Siobhan Campbell-Martin, a Trenton, N.J. native, will be cheering for the Carolina Panthers TopCats cheerleading squad at Super Bowl 50. (Goodstuff Creative)
Kevin Shea | For NJ.com
January 31, 2016
TRENTON — When the dance team at Trenton Catholic Academy turned into the cheerleading squad several years ago, Siobhan Campbell was named one of its leaders.
But the teenager, who had been training as a dancer for years, was too intimidated to be called a cheerleader, and quit the squad.
She later tried out for the dance teams at two colleges she attended, but did not make the cut. It looked she would never don a cheer uniform again, she said.
With a lift from God, the Trenton native says, she’s now a three-year veteran of the Carolina Panthers cheerleaders – the TopCats – and will be cheering at Super Bowl 50 next Sunday in California.
And she’s one of the captains.
“I give all the glory to God. He did all of this,” she said.
She is now Siobhan Campbell-Martin, a newlywed, and says persistence and some dance training in New York also played a role in her ascent to the TopCats squad.
The 25-year-old was even named cheerleader of the week in Sports Illustrated in 2014.
She has a message to anyone growing up in the city: “I am proud to say that I am from Trenton. Look at me now.”
NFL cheerleaders do not normally travel to away games, so Campbell-Martin said the Super Bowl is extra special to her squad because they will get to meet and cheer alongside the Denver Broncos cheerleaders.
And then there’s the halftime show. “I am a huge Beyoncé fan,” she said.
Although the TopCats will not be performing at the halftime show – which also includes Coldplay and Bruno Mars – Campbell-Martin said she will be watching up close.
Campbell-Martin said her route to cheering professionally started as a kid at the Hammond-Phelps Centre For Dance on Maple Avenue.
“That was where my love of dance was established,” she said.
She also played basketball, West Ward baseball and even shot a few rounds with the Trenton Junior Golf program.
“But I pretty much stuck with dance,” she said.
When she quit the high school squad, she remembers her coach Cassidy Manning’s words: “She told me she believed in me and I never forgot that.”
Siobhan.jpgSiobhan Campbell-Martin cheers with the Carolina Panthers TopCats squad during a game. (Goodstuff Creative)
College brought her to the Carolinas, first to Winston-Salem State University, then Appalachian State University.
“I kind of felt like I was running from dance,” she said of her time at Winston-Salem.
She had an undeclared major and was trying new things to pursue. God was humbling her, she said.
Needing a new start, she transferred to Appalachian. She still did not make their dance team, but she majored in dance and minored in business, and the summer before her senior year, she returned to Trenton.
That summer, Campbell-Martin enrolled in a dance program in New York City and felt back on track.
“That is pretty much where it started again,” she said. She got come callbacks for dancing, including one from Disney.
“But the one thing I didn’t see coming was cheerleading for the Panthers,” she said.
She took a class at college, though, taught by a TopCats coach, where she earned a first round bye to the tryouts.
“She saw something in me that I didn’t see,” Campbell-Martin said. “I knew from there I would keep accelerating, keep moving forward and go with it.”
“And now I am in my third year, I am now a captain and we’re going to the Super Bowl.”
Off the field, she’s works as a project coordinator at Genera Solutions in Charlotte. Her parents still live in Trenton, as do her siblings, she said.
She sees herself as a role model to anyone like her growing up in the city. “I just want encourage people in Trenton, wherever they are in their development, to keep at it.”
By Amanda Thames
The Daily News – Jacksonville, NC
January 24, 2015
Two Jacksonville natives will be among the many cheering for the Carolina Panthers this weekend — the difference is they’ll be on the field.
Friends since elementary school, Aliscia Taplin and Annalise Coleman are both TopCats cheerleaders.
The two were both dancers and cheerleaders from a young age, and the first time the two girls remember spending time together was at a friend’s house where their families were watching a Panthers game.
Their families still watch the games, but now they’re in the stands and pay more attention to the cheerleaders than the football team.
