Looking After America’s Sweethearts: An Interview with Kelli Finglass

KelliFinglassHSWarren Allan
AmstarDMC.com
April 8th, 2015

At the end of March, Amstar had the pleasure to team up with the Tourism Board of the Riviera Maya and Iberostar Quetzal and Tucan Hotel in Playa del Carmen to host the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders on their annual swimsuit calendar photo shoot. During the hectic schedule, we found time to sit down for an interview with Kelli Finglass, Director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

How long have you been a part of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders organization?

I started out as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. I cheered for five years in the 1980’s, and then I went on to be Assistant Director for one year. Afterwards, I worked in marketing for a year before becoming Director, which I’ve now been doing for the past 24 years, so 31 years in total.

What’s it like being a cheerleader?

Well, it’s a whirlwind. It’s a very busy lifestyle; a fabulous collection of friends and dancers and athletes. For performers it’s really a dream come true to be able to perform and dance, and then you mix that with the NFL and it’s an amazing experience. The best part is probably the close friendships that develop through the camaraderie of the travels and the locker room.

We were actually going to ask you what the best aspect of being a cheerleader is; so it’s the camaraderie that develops between the girls?

Well, yes, in the long-term, the camaraderie that develops between the girls is probably the best part. The experiences that they have together, for example, through trips like this to the Riviera Maya; imagine going to an area like this for eight days with 21 of your best friends. It’s just an incredible, fun, exciting, glamorous and exotic adventure.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are known and loved around the world. What’s the biggest stereotype about the cheerleaders?

I think a lot of times the people don’t realize that the cheerleaders have careers and have impressive educations. All of our cheerleaders have their bachelor’s degrees and 10 have their master’s degree, while some are still enrolled at various universities. Last year we had a cheerleader with her doctorate. So the old stereotype is that cheerleaders aren’t as educated, but that really couldn’t be anywhere further from the truth. From doctors and lawyers to sales personnel and school teachers, our cheerleaders have some very impressive careers.

What would be the #1 thing you would like people to know about the DCC?

Probably how impressive the girls are as individuals and collectively as a group, how close they really are. Sometimes people think that a group of women might not get along well, and that’s the furthest thing from the truth. They are very close friends and become almost like family. They have impressive educations, impressive careers. And after they’re cheerleaders they not only go on to have families and have wonderful careers, but they have been and will always be ambassadors for the Dallas Cowboys.

How many photo shoots have you done until now?

This is our 37th calendar, and this is our 24th on location.

And you’ve been a part of all of them?

Yes.

What are the biggest challenges?

The biggest challenges for this project are probably weather and logistics, moving such a large group around somewhat unfamiliar places for us. We brag that the project absolutely couldn’t be possible without the expertise and the connections of Amstar. That’s the most important part of the project, our ground transportation. In general, we leave the hotel at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m.

It’s dark and we sure as heck don’t know where we’re going. Thank goodness the experts at Amstar do and they get us to the places we need to be in time to beat sunrise, photograph these majestic but fleeting moments, and capture these magnificent pictures. If we didn’t have proper ground transportation and logistical support, this project would be impossible.

What impacts you most about these photo shoots?

I would actually say that what impacts me most in terms of these projects is the global sense of hospitality, especially here in Mexico. I have really fallen in love with Mexico, and specifically with the people. Their joyful nature is very inspiring, and it’s something that makes this whole project so special, because frankly the project involves very long hours. You know, our alarm clocks are set at 3:30 a.m. and we don’t get back to our rooms until after 10:30 p.m. or so, so it can be exhausting. But the people that help us with the projects, the local people of Mexico, they’re amazing. And specifically Riviera Maya has been such a successful destination for us for five projects now and it feels like home here. A second home at least.

Why Mexico?

A lot of people say, “Well, why don’t you go to Hawaii”, you know, or “Why don’t you go to ……..,” fill in the blank, but I love Mexico. I love the people here. I love the hospitality here, it’s exceptional, and the proximity to Texas for our group; it’s just a two-hour plane ride. So, you know it’s just the perfect scenario for us. It’s actually amazing that this type of environment is only two hours from our airport in Dallas.

What’s been your favorite place to shoot here?

