“Let’s Root for the Boys:” The Reimagining of the NFL Cheerleader

"Let's Root for the Boys:" The Reimagining of the NFL Cheerleader

He says the team should have considered men earlier – auditions were always open to anyone – but none came forward until last year. Both Jinnies and Peron knew women who were already with the Rams and encouraged them to try. But each was surprised to see the other on the day of the test, having competed against each other many times before.

“I went up to him and said, ‘Hey, since we’re the only two boys here, let’s root for the boys.’ And in that moment I think that cemented our place,” Peron says. “‘If they’re going to take us, they’re going to take us. But I don’t think they can choose between one of us.”’ It turned out that instinct was correct.

“They call my name, and I make this weird sound, like, ‘Aaauuhh,’ ” Jinnies recalled. “They give me my shirt, and [I’m] like, ‘I did it,’ ” and there are rivers of water coming out of my face.”

The following season ended for the Rams in the Super Bowl, making it an unlikely rookie year for Jinnies and Peron, who became the first male linebackers to play in the game. the NFL’s best. In the past year, they have been traveling with their comrades, dancing, speaking, doing volunteer work, and even visiting soldiers overseas.

When I met the two at Starbucks across from their gym, both had just returned from military tours in Guam and South Korea. Peron, who is also a dance teacher, said he spent part of his time teaching other happy children. “Some of the fathers tried,” he adds, smiling.

For both Peron and Jinnies, getting to that point was a long, sometimes painful road. Peron didn’t discover her love of dance until her junior year of high school—especially late for someone who is already a professional athlete. She credits So You Think You Can Dance for inspiring her: Watching tWitch and Will — black men who looked like her — perform, she knew she wanted to do it. He quit his basketball team that weekend, angering his father, the coach, and began studying at the local academy.

Her parents firmly opposed her pursuit of dance, in ways big and small—they got mad at her when she wore tights to ballet class, complained about all-day competitions, and refused to pay dance lesson. As a result, Peron, tall and broad-shouldered and often flashing a big, warm smile, took academic courses, spending long hours cleaning the studio after his friends go back home. It wasn’t until she signed with an agent and started collecting royalties for her choreography work that her parents really came around.

On the other hand, Jinnies parents moved to the mountains to give their son the best dance lessons. When she started getting serious about dance in high school, her mother would drive two hours from Santa Barbara to Costa Mesa after a full day of work so that Jinnies could attend class. and they returned home. They did that twice a week, until he saw his high school dream team in action. He decided to check out, despite knowing that if he did, he would need to live in the Anaheim school district, which would mean leaving his parents’ home.

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