Interview with Figure Competitor Diane Kazer

An equally fun and fascinating aspect of the fitness industry is the wide spectrum of athletes imported from other sports. Each crossover brings a new story, a fresh and valuable perspective on their personal transition from one area of expertise—whether from playing fields, gymnasiums, ice rinks or track stadiums—to this blank canvas featuring high heels and flood lights shining on chiseled physiques in sequin-dotted bikinis.

Figure Competitor Diane Kazer

Perhaps no one captures this exciting, nerve-jarring, rewarding and sweeping experience more vividly or entertainingly than today’s subject Diane Kazer, a thoroughly engaging and extraordinarily bright new figure girl who comes to us from Southern California, home of Venice Beach, where sun-soaked denizens routinely link body and mind with affectionate, Zen-like perspicacity.

If you don’t believe it, you get that cool impression from Diane, a highly insightful raconteur with a rapier wit to match. The 32-year-old is a graduate from Central Valley’s University of the Pacific—where she had a soccer/academic scholarship—and a longtime elite level soccer player, having spent time as a pro in Europe and as a semi-pro in the U.S.

Now, she’s quickly climbing up the figure ranks, winning overall honors at last year’s NPC Pacific Championships—it was just her second show—and getting ready to take on the California State Championships at the end of this month before hitting the national stage later this summer.

No question, this girl has all kinds of talent and with trainers like Terry “Mr. America” Hairston and Kim Harris in her corner, it’s not too early to suggest the steely 5-foot-6, 135-pound newbie is a legitimate pro card contender. Fortunately, she’s just getting started and we’ll be seeing a lot more of her in these pages to come. Meanwhile, let’s get to know more about the warm and friendly, thoughtful and generous Diane in this latest interview.

* * *

Dean: After many successful seasons as a pro soccer player, you’re off to a promising start as a figure competitor. What made you decide to take on this new challenge?

Diane:”Well, rewind two years. I sold my financial planning company I operated for eight years to move to sunny SoCal from Sacramento, where I was born and raised. It was time for a change. After beaching and booking it for a few months, I began yearning for purpose again, and words from others in passing over the years dawned on me to ‘frolic’ into fitness. I trained harder and heavier than I ever had and my body began taking shape. Being the resourceful person I am, the day I reached 15% body fat, down from 22% when it all began, my question to my then trainer was ‘What’s next?’ I didn’t want to waste all of my efforts. My muscle and I sought meaning.”

Dean: How was training for your first show different from preparing for a game in your former sport? Were certain things easier and others more difficult?

California Cowgirl: The former soccer star strikes a playful fitness pose.

Diane:”NIGHT BEFORE GO TIME…

”Soccer = PASTA, Orange Slices and TONS of water.

”Figure Shows = Turkey, Greens and Cotton Mouth.

”I think about this one a lot. The REAL Di likes to lace on soccer cleats, spit, direct, slidetackle…sacrifice my body in the box to prevent a goal. I’m a pitbull on the field. I prep my mind to elicit an intimidation factor for defeat, and an inspiring leader for my pack. After the win, I come home with grass stains, dried blood, cuts and bruises all over me. Prepping for soccer is an 18 woman thing; prepping for figure is ALL ME.  So in terms of easier, figure is because I have to direct the reins of ONE person rather than an entire team. The only thing that is more difficult about figure is that it’s not yet second nature to me, whereas soccer is. But that’s also what I love about it…I’m still and always will be learning. 

”Figure humbles me. Getting all dolled up and blinged out puts each competitor in the spotlight, and I’m not used to that. The only time I was center focus in soccer was for a publication, a post game interview, to sign an autograph, or when I made an erroneous flop on the field (I always yelled at the ref for not yellow carding me for fouling myself for humor).  I’ve had to break my soccer walk on stage, and since you can hardly see anything beyond your high, clear heels anyway from all the Hot UFO’s beaming onto your face, I strut like no one’s watching and have fun with it.  My first show I was rigid and clueless; so the second show, I let loose and told myself to have fun…we can’t verbally TALK to the judges who determine our outcome, so SPEAK to them with your aura. Have a presence that impacts them, connect with them. After all, 80% of communication is non verbal, so take advantage of that. Both sports are a lot about communication and presence!

”Oh, and after both, my body sticks to the sheets—only one is spray tan, and the other is fresh wounds.”

Dean: Congrats on your overall title at the Pacific Championships last summer! That must have been a thrill. Can you describe your emotions on stage when they announced you as the winner?

