Nearly 200 women from across California will be participating in this year’s MISS CALIFORNIA USA competition with the hopes of advancing to the national competitions. The winner of MISS CALIFORNIA USA® will go on to compete at the national MISS USA® competition which will be televised live on NBC.
This year, five current or former professional cheerleaders will be competing in the event.
Shelbi Buchholz – Miss Greater San Diego, San Diego Charger Girl
Chanelle Riggan – Miss Beverly Hills, Anaheim Duck Power Player
Jenny Ting – Miss Diamond Crest, Former Laker Girl and Charger Girl
Alexis Swanstrom – Miss Del Mar, Former Charger Girl
Brittany Wagner – Miss Universal City, Former Clippers Cheerleader and Ontario Fury Dancer
I have been fortunate to photograph four of these amazing women: Shelbi, Jenny, Alexis, and Brittany.
The MISS CALIFORNIA USA® pageant will be held in Long Beach, California at the Terrace Theater on January 9-11, 2015 and is open to the public. Tickets for all three pageant events are available via ticketmaster.com.
For more information on the Miss California USA pageant, please visit their website here.
The ladies of the Los Angeles Clippers Spirit dance team recently completed their photo shoot for the upcoming NBA season. Here’s a little sneak peek at how the day went. [photo gallery here]
It took place at the Clippers training facility in Culver City, which is south of Los Angeles proper. This is the same place where they had final auditions in July.
(I tried to get a photo of the outside, but there’s a tree in the way)
As everyone who has been through it knows, on photo shoot day, there’s a lot of this going on.
It starts with hair and makeup to get everyone glamorized
Veronica looking lovely even half done with curlers in her hair
Brooke gets her hair done
Kellie’s all glammed up from the neck up. (Not so much from the ankles down.)
This was the outfit for the individual shots:
This one has just a slight shimmer under the lights. This team wears a lot of red. More than white. Much much more so than blue. Now that I think about it, Clippers blue may be a hard color to match. And I doubt the boots come in that color.
Lights! Camera! Action!
Once it’s time to get started, some of the rookies were a bit nervous, but the team’s director Audrea Harris was there to make sure everyone looked her absolute best, from head to toe.
Gabri (working it without even trying.)
In between shoots, the crew from Fox was also filming for this year’s “Making the Team” special.
After all of the individual shoots were over, the ladies changed costumes. This was the costume for the group photo.
Karissa and Brianna after the wardrobe change.
And this happened:
I have no idea. I turned around and she was in the middle of doing it.
Audrea also took a turn on camera…
…and that was when we noticed the tinsel wall, and its many possibilities.
Sharon and Kellie started it.
The tv crew’s lighting set up was excellent, so we took advantage.
Yay! Sister photo with Tatum and Tyra!
Text thing I knew, it turned into this and this and this.
Veterans Kelsey, Brooke, Natalie, Tatum, Brittany, Kellie, Brianna, Candace, and Karissa
Just the vets for now. Nina was still shooting, so we didn’t get to to a rookie shot until after:
Rookies Gabri, Mariah, Tyra, Amber, Sharon, Jen, Nina, Veronica, and Roxy
The group photo went really quickly. Ten minutes. Fifteen max.
They lined everyone up by height, made a few adjustments, and click-click-click it was over.
The day started around 8am and everyone was finished by 2. It goes so fast! In prior years, the team shoot has been at the dance studio, and it’s followed by several hours of rehearsal. This year, they got a break. Once the shoot was over, they were free to go.
These are the faces of women visualizing the Double-Double and fries they’re about to order over at the In-n-Out Burger. (Mmmm….burgers…)
I’m not sure how long it will be before the Clippers site is updated with the new photos, so I leave you with a hit of what to expect.
Brianna (year 2)
Brittany (year 8 )
Candace (year 3)
Karissa (year 3)
Kellie (year 5)
Kelsey (year 3)
Natalie (year 2)
Tatum (year 3)
The Clippers have announced the members of their dance team for the upcoming NBA season. The team has traditionally been 16 dancers, but last year they expanded to 17. This year they added yet another dancer to make the squad 18 strong. I can’t wait to see this extremely talented and beautifully diverse team wearing red, white, and blue on the floor at Staples Center this fall. Congratulations ladies! (Click here for more.)
It is Sunday afternoon, and somewhere about 20 miles south of here, the 33 finalists for the Clippers Spirit are sweating their buns off. It’s hard to believe that this year’s auditions have already come and gone. Final auditions always go by so quickly. All that build up and then it’s over. Each dancer only has about two minutes of performing to do in front of the judges. Everything you do in those two minutes has to be on point.
This year, finals were at the Clippers training facility in Culver City, which I was extremely happy about. Finals are usually at the dance studio where the team rehearses. I think the venue change had to do with the camera crew from Fox. There are some logistical challenges with filming in the studio, not the least of which is photographing dancers performing in front of an entire wall of mirrors without catching the crew and equipment in every single shot.
