You may have seen me on Monday Night Football last fall, cheering and waving pom-poms. The camera only caught me for a few seconds at a time, but capturing even that sliver of focus took a hell of a lot of effort on my part – not to mention blood, sweat, and tears.
Growing up, I taught myself to dance in my bedroom, and ended up wanting to teach a hip-hop class at a gym. One day, a student who was a cheerleader for the local NFL team told me that I should check out the team. Pleased with the invitation but sure that I had no shot, I went to try out – along with hundreds of other girls.
Despite my doubts, I won the first round, which was a free dance to hip-hop. After two weeks of dancing in a bikini, undergoing lengthy interviews, a social media test, and taking a soccer knowledge test, a drug test battery, and a physical, I made the cut.
I quickly realized that the hardest part of dancing is not learning the eight count, the high kick, or any of the fun dances we were taught. It always looked good. Our conventions said, “Your appearance must be flawless at all times.”
We had to polish our nails with a soft or clear polish. We can be removed from the fun at the game if we show up with curls when the management ordered straight hair (even if it rains promising that the girl’s curly hair will go back after a few seconds) or our skin looks pale, sunburned. , or an orange color from false red. Even though I’ve been told that I was getting too tanned, I used to be able to keep my sun damage to the right color… and I have the permanent leopard-shaped spots on my back to show for it.
We had to ask the coaches for permission to change our appearance (say, a haircut or makeup), unless, of course, the manager ordered a change. One day, I was told to go to the salon that I had already arranged to pay out of my own pocket to have my hair dyed a different color that they had chosen for me. Their thinking? My natural hue made me look “too ethnic.” The white-haired, half-Latina’s jaw almost hit the floor.
But this was just the beginning of the relentless scrutiny that came to define my life on the team. We all received a list of each muscle group (back, inner thighs, outer thighs, quads, biceps, obliques, upper abs, etc.), with detailed explanations about what we needed to change.
My job was to “maintain,” except for my lower abs, where I had to “lose inches.” I got lucky compared to the team that said tighten the torso, dump the chicken fat on the arms, trim 2 inches off both thighs, and ditch the muffin top.
Three days before the first game, before I had even had my body fat or height measured, I was told that “physical fitness” required me not to weigh 122 pounds. I hadn’t been at that weight since I was a teenager (I’m 5 foot 3 and very muscular).
The first time I weighed 127 kilograms, the choreographer assured me it was just gas. But when the scale still showed 127 pounds on the day of the game, I was removed from the game, even though my family had driven eight hours from my hometown to see me happy. To add insult to injury, the next day at practice, the choreographer-with whom I had a controversial relationship, perhaps because I was not a “real” dancer-gave me a cookie from his lunch, knowing full well that I could not eat. it.
Determined to make the necessary weight for the second game, I took a week off from my full-time job, hired two personal trainers, did 3 hours of cardio and 30 minutes of ab work a day, and ate nothing but canned tuna and almonds. One week later, I weighed 118…. I had lost 9 pounds (and a whole cup size of bra) in 7 days! The doctor patted my buttocks and said “Good girl!”
I grew up dreading pregame measurements. No one would eat or drink on this day for fear of losing weight. I would wake up early in the morning and sit in the gym for hours hoping to break a sweat. All of the cheerleaders would jockey to be the first in line to step on the scale, because the sooner you weighed in, the more precious seconds you had to wind down the energy bars before dancing and cheering for four grueling hours straight.
Over the next several months, I alternated between starving myself and purging, working off only caffeine, herbal remedies, and the fear of yelling in front of a whole group. I took colonics, body wraps, took diet pills, fasted, and got enemas. In the end, I didn’t just have the six-pack abs they wanted, but visible ribs and dangerously low body fat to boot.
It’s inevitable: When you put 35 hungry, beautiful girls together, reality-show game levels ensue. When the experiment was over, we were still competitive—one less girl on the field meant more screen time for everyone. Take the chick who tried to bench me for telling my coach I got into a big party and saying I’m a cheerleader (a no-no). I was able to prove that it wasn’t true, but many other girls were addicted to suspension.
As things progressed, there was also an amazing connection. For example, whenever someone had a bad day or a breakup, most of the whole group rallied around him. But just because the friendship was true, it doesn’t mean that they have always been healthy—our friendship was limited to hours at the gym, followed by massage sessions or manicures. We would recommend detox diets, diuretics, and colon-cleansing pills.