Diane:”Thanks Dean! Yeah, well first of all, I felt like Mr Ed because as they moved us around and I never left the middle, my lips quivered with excitement. Then, when I was announced Overall, I was standing up there by myself with my gorgeous trophy; I looked over at my trainers, Terry and Kim, hoping I made them proud. But this was actually a HUGE pivotal point in my life.

Diane on changing from soccer to figure: "I trained harder and heavier than I ever had and my body began taking shape."

”Right there on stage, I had an epiphany about friendship—true friends support you regardless of their approval or understanding of your pursuits, they support your passion, what makes YOU happy, not them. Many of my ‘friends’ at the time thought what I was doing to my body was insane and suggested ‘Oh you could have just a bite of this 15-pound of cheese-loaded enchilada I’m eating’ or ‘Just a sip of Margarita from my Goblet the size of my backyard pool.’ Or that I can ‘skip just ONE night’ of cardio during the week to meet them for happy hour. Those friends that never got it, lost ME from that moment I was on stage, with ZERO friends in the audience. Fourteen of them had promised to be there cheering me on, and I hadn’t smoke signaled the details at all, they insisted on going.

”From that point on, I accepted the evolutionary pains of out-growing friends, leaving former ‘common ground’ behind to pursue higher land, greater growth. Many prefer comfort and routine, whereas I’m allergic to complacency. I always remind myself of the nature of humans: ‘People like to see you succeed, but not more than them.’  But of course, it was then I became insanely passionate about taking care of myself…and to climb even higher!”

Dean: Knowing what it takes to win in a team sport like soccer and now shifting to figure competitions—where winning is up to the individual—must be a unique transition for you. Is there any way you can compare the two in terms of what has been more satisfying or meaningful so far?

Diane:”In soccer, I was always a leader, a captain, so I put a lot of pressure and responsibility on myself to motivate each and every teammate of mine to be their best for themselves, for the team. If we came close to winning, or lost at the last minute to a goal, I’d internalize it and question what I could have done better, and in a sense, blame myself.  Over the years, I learned to channel it into lessons learned and it developed patience for myself, to be that much better the next go round, rather than moping and letting it get to me. To dwell is hell! It accomplishes nothing…and that acceptance prepared me for the life of a figure competitor, where without patience for yourself, and being consumed by the goal rather than the beauty of the journey, would drive you insane.

”Through my body transformations, I’ve developed a new respect for myself and appreciation for my efforts, and don’t downplay them like I did in soccer. It’s a different degree of accountability, but control does not exist in the past. Live in the moment! If you’re not here now, where are you? Wherever it is, it’s not real, and it’s not your life as it’s happening before you. Too much of my life I lost to re-living the play that lost the game. Focus on what you can control, which is here and now.”

Dean: Do you have any upcoming shows planned during this year?

Capturing the Prize: Diane is all smiles as she hoists her overall trophy at the 2010 NPC Pacific Championships.

Diane:”Can Jay Cutler bench press my new car? Of course I do! I have the CAL coming up on May 28 in Culver City then Junior Nationals in Chicago on June 18th. Then, if I nail those, Team Universe in New York and USAs in Vegas, baby YEAH!”

Dean: What kinds of things have you been working on to tweak your physique for next time you take the stage and what improvements in the gym lately are you most proud of?

Diane: ”Since I began this serious sculpting we figure gals do to achieve near perfect shape, I’ve learned a lot about my genetic makeup, and problem areas. I have the classic ‘soccer butt,’ whereby my quads have assumed most of my strength. I call my glutes my ‘last borns’ because they’re like the youngest kid in the family—they’re not asked to do much, and the parents don’t push them as much because they’re exhausted from pushing the kids that came before them. The other kids in the family step up because they’re used to being the authoritative ones (like my quads).  So I spend extra time on shaping my butt. I’ll never be J-Lo, but proportion and balance is what we’re targeting!  And as a Libra, I like that game!”

Dean: Switching gears to some fun questions. What kinds of reactions have you gotten from friends and family on your turn as a figure competitor and fitness model? Has your contest-shape look motivated them?

Diane:”This is what I’m falling in love with being in the sport.  I’m not sure if friends, family, fans and followers realize how much their motivation OF me motivates ME to motivate them even more. It’s enough to feel responsible to myself to push myself to higher limits, but it’s another to perpetuate as others’ role model and maintain that standard for them…to lead others to fulfilling their dreams through leading by example with passion. Speaking of, my biggest passion at present is to increase awareness of the danger of obesity, and help others respect themselves enough to take care of themselves. I find it hard to grasp the thought that we know more about how to care for our car engines than we do our own.”