Whatever the reason for the location change, I was pleased because I got lots of great photos. [CLICK HERE] to check out my photo gallery.
I arrived at 4pm and about half of the dancers were already there. The first thing they had to do was check in and be photographed for the fan vote.
One thing that seemed really strange that nobody was dancing. Everyone was just standing around. I found out that they’d been instructed not to rehearse until everyone had had their headshot taken. This was so (a) nobody would be sweaty and disheaveled in their photo, and (b) the ladies who arrived early and been photographed first wouldn’t have that extra time to rehearse, while the others were still waiting to be photographed. Makes sense, when you think about it.
Jayda and Amber
Rina, Kellie, and Ena (rhymes with “Jenna”) are sorority sisters.
This is Brittany’s 8th audition for the team. Kinda makes her seem old doesn’t it? But she just turned 25 last month. Happy belated!
Choreographer Kristin with Spirit Director Audrea. Kristin was happy to be off-duty for the night.
But as always, any time spent waiting around turned into hijinks.
When the last headshot had been taken, DJ Dense turned up the music and the dancers started running through the choreography.
Tatum, Tessa, Brianna, Brittany, and Natalie
After that, it was time to line up and begin the audition
Hip hop was first
Once everyone had been through hip hop in groups of three, the judges had them perform it again in larger groups.
After that, it was time to whip of the sweats and do the jazz routine
Then the ladies went through jazz again, in larger groups
And then it was time for the home stretch…solos!
And then, bada boom, bada bing, it was over. Audrea and Marianne wrapped up, thanking everyone for their efforts, explaining a bit more about the fan vote, and advising them to enjoy the next couple of days off before the team’s work weekend.
The ladies are in the midst of that work weekend right now, and have probably learned 5 or 6 new dances in less than 48 hours. Whew! Lots of hard work, and lots of waiting. The fan vote will be open through August 2nd, and the team will be announced early next week. Vote, vote, vote, and watch this space. As soon as I know who made the team, so will you!
The Clippers want your input. Click here to cast your votes!
The 4th of July is my most favorite holiday of the year. Friends, food, and fireworks, with no stress-inducing gifting or familial obligations. It is the best holiday of them all. But as great as July 4th is, it is only the second best thing about the month of July. The first best thing about July is Clippers Spirit auditions!
This year’s auditions took place last Saturday at Redondo Union High School, and as I pulled up in the parking lot, I marveled anew at what a nice school this is. Even the parking lot is nice. Like so many schools in the area, the lot boast brand new solar arrays that shade the cars but also save on energy costs. I got the last spot right up front. SCORE! It was gonna be a great day.
[Click here to check out the photo gallery!]
As I approached the entrance, the first thing I noticed was the film crew. Fox Sports did a series about Spirit auditions last year, and they were back to do it even better in 2014.
The first people I ran across were these two, twins Rina and Ena. I found out later that one of them is in a sorority with Clippers veteran Kellie, and is in fact her big sister. When you see these two in photos later, remember Rina is wearing green-a. Har har.
Inside, the ladies were already warming up and preparing for a long day of dance.
I found Spirit Dance Team Director Audrea Harris (left). Audrea keeps it in the family. Every year her mother and sister Adrianne help out with auditions.
I also discovered this year’s helper elves who would assists with teaching the choreography, Spirit Alumni Bianca, Justene, Shannon, Becca. Shannon had to choose between the team and spending the fall semester in the UK. She chose study abroad, and can you blame her? But maybe we’ll get lucky and have her back next year. You never know! I’m afriad the other three are retired for good, although there’s always hope!
The audition started right on time, with Game Entertainment Manager Marianne Bogoyevac introducing Audrea (Game Entertainment Teams Director) and the choreographer for the day, (and Spirit alumna) Kristin Hollowaty (née Egusa.)
Marianne gave a little speech which was both awesomely honest, and also terrifying.
At every audition, someone stands up at the beginning and gives the candidates a little pep talk. Thanks for coming, glad you’re here, do your best, we’re all rooting for you. But Marianne added something that everyone knows but nobody ever says: listen, there are a lot of you in the room and most of you aren’t going to make the team. So why not just have fun with the experience and enjoys yourselves? She said it in a much nicer, more uplifting way, but that was the gist. And she’s right. 16 spots on the team means the odds are astronomical. Marianne keeps it real.
And it was time to get down to business. Kristen stepped up front and got it started. Kristin choreographs a lot of fun pieces for the Spirit, who there’s no one better to put the dancers through their paces on audition day. (Although she has been known to whip out a hip hop combination so intricate, dancers start crying in teh middle of the audition. No wait, that was me crying, last time around.)
The first combination was a technical piece designed to sort out those who have the goods from those who don’t. Battement, battement, tilt, double piroutte, another double, a couple of leaps, and we’re done. The music was Pharrell’s “Come Get It Bae.”
Dancers had just about 35 minutes to learn the combination.
It seemed like just a hot minute later, it was time to line up for the first round of auditions.
These were the judges.