Both girls are enjoying their first year as TopCats during one of the Panthers’ best seasons in the team’s history. The football players are hosting the NFC Championship game against the Arizona Cardinals today, and the TopCats will perform during halftime.
Annalise’s mother Vanessa Coleman said she asked about Sunday’s game in hopes of learning more about a possible Panthers Super Bowl game, but her daugher wouldn’t talk.
“They don’t want to jinx it,” Vanessa said, laughing. “They just want to get out there and win.”
Vanessa will be wearing her lucky Panthers earrings and socks at today’s game.
Out of the 28 on the squad, Annalise and Aliscia share Jacksonville roots and are in the same group of six on the sidelines that cheer together every game.
Aliscia graduated from Northside High School in 2010 where she was captain of the cheerleading squad. She started cheering at the age of 5, according to her mother Valerie Taplin, and her mom immediately saw that cheering would be a part of her future.
“Her hands were straight. She stood out from the other girls,” Valerie said. “That’s when I knew.”
Aliscia was known as a “silent leader,” Valerie said. “Others looked to her as an example because she was a good cheerleader.”
Vanessa said Annalise also showed early talent.
“Her preschool teacher rated her ‘Gifted in Rhythm’ at 4 years old,” she said.
Annalise has a long history of dancing, including ballet, pointe, jazz and modern dance. Vanessa Coleman has more than 170 of her daughter’s trophies in her home. Dancing is her passion, Vanessa said, and she’d wanted to be a TopCat for years.
“We went to a Panthers game when Annalise was 17. She watched the cheerleaders and she said, ‘Mom, I’m going to do this,’” Vanessa said.
It wasn’t a straight shot to the Panthers’ field for either girl, though.
Aliscia originally planned to join the U.S. Air Force. She was set to leave on a Tuesday but the Sunday before, she changed her mind. Aliscia told her mother she wanted to be a TopCat. Valerie said some people take rejection and settle for another, easier-to-achieve goal, but not her daughter.
“It really inspires me because she believed in her dream even when things weren’t going her way,” Valerie said.
Aliscia told Annalise she was trying out for the squad again and shared tips with her friend about the auditioning process. Annalise was teaching at a dance studio and double majoring in public health education and dance at UNC-Greensboro, and decided to join Aliscia and try out for the 2015 squad.
Richelle Williams, the TopCats manager and choreographer, said she’s had a great season with Aliscia and Annalise on the squad.
“When you speak with them, when you watch them perform, it’s hard to say to yourself, ‘They’re rookies,’ because the learning curve was not that big for them,” Williams said.
Now both girls practice three hours once per week and another three hours the day before each game, getting ready to pump up the crowd at the Panthers’ games.
“They’re quiet, they come in and learn and they get the job done,” Williams said. “I appreciate that.”
To prepare for games, Aliscia focuses on her plate. At the beginning of the season, Aliscia researched the best foods for energy and what foods would keep her body in the best shape. She also said prayer has been the most consistent thing she’s done throughout the season.
“The reason I’m dancing is because of God,” Aliscia said, adding that it was a spiritual feeling to be out on the field.
Quiet by nature, Aliscia said she shows more personality when she’s cheering for thousands than she shows in one-on-one conversations.
“When I’m out in front of the crowd and dancing it’s a certain type of freedom,” Aliscia said. “It’s the rush and the excitement of it.”
The cheerleaders sign contracts for the season, and Vanessa said the contracts state they are not allowed to mingle with the football players. Annalise has had a couple of close-up encounters, though.
During one play, Luke Kuechly was running straight for her and Annalise told Vanessa later, “Mom, he was so big!” Vanessa said, laughing.
The girls do appearances and sign autographs as part of the squad, representing the Panthers organization. Aliscia said her favorite event was celebrating with fans as the 50-foot Christmas tree was lit up outside the Panthers stadium. It was a family event, and Aliscia is all about family. Her mother is one of her biggest supporters.