We’ve shot Couzmel, Cancun, all of the Riviera Maya, Isla Mujeres and they’re all spectacular for different reasons. I loved the small-town charm of Isla Mujeres. I love the sunsets and the color that we get, and the proximity to Cozumel. Last year we were in Cancun and the color of the water there, the Caribbean Sea, is just magnificent. This year, the Riviera Maya has given us such a diversity in landscapes, in architecture, and just breathtaking scenery and the Mayan scenes that we’ve seen are just all spectacular for our photography project.

How many hours go into this entire project?

When we work with someone like Amstar a lot of my hours are cut down. Last year we worked with Amstar for the first time, and although it was a new project for your company, we were very impressed by the service and professionalism. With this being our second year working together, everything has gone even that much more smoother, which is truly amazing. In fact, everything’s so well-organized, well-planned and well-executed before we even get here that it literally saves me hours and hours of sending emails and explaining what we need, and that’s a big relief for me. That way, I can focus on the creative/artistic side of the project.

On the creative side, the photographers and cheerleaders do swimsuit fittings back in Dallas. They literally fit hundreds of different swimsuits to find the best say 10 or 12 suits per girl. The photographers do test photography and come to Riviera Maya with all the photographs like a deck of cards for each cheerleader. Once here, we scout the location, pick the best sites and then off we go before sunrise. The shooting project is seven days of shooting, then we will edit. We stay here in the Riviera Maya to stay focused and in the element so that we can edit this calendar over the course of three days. I have three editors. And at that point we try to send the raw files to our publisher and start working on the files to get this calendar printed and produced by football season.

So when are we going to get our first chance to see the calendar?

For sure by November, in the fall. But we like to have it done by August so that it’s in our stadium and in bookstores by August.

You have the attention of our Amstar readers, what would be your parting words?

I’ve been very successful with my group of 50 people moving around all over Mexico with the help and expertise of Amstar. So when I come back to Mexico as a mother, I entrust my children and my family with them. When I’m here as the Director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, I entrust our entire project to them, so that’s as much of a compliment that I can give them: that I entrust the two most important things in my life, my family and the cheerleaders, to Amstar.

Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleaders Return to St. Lucia’s Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa for 2015-2016 Swimsuit Calendar Photoshoot

The Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleaders are revisiting Saint Lucia’s Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa for their 2015-2016 swimsuit calendar photoshoot, April 9-14, 2015.  This is the first time that the organization has returned to a destination for their annual destination photoshoot.

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The resort’s 85-acre landscape and mile-long beach will offer stunning shoot locations as home base for the squad as they capture the south coast beauty from sunrise to sunset. They’ll also visit the attractions that make Saint Lucia an award-winning destination from the seeing the World Heritage Pitons from a catamaran to Pigeon Island National Park.

“We are honored to be the first resort and first destination the Chiefs Cheerleaders have chosen to visit twice.  We look forward to welcoming them again.  They are wonderful ambassadors for the team and we know our guests will enjoy spending time with them as they enjoy the best our island and our resort has to offer,” says Mark Adams, President and CEO of Coconut Bay. “Our guests will have several opportunities to mingle, get autographs and photos with the squad during the course of their visit.”

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Coconut Bay’s varied amenities and family-friendly activities will be the center of the action as the Chiefs Cheerleaders pose for the camera and have some fun behind the scenes. The squad will take to the ocean in kayaks and on stand-up paddleboards. The adults-only Harmony Pool, one of five at the resort, the oceanfront spa, waterfalls and sundecks will serve as the perfect backdrops for sunrise photoshoots and unwinding later. The squad will also have some good old fashioned fun as they enjoy many resort offerings from horseback riding and Segway tours to tubing around the Lazy River and twisting down the slides in the CocoLand Waterpark, Saint Lucia’s largest.

KC Chiefs Cheerleaders pool (2)Fans can get a sneak peek of the photo shoot and the Chiefs Cheerleaders’ Saint Lucia experience by following @ChiefsCheer and @_CoconutBay on Twitter, Kansas City Chiefs and Coconut Bay on Facebook.

LA Kings Video: Ice Girls Bikini Calendar Photo Shoot – Day 1

Kings Vision was on hand for the 14-15 Ice Crew calendar photo shoot! Check out day one from the Point Dume in Malibu.