They seem like nice people, don’t they? Not like they hold your fate in their hands or anything. But after the first round, they sent more than half of the dancers packing. Hey, somebody has to do it.
While the judges were off deliberating, I snuck off and found the helper elves going over the jazz combination in the schools fitness facility. Did your high school have one of these. Mine sure didn’t. But this one had elliptical machines as far as the eye could see.
The other thing that happened at that point was last year’s veterans arrived. Most of them haven’t seen each other in a few months, so it was a big love fest.
So here they are. Come on newbies, they don’t look that intimidating, do they? A few of them were in your shoes last year. And a year from now a couple of you reading this right now will be the ones making kissy faces in the photo.
Standing: Natalie, Kelsey, Brianna, Brittany, Brooke, Tatum
Seated: Karissa, Kellie, and Candace.
And check it out – another pair of sisters. Gosh, I love when this happens.
On the left, we have Tatum, a Spirit veteran. And on the right, lil sis Tyra.
This was Tyra in 2009, repping the Clippers Jr. Jam squad in the back row
Tyra is quite a little dancer. I sure hope they both make it.
Every year Audrea pulls the veterans aside for a little talk. I’m not rude enough to bust up in there, but I imagine it’s something along the lines of “go out there and show the judges why they picked you for this team last year.” I call this the “please don’t embarrass me” speech.
Kelsey is wearing flirty briefs from The Line Up! How cool is that?
The first cut was announced around 11:45, and when the dust settled, it was time to learn the jazz combination. The music was “Problem” by Ariana Grande. If you’ve never heard it, you must not listen to the radio, like ever.
I have a love/hate relationship with this song. I do like it a lot, but Miss Ariana tends to get a little screechy. Amiright?
“Head in the clouds, got no weight on my shoulders. I should be wiser and And realize that I’ve got…” by the time she gets to the end of that line, she is absolutely shrieking, and I swear I can hear every chihuahua in the neighborhood barking.
Kristin gets to work teaching the combination.
I think they only had about 40 minutes to learn this combination, then they had a few minutes to put the glam on.
And off we go with the second cut.
An hour later, the second cut was announced. THe 51 dancers left put on their big girl pants and prepred for the final combination of the day: hip hop. (insert ominous sounding music.)
Hip hop is always so interesting to watch. You can tell some of the girls have been dreading it. Hip hop doesn’t just require getting the moves right, you have to have the right attitude. Both a required. And if you aren’t solid on both, hip hop can make you look like a jackass in a way that jazz can’t.
On the other hand, you can tell there are other girls who have been waiting for this alllll day. This is their element. They turn it on, turn it up, and throw themselves into the choreography.
With only 50 something ladies left, round 3 went fast. This time, the song was Jason Derulo’s “Bubblegum.”
While the judges were off deliberating, the helper elves found ways to amuse themselves…
This is also when The Wobble happened. Because The Wobble is now A Thing. A Thing People Do At Dance Auditions. I can’t help but wonder if this is what happened in the 80s when the Electric Slide came out.
When the judges returned, they announced 34 finalists.
But that wasn’t all of the news. Things will be different this year. Finals are in a different location, solos will be longer, music will be provided ahead of time, and ah yes…the fan vote.
This is how the veterans reacted to the news that the fan vote would delay announcement of the team. Instead of finding out if they make the team two days after finals, it would be at least a week. Maybe longer. That went over like a lead balloon. Waiting with one finger on the refresh button, hoping everyone you know votes for you like 50 times. Stress!!!
Well, it’s been a few days and the dancers have been through interviews and lots of rehearsals at home in front of the mirror. Finals are tomorrow night, and we shall see who brings her “A” game to the show.
After a loooong day of auditions yesterday, the field of candidates was narrowed down to these 34 lovely finalists. Congratulations, ladies!
Nine members of last year’s team auditioned to keep their spots on the team, and all are still in the running. WOOT!
Last year’s returners with Director Audrea Harris. From left: Kelsey, Kellie, Tatum, Brianna, Audrea, Brittany, Natalie, Brooke, Karissa, and Candace.
These dancers will now go through interviews, reference checks, and a final dance audition on Wednesday evening. Usually finals are at the team’s dance studio, the team is announced the following Friday, and the next two days are the team’s annual “work weekend” where they get to know each other, start to bond as a team, and learn a lot of new dances. But not this time around! This year, a fan vote will be a contributing factor to who makes the team. After finals, the finalists’ photos and bios will be posted on the Clippers website, and fans will have about a week to vote for their favorites. In the meantime, all of the finalists will participate in the work weekend. So there’s still a lot to do before the 2014-15 Clippers Spirit Dancers are chosen. Stay tuned, Spirit fans! Tons of photos and info coming soon.
Clippers Spirit Director Audrea Harris (center) with veterans (from left) Tatum, Brittany, Karissa, and Candace.
Auditions for the Los Angeles Clippers Spirit dance team are scheduled for July 19! [Audition details]. Last weekend, the team offered two pre-audition workshops for ladies aspiring to join the Clippers Spirit. The sessions took place at Boogiezone Utopia, which is also where the team rehearses during the season.