“I’m not really a football fan,” Valerie said, laughing, “but this year I would definitely call myself a Panthers fan. It’s all about those cheerleaders.”
Each year, veteran cheerleader or newcomer, the girls have to re-tryout for the TopCats squad. Aliscia said she’ll be there and hopes to be back on the field for the 2016 season.
“I just want to dance for as long as my body will let me,” Aliscia said.
For any local dancers and cheerleaders interested in trying out for the TopCats, Williams said to attend the TopCats Audition Clinic. The clinic gives an inside look at what it takes to be a TopCat and helps girls choose whether it’s a good fit for them.
The clinic will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 5 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The cost is $185 and open to girls age 21 and older.
Click here for the Houston Chronicle’s photos of the Cardinals, Panthers, Patriots, and Broncos Cheerleaders from last weekend’s action.
Former Carolina TopCat Eiesha is now a proud Atlanta Falcons Cheerleader. She is continuing her dream after formerly dancing with the NFL Carolina Panthers in 2005, 2010, 2011, and 2012 (Captain).
Eiesha graduated with a BA in Psychology from Norfolk State University, obtained a Masters in Human Resource Management from DeVry Keller Graduate School, and is currently completing her PhD in Management from Walden University in just a few months (May 2016).
She married a Captain in the United States Army in May 2015 and moved to Columbus, Georgia. She was crowned only 1 month after marriage as Mrs. Georgia America 2014-2015, competing in the Mrs. America pageant August 2014. She is the Owner and director of MADE Today, Inc. in Charlotte, NC and travels as a motivational speaker to many youth groups, organizations, colleges and universities.
[Eiesha at AtlatnaFalcons.com]
A new team photo and individual bios have been posted on the Panthers website. Click here to learn more about this year’s team!
Sports Illustrated highlights 2nd year veteran Michaela. Click here to go there now.
The Carolina Panthers website has been updated with individual profile photos for this season’s team. Click here to go there now!
Eiesha Horsley was a four season NFL TopCat and now Mrs. Georgia America 2014
Former NFL cheerleader Eiesha Horsley’s motto is, “Each and every person should dream and dream BIG!” Well, Eiesha recently was named Mrs. Georgia America 2014, so the next stage if a dream as big as the whole country, as she progresses to compete for Mrs. America.
Eiesha performed on the NFL sidelines for the Carolina Panthers’ “Top Cats” during the 2005 and 2010-2012 seasons, the last year as one of four captains. An entrepreneur, scholar, philanthropist, and renowned cheerleading, dance, and gymnastics instructor, adding Mrs. Georgia America is another accomplishment in Eiesha’s dream-filled life.
“I am truly a dreamer of all things exquisite and extraordinary!,” Eiesha says. “I am the proud wife of Jarrell Horsley, a Captain in the United States Army and reside in Georgia. Being crowned Mrs. Georgia America 2014 is not only an honor and humbling experience, but a phenomenal blessing to compete for Mrs. America. Representing the perfectly ‘peachy’ state allows me the opportunity to uplift not only married women, but families and individuals of all ages in a variety of ways. Specifically, empowering women to achieve and promote the importance of personal and professional goals, while providing a forum in which to express my talents, intelligence, and experience is my ultimate goal and way to give back in a greater capacity. I can surely say that my experience as a professional cheerleader prepared many in more ways than one!”
As accomplished in the classroom as in dance and pageants, Eiesha graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree from Norfolk State University and was named a Ronald E. McNair fellow, Psi Chi National Honor Society Scholar, and appeared in Vibe, Ebony, and Charlotte Women’s Magazine for her professional and personal accomplishments. Eiesha holds a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management with honors, and is currently completing her dissertation and Ph.D. Studies in Organization Management with an emphasis in Human Resource Management, expected during the summer of 2015. “Continuous learning brings continuous opportunities in my career and possibilities in serving others,” Eiesha says.