Dean: Our members and fans tend to be curious when it comes to you fit ladies showing off at armwrestling or other strength challenges. Have you ever been asked to armwrestle or impressed someone, even just by coincidence, with your strength at the gym?

On figure success, Diane emphasizes patience and embracing the beauty of the journey. "Focus on what you can control, which is here and now."

Diane:”All the time. I don’t like being asked to armwrestle or flex or show off like that unless I have to, on stage. And if I impress someone, and they point it out, I acknowledge it, thank them, allow myself that momentary celebration, then ask myself what I want to be recognized for next and work hard on that weak point.

”What’s been the biggest challenge as of late, as the CAL is nearing, is I can’t go anywhere without being talked to. I’m asked what I eat, if I’m a trainer, where I work out, for the curious ones; being told what they eat, what they’re doing to build or lose, why they got off the fitness wagon, their life story for the approval seeking ones; or being asked for a personalized plan of what they should be eating, how they should work out, what supplements to take, etc for the aspired ones seeking quick, free tips. The best ones are folks that ask for the ‘magic pill’ easy-way-out advice…sadly, I lose respect for people like that.”

Dean: I’ve read that you are also into some extreme sports like skydiving and cliff jumping. Are you into these things mostly for the danger aspect or do you see them as another way to test your physical fitness level? What’s the toughest or scariest thing you’ve ever done?

Diane:”Although I like adrenaline, these days it’s more for the celebration of success in conquering the next level than the momentary realization that what I’m doing is dangerous. When I was a teenager and into my early 20’s, I was a die-hard snowboarder in the winter when college and semi pro leagues were off season. I was convinced that I was the next X-Games competitor, so I’d head off to Tahoe alone, to hit the half pipe and snow park. I’ll never forget a compliment I received one day from the lift operator who had been watching me ride the pipe all day. He told me I had improved a ton from when he had seen me earlier on in the season and that my confidence was getting as much air as I had been on my board out of the pipe. It fueled me to go bigger, until later that season, I tried something new, and landed harder than ever, 15 feet below me, shattering my shoulder. I ignored the pain, as my ego whispered ‘You’re fine, power through it, be strong,’ then six years later, it worsened and I had to have surgery.

”Again, three weeks ago, I took a bad spill off of my horse challenging him to the next level and it, too, woke me up, not to mention banged me up quite a bit. Blows to the ego like this over the years, has empowered my logical, conservative spirit and little things like Disneyland rides are a thrill to me now…last week I rode Space Mountain and it was the first time my body felt ‘off’ after it.  So, I guess you can say that my path into figure competing has grounded and tempered me. Although I still snowboard, wakeboard, ride my horse and play soccer, my idea of success in the act are defined differently.”

Dean: Diane, thanks so much for doing this interview. Before we wrap up, is there anything else I can help you promote—business, personal training, websites—or any special shout outs you’d like to give? Good luck on the contest trail and I hope we can catch up again soon!

Figure Role Model: "My biggest passion at present is to increase awareness of the danger of obesity," Diane explains, "and help others respect themselves enough to take care of themselves. I find it hard to grasp the thought that we know more about how to care for our car engines than we do our own."

Diane:”Of course, I am forever thankful for Terry Hairston and Kim Harris in helping to build this machine and the proper mindset to succeed in this industry. As a former pro athlete, I was like a mustang coming into this and had to be tamed once again. It’s a huge challenge to go from something you’ve mastered and can do in your sleep to something completely foreign where you know very little. I’ve regained my youth in a sense that I’m a sponge again. I no longer think I know it all, yet have accepted that rather, I have so much to learn from those who have mastered this industry. I remember how aspiring athletes approached me when I was a pro, and now it’s the other way around.

”As a perfectionist, I’m collecting certifications and titles along the way (current NASM Personal Trainer, studying for ISSA Sports Nutritionist, will be studying to be Core Power yoga instructor this summer), which I’ll be publicizing on my ‘under construction’ website, www.dianekazer.com. I sold my first autographed photo this week, and have been hired by the first family under my new diverse fitness package service I put together so am pretty amped at what my future holds in helping to better myself and others.

”Thank you Dean and Lou for both having me and capturing beauty in it’s natural state on behalf of myself and all female athletes who push their bodies beyond perceived limits. Lou, you are one of the first photographers I met in the business and still to this day, are one who I know I can trust, am always happy to see and am honored to call a friend. Thanks Krivs Studio for featuring me on your site! Namaste!”

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~ by Dean Sucich on May 5, 2011.

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