For the hopeful candidates, it was an opportunity to meet a few members of the team, gain exposure to their performance style, and learn some of their choreography. They were also able to ask questions about the audition process itself, learn how to prepare themselves for tryouts, and how to maximize their chances to make the team.
It’s fun to watch prep class and see who turns up. These workshops aren’t only for women trying to make a pro team for the first time. This year’s group included veterans from a few other pro teams, as well as a couple alumni of other Clippers entertainment teams. (The dancers aren’t the only group that performs at the games. The Clippers also have the Fan Patrol, Junior Jam, Crowd Crew, Dunk Team, Drumline and one or two others I can’t recall off the top of my head. There’s a lot going on at these games!)
I think experienced dancers who attend a team’s pre-audition workshop are being really smart about it. I used to think these classes were just for total rookies with no experience whatsoever. But the women with pro experience on their resumes know you can’t underestimate the value of meeting the team’s director ahead of time, so she knows your face and has an idea of what you can do. When you think about the fact that you will be competing against 200-300 women at the audition, a little face time beforehand can only help your cause. Even if you’ve been on twelve other teams. Every little bit helps.
It’s also interesting to see who leaves. A couple of women ducked out of the first session before it really got going. It just reminds me that this whole process – workshops, dance audition, interview, etc, is a two-way street. The dancers have to impress the judges to get chosen. But this exercise is also for the dancers to determine if this is something they really want to do and are able to do. I’m not surprised when one or two women realize at the beginning of the session that they don’t have the dance ability for this kind of thing. The dance team makes it look so easy and fun. When you’re sitting in the stands, it’s easy to imagine yourself down there on the court. But then you get to the workshop and reality sets in.
But I think for those who make it through the class and have a good time doing it, the experience just makes them want it even more. I’m always interested to see which members of the class actually show up at the audition. There are a few I definitely hope to see there!
Class began with Karissa demonstrating the first move. Start with your left foot in passé and then raise it up…and up…and up…
Juuuuust kidding. You should’ve seen their faces. That little trick really freaked everyone out in the morning session. They did it again in the afternoon session and when the class realized it was just a joke, the relief was palpable.
After scaring the hell out of everyone, they jumped right into the choreography. The first piece they learned was a portion of last season’s dance to “Let’s Get Loud.”
After learning the dance, the ladies watched each other perform in small groups (With the veterans marking it alongside).
Then Audrea spoke a little bit about the difference between dancing and really performing and selling it. She put her veterans on the spot and had them perform for the group to illustrate her point.
Afterward, the dancers performed in small groups again, and this time they were encouraged to really put some “wow” into it. This time the veterans got to watch, and the second time around, made a real difference!
Then the group moved on to hip hop. Everyone put on their baggies, changed their shoes, and learned part of the combination for “Bubble Butt.” (Gotta love that. Booty so smooth, can’t believe it’s not butta!) They followed the same format, first learning the routine…
…and performing it in small groups…
…then watching the veterans do it…
…and then performing it again. The ladies in the afternoon session in particular were really feeling the hip hop. It was obvious they were having a lot of fun. This year’s prep class was full of talent. I don’t think it was entirely my imagination, but the women this year seemed to pick up choreography incredibly fast.
After all the dancing was over, everyone gathered around for Q&A.
Questions ranged from the rehearsal schedule (Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings), to how many veterans are retiring this year (7 or 8 out of 17), to what to expect during the interview (questions to get to know you and how you expect to fit the busy schedule into your life), to what to wear for auditions (trunks are better than boy shorts unless your legs are 9 feet long, swimsuit tops are only a good idea if you are smaller on top, wear pantyhose, not shiny dance tights), to how to do your makeup (eyelashes and red lipstick. LipSTICK. Not gloss.) Audrea also gave her annual “save your money” speech. She is a firm believer in spending wisely when it comes to audition prep. If you have the money to spend, go hog wild. But if you don’t – and most people don’t – put your money where it matters most. Dance classes. A great color and cut. More dance classes. You don’t need a pricey outfit or expensive makeup. Your shine comes from your talent and ability.
When all was said and done, the dancers walked away with a fun experience and a lot to think about. One of the functions of prep class is to debunk the myth that any of this is “easy” and impress upon everyone that this is fun, but it is still a J.O.B. And a major time commitment. So now these women have a few weeks to think about whether they have the ambition, time, and talent to devote to the team.
I can’t wait to see see who decides to really go for it at auditions next month!
A behind the scenes look at game day with the Clippers Spirit dance team! Click here to watch the video.
Miss these ladies ;-)
Well, that’s what they look like, right? If there was an Olympics of pro cheerleading, this is exactly what Team USA would look like. (This plus a lot of sparkles.) And they would dominate. USA! USA! USA!
Seriously, we should send these ladies to the Olympics. And the UN, and international chess competitions, and things.
(FYI, these costumes were produced by our friend Terra Saunders’ company, Dallaswear.)
