Many people in Malibu know the friendly face of Diana Perry, who works part-time as a security guard for a prestigious gated community on the weekends. Perry, 53, also runs a cleaning business she purchased after working as an apprentice for eight years. But many may not know that Perry has faced and persevered through many challenges in her life, including a bout with homelessness and the loss of her Palmdale house in 2011 due to the housing crisis.
The Malibu Times caught up with Perry to talk about perseverance, hard work and the lessons she’s learned from 24 years spent in Malibu.
Tell me a little about your experience working as a guard in Malibu.
I’ve been doing it for about 24 years now. As a person coming from Los Angeles, Calif., I never had experience working with people of wealth. I only saw this experience on television. I decided to take on the challenge. And it taught me a lot. I learned how to provide customer service. It taught me how to become personable with people. Communicating with prestigious people is a great advantage for me. It has allowed me to come in contact with great, nice people. I’ve seen so many children grow up who are now driving and going away to school. It’s been an absolute pleasure and has helped me become the person I am today.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
Around 1992, I had many obstacles in my life. I needed more money. I didn’t have a place of my own. I had an old Buick that stopped running. It needed major mechanical work. I parked on the street and slept in my car for eight months across from the guard gate where I was working. That was an experience in itself. Someone who lived in the gated community helped me get on my feet. I stayed at their limo driver’s home. They helped me find somewhere to live. I will never, ever forget those people in my life. They really looked out for me. But this experience is why I am the person I am today. I appreciate having a job today. I put a lot of effort to get to where I am. But I’m still trying to reach more goals. Not done yet.
Tell me about your cleaning service and how you got started.
There was a guy who would clean the guard’s house who needed some help. I knew nothing about cleaning a house. He asked me to work with him part time. So for two days a week, I would work with him and go house to house and he taught me the technique. I did what he told me to do. Eight years later he sold his business and told me he will help me out and give me two of his customers. And he really did. I’ve been through a lot, but it’s OK, it can only get better.
You’ve been through a lot, but it hasn’t dampened your spirit. To what do you owe that?
I give my thanks to God. The determination that I have comes from an outer force. Things will get better. Push hard, work hard, be diligent in your work and good things will happen.
How would you describe your experience working in Malibu?
Overall it’s been a learning experience. It’s taught me how to communicate with various types of people and utilize the tools I have that I didn’t know I had. I didn’t even know where Malibu was. The first time I drove out on the highway I saw how beautiful it is. The security service company sent me out here. I was jobless and submitted an application.
How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks?
That too was new. I had never had a portrait done. At first when she told me I have to stay still for two hours, I asked myself if I could really do that. I’m constantly on the go. It was great. She made me feel so comfortable and very at home. She put on some music, she was painting and we were chit chatting. She was very nice, very warm. The atmosphere was great. I managed to pull through it and hold still.
Johanna Spinks paints portrait by commission. Visit johannaspinks. com or call 310.384.7029 for more information.