anything wrong with that. She’s just pushing them in different ways than I would. So with my girls I’m all about pushing but encouraging in the same breath. I’m going to yell at you and tell you what you’re doing wrong. Then I’m going to tell you how to fix it, then I’m going to get up and physically show you how to fix it. But I try to make sure that the girls understand, in the same breath, that I care about what you look like as a dancer. And sometimes you have to say it out loud for them to get it. As a kid, I didn’t grow up hearing those words, ‘I love you’ a lot. So for me, even though my mom showed me love, hearing it was better. So, as a coach, you can fuss and yell and scream, but you need to get up and actually show them what you’re doing. And that’s what I do with my girls.