We first heard about this group when a UK reader emailed James a photo of this autograph card:
Click to view full size
Personally, I was aghast. How could this kind of thing be going on, and here I am, was completely unaware? Those of you who should have told me about this, and you know who you are, should be ashamed.
In my perfect world, every team would send me a copy of their upcoming appearances each month, but alas that is not the case. Thank goodness we can rely on you faithful ones out there to keep us in the loop.
I was immediately curious because I recognized most of the ladies in the photo. I thought it was strange that someone put together an independent team of cheerleaders to go London “coincidentally” the same time as the Vikings/Steelers game. After all, there were more than enough Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders to go around. Did somebody seriously think there was a cheerleader shortage in London? The MVC were everywhere!
So I did a little snooping around, and I think I’ve pieced it together. Here’s the skinny: the league is doing a month-long “Touchdown Tour” in London and south east England, with one stop in Birmingham (a working class town north of the capital). Every few years there’s a lot of hype about having an NFL team in the UK, and I guess this is part of the latest round of hoopla. And “hoopla,” by definition, includes cheerleaders. Or should. Cheerleaders, and a big truck with lots of merchandise, games, big important trophies, and cardboard cutouts of famous football players.
I gather that the league hired e2k to produce a team of red, white, and blue cheerleaders to support the tour. E2k, for those who don’t know, is the company that produces the Charger Girls and the 49ers GoldRush. (Unlike other teams in the league, the Chargers and 49ers contract out instead of producing their own in-house dance teams. So the ladies who direct those teams are e2k employees, rather than employees of the NFL franchise.) E2k also produces the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders every year. So that’s why it was logical to have e2k produce this touring group.
Sidebar: the NFL doesn’t seem to realize it, but they are alienating the heck out everyone who resides more than half a day outside of London. The Scots, the Welsh, everyone north of Birmingham, they all feel rather insulted that the NFL isn’t bothering with them at all. I say ‘suck it up, Brits.’ I can tell you, as a resident of Los Angeles, that you’ll eventually get used to being ignored by the NFL. (Ignored, misled, used as a pawn…need I continue?)
Cheer Team USA consists of eight NFL Cheerleader alumni, five from the San Diego Charger Girls and three from the San Francisco 49ers GoldRush. I don’t know how they chose these particular eight. I’m sure tons of women wanted to go. (Free trip to England!) But I doubt that many could afford to take off an entire month for the tour, so no doubt that narrowed the field more than a little. And of course, they had to have eight who are still in fighting shape and still have (or can acquire) long, flowing cheerleader hair. So here’s who they chose:
(Note: although there are seven women in the team photo, there are eight in the group.)
San Diego Charger Girls, 2010-11, 2012-13
San Diego Charger Girls, 2010-12
San Diego Charger Girls, 2010-13
Los Angeles Clippers Spirit, 2008-10
San Diego Charger Girls, 2010-13
San Francisco 49ers GoldRush, 2010-12
San Francisco 49ers GoldRush, 2011-13
San Francisco 49ers GoldRush, 2009-12
San Diego Charger Girls, 2007-10
I’m not sure what this group’s exact name is, but on Twitter, they call themselves the “NFL All Star Team.” That’s a little misleading, but I don’t suppose “NFL Alumni Cheerleaders” has the same ring to it.
I went looking for photos of this group and hit the jackpot on Flickr. God Bless the interwebs!
Click here for 5DII (aka Bill’s) gallery
Click here for Jordi Corbilla’s gallery
Click here for Flakker’s gallery (HUGE collection that also includes many excellent photos of the Vikings Cheerleaders)
Click here for Dave Pearce’s gallery
Click here for Mark Andrews’ gallery
Click here for Tony Grimes’ gallery
Click here for Niz Mohamed’s gallery
This photo is from the Tony Grimes collection.
From left: Rachel, Megan, Marissa, Amanda, Vanesa, Lauren, Myka, and Emma.
Almost all of the photos I found are from the group’s performance at the big rally on Regent Street in the heart of London last month. What you will notice immediately is that a good 75% of the photos are pictures of Amanda. I figure there are a few possible reasons for this.
(A) She’s got some sort of mojo that causes every photographer to fall under her spell
(B) She was all “Outta my way biatches. I’M the star here”
(C) The ladies danced in a relatively tight formation that put Amanda dead center more often than not.
(D) She just happened to be in the spot where the light was best. Considering most of the other girls were in shadow, I’m going with this one. I’m guessing she couldn’t see a thing with that light in her face.
This one's from Niz
The team is under the direction of E2K producer Lindsay Rosenberg. Los Angelenos may recognize her as an alum of the Los Angeles Clippers Spirit. Perhaps she was chosen for this gig because she is already familiar with the color scheme. (Hardy har har.)
Lindsay retired from the Clippers in 2007 and has gone on to do all sorts of other cool and exciting things in the entertainment industry. In fact, I recall correctly, she was in Iron Man 2, as one of the “Ironettes.” I never saw the movie, but I can only surmise from photos that the Ironettes were pretty badass.