Eiesha is also the owner of M.A.D.E. (“Making A Difference Everywhere”) Today, Inc., a professional development company in which Eiesha directs, conducts, and leads programs working with community and state organizations, families, and youth in both Georgia and North Carolina. MADE has collected over 200 cheer and dance regional and national titles in four states in just five years. “As a former professional NFL cheerleader and captain for the Carolina Panthers, I was able to be an ambassador for the community and young girls who aspire to live their dreams,” Eiesha says.
“During my spare time, I enjoy my active involvement in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, traveling, interior design, camping, and giving back to the youth and aspiring individuals who desire to live their dreams beyond their belief,” Eiesha continues. “Making a positive contribution to society is all worth living for, and leaving a legacy is timeless. I believe laughter is contagious, joy is strength, and courage is motivation. I encourage all to dream big and believe that all things are possible, giving back is essential and believing through execution and consistency is longevity.”
You can keep up with the Mrs. America Pageant at www.mrsamerica.com, and Eiesha specifically on Twitter and Facebook, plus her M.A.D.E Today program.
Eiesha cheered for the Carolina Panthers
Here’s your first look at the 2014-15 Carolina Panthers Cheerleaders, the TopCats. Congrats ladies!
Click photo to view full size.
The wonderful Richelle Williams, Cheerleader Manager/Choreographer, of the NFL’s Carolina TopCats lets us know Audition Clinics and Auditions are just days away!
The information about clinics is at this link and the audition information page is here.
By Luke Garrat
The Daily Mail
An ex-NFL cheerleader-turned-sports journalist almost became a victim of human sex trafficking at the Sochi Olympics when she was recruited for a reporting job that turned out to be bogus.
Brittney Cason from Charlotte, North Carolina, was approached by a talent agent hiring U.S. reporters to cover the Winter Olympics last September.
Writing on xojane.com, she explained how she became suspicious when – after a lengthy application process – the ‘agent’ asked her if she had any ‘girlfriends’ she could take with her, offering them visas with no interview process, eventually prompting action from the FBI.
Ms Cason was contacted in September 2013 via her website by a man claiming to be a talent acquisition agent.
‘Given my background in sports broadcasting… and working on sports talk radio, it made sense he was recruiting me,’ she wrote.
Ms Cason was asked to submit examples of her work, and audition several times, before she was told that she had got the job with the network as a host and beat reporter for the games.
In addition to Ms Cason, she was told that another legitimate sportscaster in North Carolina was hired to work alongside her.
Her suspicions were raised two weeks before she was set to leave for Sochi, when the ‘talent agent’ said he needed to expand the coverage team and asked if she had any ‘girlfriends’ in the industry she could recommend.
His assistant, who was actually just him, sent her documents for her friend to get a work visa.
Ms Cason said: ‘I spent four months applying and interviewing and he’s sending my friend a work visa without even seeing her work?
‘Now, my friend is really talented, but wanting her passport and social security number before her reel (reporting and presenting clips) just seemed fishy to me.’
Ms Cason contacted the other sportscaster who was supposed to be going to Sochi with her and they investigated the talent agency further.
She said: ‘She and I concocted a plan to contact the production company in LA directly to check his credentials without stepping on his toes in the event we were just being paranoid.’
Upon their investigation it turned out that the production company didn’t know who he was, and advised them not to travel to Russia, and instead contact lawyers, who eventually contacted the F.B.I.
Ms Cason remarked how she was shocked at the amount of effort the ‘talent agent’ had put in to the scheme.
She said: ‘The man exerted as much effort as a full time job to pose as legitimate – and never once crossed the line.
‘Rather, he posed as a devout family man – We got the results back and suddenly needed the F.B.I.’
On the day that she was set to leave, bags packed and flights booked, Cason was instead negotiating with her lawyers and the F.B.I, as it turned out that the ‘talent acquisition agency’ was most likely a front for a sex trafficking ring.