Atlanta Hawks Cheerleaders Release 2015 Swimsuit Calendar

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[2015 Atlanta Hawks Cheerleader Calendar]

[Hawks Cheerleaders Swimsuit Gallery]

Tampa Bay Lightning Girls Unveil 2015 Calendar

The Lightning Girls 2015 Calendar is now available, check it out at link below.

Here’s some photos from a recent Lightning victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

1 Megan

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2 Allison

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3 Rachael

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4 Alyssa

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5 Allison

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6 Erica and Megan

Erica and Megan

7 Kelsey, Cher and Isabella

Kelsey, Cher and Isabella

8 Heather and Rachael

Heather and Rachael

9 Kelly, Miss March

Kelly, Miss March (photo by Scott Audette)

[Lightning Girls Gallery]

[TB Lightning Girls]

[Lightning Girls Calendar]

2015 Calgary Drill Crew Calendar

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The Calgary Drill Crew released their 2015 calendar this week. Order your copy here.

[Calgary Drill Crew]

More from the Warrior Girls Calendar Release Party

Warriors.com: On December 8, the Golden State Warriors Dance Team hosted their second-annual calendar release party for the 2015 Warriors Dance Team Swimsuit Calendar at Blu 42 Sports Lounge and Grill in Walnut Creek.

Click here to check out the photo gallery.

Golden State Warrior Girls Calendar Unveiling

Monday night at BLU 42 in Walnut Creek the Golden State Warrior Girls released their 2015 swimsuit calendar. Fans got a chance to cheer on the Warriors vs the Timberwolves at a viewing party and then things heated up as the calendar was unveiled.

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[Golden State Warrior Girls]

[Calendar Unveiling Gallery]

[Buy the Calendar]

The Allen Americans Ice Angels Cancun calendar shoot goes top shelf

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Stocking stuffer alert! The Allen Americans Ice Angels raised the bar with their 2015 Calendar release on November 22nd. This year, their photo shoot took place in the Playa del Carmen area, south of Cancun. It was a fun filled three-day stay that brought the ECHL dance team even closer together. Known for their beauty, fitness, and over the top dance talent, Ice Angels Director Stephanie Di-Biase Wheat again put together a phenomenal team for this season. Photographer James Higgins and crew handled the photography and a video was done by DJP productions.

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2013-14 LA Kings Ice Crew Calendar Shoot Bloopers

Check out the hilarious outtakes that come with hours of shooting during the 13-14 calendar shoot. WHAMMY!

Cheerleader Leigha Marie Makes a Splash with One-of-a-kind Bikinis

By Briana Palma
Patriots.com

Last week, the Patriots Cheerleaders launched their 2015 Swimsuit Calendar and for Leigha Marie, there were plenty of reasons to celebrate. Fourteen to be exact.

A year ago, the second-season cheerleader, who designs custom bikinis, set the goal of getting five of her swimsuits in the calendar. Thanks, though, to hard work, determination and even a little intuition, she exceeded her own expectations, with 14 of her suits making the cut for 2015.

“It feels like a dream,” she says. “I’ve been a New England Patriots Cheerleader fan since I was a little girl. I would go to the games and be mesmerized by the cheerleaders. Now I open up the calendar and see my bikinis in there, and it’s even better with my friends wearing them.”

Leigha Marie started designing swimwear in 2010, making custom suits for women in fitness competitions. As the business took off, friends started asking for handmade bikinis to wear to the beach and soon after, Leigha Marie’s brand Tush Bikinis was born.

So last year, when the cheerleaders got together to select their swimwear for the calendar shoot, she brought some of her designs along. In the end, three were chosen. But when it came to the 2015 edition, Leigha Marie left nothing up to chance. She started researching ideas and sketching designs a year before the photo shoot, and continually checked in with her fellow cheerleaders for feedback.

“It’s fun, because when I make something they’re so supportive,” she explains. “They’re like my sisters –they’re so proud of me.”

In her 27 “sisters,” Leigha Marie found inspiration for some of the swimsuits that appear in the new calendar. For example, when she decided to make a pink bikini, she immediately thought of Karen.

“I knew it was going to be Karen’s suit,” she says. “She’s a rookie, so I really didn’t even know her then, but I’ll just have a vision and think it’ll be perfect for someone.”

She adds, laughing, “I can tell what color would look good on you just by talking to you.”

Not only has Leigha Marie’s role as a cheerleader provided a platform for her designs, but it also led her to pursue her dream of being a designer full time.