Besides looking good, I was expected to act like an angel. My contract prohibited me from drinking, cursing, smoking, chewing gum, or publicizing myself as a celebrity. Once, I was told that if I got another speeding ticket, I would be fired.
While our code of conduct required us to act like nuns, strangers touched us (I lost count of how many guys put their hands on my shoulders when they took pictures of me). These weren’t just fans but corporate sponsors who paid big bucks for the chance to hang out with us.
One of the most painful moments for me was when my proud father saw me at the pregame show and came to hug me. I had to push him away—we were told not to be hugged by friends and family, lest people get the wrong idea.
The main rule was that we were not allowed to socialize with football players. I was already friends with some of the boys in college and even dated one for a while. He and I tried dating in private, but it ended because we were putting more work into keeping it private than actually being in a relationship.
It does not mean that the law has been successful in preventing romance from happening. A colleague left the team to marry a player, and some girls openly admitted that they liked to “gold dig” — they called playing with players as “unemployment.”
Everything about me was being told. My coach informed me that even though management liked my dimples, my smile didn’t fit the team’s image. “You have a good, outgoing personality, but can you tone it down?” I even had to turn down public appearances at my media job (which, of course, paid my bills) because the group was worried that I was a threat to their reputation.
The constant negative comments and strict rules were killing my self-esteem. I was always grumpy, high-strung, and hungry. I yelled at people for no reason, and many of my friends left me because, between work and fun, I was too busy to get together.
All the while, my best friends confronted my mom about their concerns about me and how I would become a different person…one they didn’t like very much. They tried to remind me how safe I was and how much fun I was pre-cheerleading. But I was so wrapped up in the attention I was getting that I didn’t give them another thought.
And at least it had money, right? Ha! We made $6 an hour for games (10 a season) and practice (about 7 to 10 hours a week), plus $12 an hour for appearances at special events. My total salary as a pro cheerleader in 2006 was $3,000, but after I deducted expenses (manicures, makeup, trainers, etc.), it dropped to $300. And for what? The glory of moonwalking (no, really) for drunken boys in the lower classes? Some girls have even suffered red hair after removing things like plastic surgery as a work-related expense.
The real point of happiness isn’t money though—many girls, including myself, get addicted to the fake look that comes with those pom-poms. I got my 15 minutes of fame, and the contagious excitement of football season makes you feel like you’re part of something big.
I was touched by how little girls looked at me, but when I started to think about what kind of role model I was, I realized that I had given up all my personality just to wear that uniform. So, when it came time for the second season, I got out. I still have close friends in the team, and we always hang out. As they order lettuce for lunch and complain about the current crush, I just giggle and reach for my cheese fries.
This article was originally published as “Tales of an NFL Cheerleader” in Cosmopolitan for November 2007. Click here to subscribe to the digital edition!
Is being a NFL cheerleader hard?
Being a professional cheerleader is truly rewarding and unforgettable. This may interest you : How much do Green Bay Packers cheerleaders make?. This position is prestigious (not to mention thousands of women audition for a few, coveted spots) and it takes a lot of dedication, hard work, and preparation on a physical, mental, and emotional level.
Do you have to be an athlete to be an NFL cheerleader? Requirements to Become a Cheerleader on an NFL Squad Before playing a game there is no requirement and there are no age and/or height or weight requirements for most teams.
How competitive is NFL cheerleading?
Cheerleading is an incredibly competitive field with many different levels of competition. This may interest you : UVA Cheerleaders salute Jackson-Via Elementary School Students. Some cheerleaders may only be expected to attend one or two games per week while others may be on the road for every game in a given season.
How much does a waterboy get paid for the NFL?
On average, NFL waterboys make $53,000 a year (according to Stack.com). However, it is only a salary for beginners. See the article : Just announced: Colts Gameday 2022 themes and promotions. For professionals, their salary can be as high as one of the highest paid NFL waterboys.
How much does an NFL towel boy make? According to NBC Sports, water boys, towel boys and similar workers usually start at â$53,000â per year. They have to go to their training in addition to all team training and games, home and away.
How much does a NFL Waterboy make a game?
Nowadays, batboys earn about 9-10 dollars an hour. In most cases, batboys work 8-9 hours a day in each home game. As a result, they can earn $10,900 to $20,000 per season.