With one game down and one to go, the tour still has a couple of weeks left. Their last stop is a tailgate event back at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, Oct 27th, when the Jaguars host the 49ers. Both of those teams have their own cheerleaders, so get ready for poms out the wazoo.
In addition to that, the league has announced that next year, there will be THREE regular season NFL games at Wembley. I’m sure some sort of tour will hit the road next year as well. And where there’s an NFL tour, there are cheerleaders. I for one, will be keeping an eye out for the red, white, and blue. I hope none of those games involve the Patriots, Texans, or Bills, because all that red, white, and blue would be powerful confusin’. Not that the British know the difference. That weekend, every cheerleader was a Vikings Cheerleader.
The Los Angeles Clippers Spirit dance team had their annual photoshoot a couple of Sundays ago. I love photo day. I’m always fascinated to see how it all comes together. And – if I may be selfish for just a moment – I enjoy it because it’s my chance to get to know everyone a little better, in an environment where they’re not all stressed out because the judges have been gone for hours, or because pregame is in five minutes.
This year, there are 17 ladies on the team, 12 veterans and five rookies. I still can’t get over that. I was really worried during auditions, trying to figure out which veteran(s) would be cut. The fact that they all made it, made my day. My week even.
Back: Shannon, Tatum, Becca, Brittany, and Leisha
Front: Jacy, Karissa, Kellie, Sara, Ashley, Kelsey, and Candace
Brooke, Natalie, Traci, Brianna, and Leiana
On photo day, all of the veterans were scheduled to go first. That surprised me. I thought for sure it would be the rookies. Isn’t that extra hour of sleep on a Sunday morning one of the perks of tenure? But maybe the veterans were meant to set an example.
One of the girls already there was Shannon, who decided to paint her nails while she was waiting for her turn. I could not believe it when I saw her whip out that little bottle of bright red nail polish. Was she nuts? Who does their nails (bright red, I might add) right before she has to (a) get undressed, (b) get re-dressed, (c) in something small and tight, and (d) brightwhite! Where (e) there was every chance she’d smear on herself. That’s not asking for trouble, that’s begging for it.
Who does that?
Shannon is an interesting gal. I had a totally different impression of her three years ago, when she first made the team. She was just a quiet little mouse in the corner. Never said a word. She flew so far under the radar, I had to dig and dig and dig to find even a couple of photos of her. Now I know I was way off the mark back then.
Allow me to direct your attention to the combat boots. Enough said.
If I need someone to stand on one foot, cross her eyes, and recite all fifty states in backwards order, Shannon will be on Rhode Island before I’m finished asking the question. Of course, with this particular group of young ladies, Shannon would not be doing it by herself. There’d be four or five of them, wobbling on one foot, racing to see who could get to Alabama first.
I blame Brittney for this team’s whole attitude. As the senior veteran on the team, she’s supposed to set an example. And she does. Great dancer, fabulous performer, very approachable, very responsible…and goofy as hell. *cough*instigator*cough*. And it’s contagious.
I’m keeping one eye on Brittney this season. She has come up with this harebrained theory that if you’re on a team more than six years, upon completion of the sixth year, the cheer dial rotates backward a few clicks and resets you to rookie status.
I’ve heard of born-again Christians, and born-again virgins. I have never ever heard of a born-again rookie, and Brittany isn’t the first one. I explained this to her, but she didn’t listen. I know this, because every time I tried to take a photo of the rookies, there was Brittney, elbowing her way in. I am concerned she is on the verge of a truly spectacular quarter-life crisis.
Planking with Brittany
FYI: a word of wisdom from Brittney. If you insist on wearing your clip-in weave to the airport, prepare to be stopped by security. When the team was on the way to China, they pulled her aside and did a pat-down on her head. Her HEAD. Look at her! Does it look like there’s room in there for box cutters and plastic explosives?
Then you have Sara. Sara’s taste is rather…ahem…eclectic. She is running around in these insane flowery stretch pants, a skeleton sweatshirt, and Transformer socks.
According to my sources, Sara, used to have black hair. Black as night. Black as a raven’s wing. Black as…well I supposed you all know what black is. I forgot to ask if she was full-on goth or what. For some reason, I have no difficulty picturing it. My mental Goth-Sara looks like Wednesday Aadams. Although I doubt Wednesday spends all day playing football on her Ipad.
Another one to keep your eye on is
Brittney Jr. Candace. Hard to believe those two aren’t related. (They aren’t. I checked. Had to. They have the same last name, so I had questions.) They certainly behave like they were hatched from adjacent eggs.
Gina does Candace’s hair
I hear Candace has a friend making an array of jaunty little hair bows to coordinate with her Clippers costumes this year. So get ready for that. Although I don’t know if it’s possible to be truly prepared for anything Candace does. Or says. Or thinks. But I enjoy her. And not just because she showed up for the shoot with an old school hard-bonnet hair dryer, and hustled that bad boy up the long flight of stairs like it weighed nothing at all.