According to Jillian Mourning, founder of the non-profit All We Want is Love, a charity that attempts to help victims of human trafficking, it is common for men to pose as talent agents in order to lure and traffic women.
Ms Cason said: ‘So many of the stories I’ve heard from survivors start with “I was hired for a modelling job”.’
Mourning told her: ‘The Olympics is a huge draw for trafficking.
‘It’s a major sporting event in a foreign country, and American women are typically sold for more in foreign countries.’
Ms Cason added: ‘Either way, this wasn’t going to end well.
‘Unfortunately I am not the daughter of Liam Neeson, so I wouldn’t have had a happy ending had I gotten on a plane.
‘For any young girl wanting to get into the business the first step is to seek a credible agent.
‘If you have to pay money for an audition, that’s a red flag for a business scam.’
By Joey Millwood
When Laura Bebo was a cheerleader at East Henderson High, her focus was on one thing.
“When you’re in high school, you can’t see past Friday night,” she said.
That view has changed dramatically over the last three years. Not only is Bebo a cheerleader for the Carolina Panthers, but she’s heading to Hawaii to be in the NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
As a high school cheerleader, the thought of cheering on Sundays never crossed her mind. It didn’t even cross her mind to audition for a collegiate team.
The 24-year-old graduated from East in 2007 and went to college at UNC Charlotte. At the encouragement of her friend, Jenny Baker, she tried out for the 49ers cheer team and ended up cheering on the Charlotte football team for the last three years of her schooling.
She graduated with degrees in environmental science and education, and is a science teacher at Brawley Middle, just north of Charlotte.
That’s one of her full-time jobs. Her other is being a TopCat.
Bebo has been a member of the TopCats for the last three years and was voted into the Pro Bowl by her teammates — one of the highest honors she has received.
“That’s the biggest honor,” Bebo said. “It’s an incredible feeling when your team thinks you’re worthy to go.”
And she is worthy, TopCat coach Richelle Williams said.
“Laura has demonstrated not only commitment and hard work, but a genuine passion for the Panthers organization and TopCats program,” Williams said. “I’m thrilled that Laura is representing the TopCats at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. The fans will love her.”
Bebo has worked hard to get to this point. She was a little more prepared about cheering at the next level when she was on the verge of graduating from Charlotte. Again encouraged by Baker, Bebo tried out for the Panthers’ squad in the spring of 2011.
That also happened to be her final semester of college and the semester she spent student teaching.
It was a busy semester. That busy schedule, however, got busier by the next fall. Bebo was teaching from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and then fulfilling duties as a TopCat all over Charlotte and has maintained that routine for the last three years.
There are appearances through the week, two practices per week and on Sunday, she’s cheering in front of more than 70,000 fans.
“It’s so similar and it’s totally different in the same way,” she said of cheering in front of that large of a crowd.
The nervousness on Friday nights was different because she knew so many faces in the crowd. The large crowd is actually a little more comforting, she said, because there’s “no way that everyone can be looking at you.”
A lot of people were watching the Panthers this weekend as Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly and the team hosted the San Francisco 49ers Sunday in the second round of the NFC playoffs. The Panthers lost 23-10.
Bebo experienced the building excitement over the last three years. Her first year was also Newton’s first year with the franchise. This year, they made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“It’s just abuzz,” she said in the weeks before the game. “People can’t stop talking about it. It starts with the team. It’s translated to the fans. We can feel it. We can feel the excitement.”
And that excitement is something that Bebo never wants to let go of. Officially, she can only cheer professionally for 10 years, but she likes to wish she could be a TopCat forever.
“We want to live and breathe TopCat life for as long as they’ll have us,” Bebo said.
[Laura at Panthers.com]
Current third year veteran Laura during her TopCat rookie season, October 2011
Click here to check out the first Sports Illustrated NFL Cheerleader gallery of the season, featuring cheerleaders from the Falcons, Panthers, Colts, Vikings, Chargers and Bucs.