When the squad traveled to China last year, they participated in an event with female cancer survivors who encouraged them to spend every day doing what they love. That message stayed with Leigha Marie long after the trip ended.

“I literally got home from China and quit my job [working in retail],” she recalls. “I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to pay my bills, but I just needed to do it.”

These days, she continues to build Tush Bikinis, with her designs showing up in many new places, ranging from the Celtics Dancers Swimsuit Calendar to fitness competitions around the world. She’s even busy working on special Halloween costumes for some of the cheerleaders, so be sure to keep one eye on the sidelines when the Patriots play the Bears on October 26.

See a gallery of Leigha Marie’s work here.

Cincinnati Ben-Gals Calendar Release Party

Hotter than hot! The Cincinnati Ben-Gals released their 2014-15 Calendar last week, and it was quite the event.

[Cincinnati Ben-Gals]

Titans Cheerleaders Calendar Release Party

The Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders had their annual calendar release party last weekend at the Rosewall in downtown Nashville. The party included a cocktail attire and swimwear fashion show, as well as a food drive to benefit Feed America First. Click here for tons of photos from the event!

Charger Girls Unveil 2014-15 Swimsuit Calendar

Ricky Henne, Managing Editor
Chargers.com
September 4, 2014

[Photo Gallery]

The hottest dance team in the NFL debuted their calendar Wednesday night.

For the Charger Girls, nothing beats cheering on the Bolts from the sidelines of Qualcomm Stadium each and every home game.

However, their annual swimsuit calendar is an awfully close second.

“This is definitely second to game day, and at this moment right now it may even be first,” said Natalie, a team captain and longest tenured member of the squad. “It’s just a different experience when they unveil the photos because you don’t know what to expect. You were there and wore the outfits but you don’t know what it looks like until tonight. So this is a really nice surprise for all of us and it came out great.”

The Charger Girls honored San Diego by shooting against the backdrop of the iconic Hotel Del Coronado. Team photographer Mike Nowak has shot the calendar since 1999, and this year’s ranks among the most proud finished products of his tenure.

“We went back to the beach this year, but we had the opportunity to shoot at the Hotel Del,” he said. “You can’t beat that because it’s iconic San Diego with the hottest dance team in the NFL! The girls are amazing to work with. They’re all professional women, amazing dancers and are very easy to work with. They make every day fun to go shoot on location, and the calendar came out great.”

Overall, Charger Girls Director Lisa Simmons is particularly proud of the 2014-15 calendar because of this iconic tie to America’s Finest City.

“This year’s calendar is extremely special because it represents San Diego in a way we’ve never been able to capture it,” she said. “Shooting at the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, we were able to get the beautiful surrounding beaches and the unique parts of the hotel that truly represent San Diego and what a beautiful city it is.”

The shoot occurred over a four-day stretch earlier this summer, and the finished product was held tightly under wraps until Wednesday night at Moonshine Flats in the Gaslamp Quarter. With the entire team in attendance, Simmons unveiled each photo to loud cheers and a standing ovation. The girls also learned who would grace the cover, which was especially moving for veteran Tawnie who was selected to be on it for the first time.

“Seeing my photo on the cover, I just couldn’t believe it!” she said. “When they showed it my view was kind of blocked, but then all the girls starting shouting ‘Congratulations’ and then it kind of hit me. It’s an incredible honor to be on this team, so it’s incredible to even be on the cover.”
Be the first to showcase the 2014 Charger Girls Cheerleaders to your home or office! The 2014-15 Charger Girls Swimsuit Calendar is now on sale for $17 or get an Autographed Calendar, signed by all 28 Charger Girls for $45

Eagles Cheerleaders unveil 2015 Swimsuit Calendar

Tim Hawk
South Jersey Times
September 5, 2014

The Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders unveiled their 2015 Swimsuit Calendar at XFINITY Live in Philadelphia Thursday night.

The show began with the cheerleaders modeling their eco-friendly bikinis, made from recyclable materials, as images from the calendar flashed behind them. Following the fashion show, rookie squad member Alycia Guzman, a Rowan University sophomore from Deptford, was named this year’s cover girl.

The calendar was photographed in Riviera Maya, Mexico, and can be purchased at www.PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Eagles Pro Shops and bookstores nationwide.

[Photo Gallery]