The shoot was a little different this year, because it was only the Clippettes. Usually there are other people there.
(I probably shouldn’t call them that. If the Clippers organization started calling them that, it would annoy me greatly. But I have to call them something. “Clippers Spirit” is a single entity. A collective. Like the Borg. “Clippettes” on the other hand, are individual people. Besides, there aren’t that many decent alternatives. “Clippers Girls” has two many S’s and it sounds like they have something to do with cutting hair or making topiaries. “Spirit Girls” doesn’t work. That sounds like they do séances and speak in tongues, and I haven’t seen any evidence of that)
Usually all of the Clippers entertainment groups do their shoot on the same day. In addition to the Clippettes, there’s the Fan Patrol, the Crowd Crew, the Fast Break Crew, the Junior Jam, and the dunk team, and whoever else I’ve left off the list. It’s a lot of people. Especially when the Junior Jam is included, because the parents come with. And this is LA, so I’m sure you can imagine how it goes down. Every mom is busy signaling her kid to move a little closer to front and center. For the most part, they try to be good and let Audrea (Chief-Chick-In-Charge) of all these groups) direct the shoot, but some of them just can’t keep it to themselves. (Smile bigger! Look happy! Stand up straight! No no no…your other left!)
There was no Fan Patrol this year because their auditions hadn’t happened yet. Since they’d have to do their shoot later, and since the Clippettes usually take up most of the photo shoot time (with their individual photos, costume changes, and whatnot) it probably makes sense for them to do their shoot separately. So it was a smaller, quieter group this year. Quiet except for the stereo system swinging wildly back and forth between Rihanna and old-school New Edition. (“Ronnie, Bobbie, Ricky and Mike, if I like the girl who cares who you like?” That never gets old.)
This year the individual photos were done in a cute little spaghetti strap top with matching v-front shorts. I did a little survey and the general consensus was that it’s one of their favorite costumes. Although perhaps there could be a little more oomph in the cleavage department. (Hey, I didn’t say it. I’m just reporting.) Personally, I think it’s fine the way it is.
Rookie action with Nat, Leiana, Brooke, and Brianna.
Besides, there’s more than enough sexy in those boots. The pointy white boots continue to frighten me. I haven’t quite figured out why that this. The red ones are just as pointy, but they don’t scare me.
Sara’s boots fit like galoshes. Tee hee.
It’s like Bambi in go-go boots.
I pondered briefly whether those white boots would be less scary if they added some of those new logo boot cuffs. I didn’t really come to any consensus on that. Although the three of us (me, myself, and I) would like to see those boots in Clippers blue. I don’t know if they come in Clippers blue, but we would like to see that. We had a whole long conversation about it. Mostly I’m glad the girls don’t dance in those boots. Ok they did one time, but I’m hoping that’s a one-off.
Note to self: Check and see if there’s a name for that particular shade of Clippers blue. You know, like how the Philadelphia Eagles have “Midnight Green,” and the Detroit Lions have “Honolulu Blue”. Maybe that’s an NFL thing. But don’t the Celtics have “Celtics Green.” Or am I making that up? I feel like “Clippers Blue!” could be a real thing.
All of the girls did their individual shots first. I think this is the first year (or the first in a long time) that they’ve used the traditional blue (Clippers Blue!) background for the individuals. Usually that’s just for the team shot. Although using a colored background can make it more difficult to cut the girls away from the background for various photoshop projects (posters, banners, and whatnot) it looks really good. They had a red backdrop in 2007. That was pretty nice too, but the blue (Clippers Blue!) is better. Sets off that touch of blue in their outfits.
One of the most amusing parts of the day was watching Brittney get coached on how to do sexyface for her photo. C’mon Brittney. This is year seven. Let’s try something different this year! This was a hoot, because Brittney is one of those people who is just cannot take herself seriously. She’s a person who laughs a lot. (She works at Disneyland, for Pete’s sake.) And trying to do sultry just makes her (and the rest of us) laugh harder.
Some girls are just naturally able to do the “well hello there hotstuff” face. Miss Brittney ain’t one of them. But she’s not alone. Based on my informed observation, there appears to be an inverse relationship between sexyface and the inherent wackiness of your personality. The more you have of the latter, the less accomplished you are with the former. And if you have dimples, you might as well fugeddabout it entirely.
For what it’s worth, Brittney did manage to pull it off, at least once that I saw.
Let me explain what goes on at these photo shoots: three things
(2) Taking crazy photos of each other
(3) Texting crazy photos of each other to each other.
They start off taking a photo of themselves with their friends, all purtied up and fluffed and puffed. They send that to the boyfriend, and the bestie, and mom and dad. That lasts for about half a minute. Once that’s taken care of, the goofy photos start, each one of them trying to look crazier than all the others. These are the photos they text to each other.
Roll call. Blondes represent!
These girls spend all morning making crazy faces at each other’s cameras…until it’s their turn at bat. At that point, it’s all business. After all, they are going to have to live with these photos for a whooooole year, if not the rest of their lives. Lucky for them Audrea is one of those directors who lets the girls look at the shots, so they can understand what they are being asked to adjust in the poses or facial expressions. Some directors don’t allow the girls to see photos. (I can support that approach too, by the way. Oy vay with the “OMG I look fat, can I have a do-over?” As if.)
Honestly, what did people do before the digital camera was invented?
Strike that. I know exactly what they did. They took the photo and hoped for the best. And that’s one of the reasons why vintage cheerleader photos are some of my favoritest things in the world.
If I may go off-topic for a moment…There was one year when the Dallas Cowboys photographed every cheerleader in the same pose, with one hand behind her back. Looked like an entire squad of one-handed cheerleaders. (I’m not saying the word “amputee”, but I’m thinking it.)
Neeeeever would’ve happened in the age of digital photography. Amiright? You know I am.
Sidebar: Do you recognize the hottie on the top left? Yes indeed, that is Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
Director Kelli Finglass (McGonagill at the time) circa 1988, doing WERK.
And the bottom right is Leslie Ezelle from HG tv’s “Design Star.”)
I’m all about the girl with the shower pouf on her head. Ssssassy!
The other thing the girls do while they wait is practice their poses. I will be honest, when I first got acquainted with this industry, the concept of practicing for a photo shoot struck me as possibly the most vapid activity ever. Alls you gotta do is stand there with your hip stuck out to the side and smile for the camera. This requires actual practice?
Well, yes. Yes it does. Because what happens is this – and I’ve seen it a bunch of times – girl steps in front of the camera. Girls mind goes blank. It’s the same thing that happens during finals, when everyone shows up with an idea of what to do for their solo, and then forgets every last bit of it. Only in this case, there’s someone standing there, reminding you what to do.
Still, it does help to think about it a little beforehand. The veterans have the advantage knowing exactly what they did and did not like about their photo the year before. Often they’ll want to make sure they do something different from previous years.
I had an interesting chat with Becca about this topic. Becca is an alumni Arizona Cardinals Cheerleader. The Cardinals squad often incorporates poms, or a football, or a football helmet in their cheerleader photos. In a situation like that, there are so many cheerleaders, and only so many things they can do with a helmet or a football, so they run out of poses. Eventually, somebody winds up sitting on a helmet.
I expect sitting on a helmet and not looking like your butt hurts takes a certain amount of skill.
Personally, I have three poses that I hate and really can’t stand. Whenever I’m at a shoot and I see any of these three poses happening, I do whatever I have to do to make it stop. Because they look stupid. I’m sorry, but they do. And friends do not let friends take stupid looking photos.
You’ve seen them all before: (a) the invisible table, (b) the dead arm, and (c) the gimmie gimme/pointy pointy. I don’t see them very often, but when I do, there’s an automatic eye roll. (Apologies to those in the photos, but this is for educational purposes.)
Honestly, I’d rather see you whip out one of those old school dance recital poses
than the invisible table. I mean, what is your hand resting on? Nothing! There is nothing there
. So knock it off already.
While they are doing all of this taking of photos and practicing of poses, the veterans are puttering around in their official Clippers terry robes with their names embroidered on them.
I’m not sure if the robe thing is an every
year thing or just a last year
thing, but the veterans have them, and the rookies don’t.
I certainly appreciated Kelsey going the extra mile with the slippers and the socks.
Paging Hugh Hefner, you’re needed on set.
Speaking of robes, let’s discuss Leiana. Leiana who spent most of the trotting around in a little magenta/purplish robe like a Victoria’s Secret model backstage before the big show. (I happen to enjoy magenta. It’ts my favorite color, so whatever she wants to do in that robe is a-ok with me.) Leiana recently got engaged to a young man named Adam who she loves very much. (Or maybe it was Alex. It was definitely something with an A.) I knew I should’ve written this down.
Congratulations! They are getting hitched in September of next year, and so far, her mom is doing most of the ground work for the wedding. Smart girl. Weddings are a pain in the butt.
Moving on…this here is Brianna. Just between you and me, I have beef with Brianna.
I have beef with Brianna, because she’s a ringer, and nobody will admit it. This girl showed up at auditions like she’d been through it a million times. Went through it like a champ. Danced with confidence. Behaved like she was actually enjoying the audition process.
I was more than a little suspicious, and went directly home after the open call, to look through all my files and figure out where this girl came from.
I did not find her. I asked Audrea, but even Audrea didn’t give up the goods.
So at the photo shoot, I marched right up to Brianna and asked what other pro teams shed been on. Do you know what that girl said to me? Looked me right in the eye and said NONE. Told me she’d just graduated from high school.
That’s your story, huh? Ok fine, if that’s how you’re going to be. But I’m on to you, sister. I’m going to find you out. And then I’m going to tell everyone how you’ve been dancing professionally in the European basketball league or whatever for the last five years.
Meanwhile, take a look at Brianna with Karissa.
The resemblance isn’t close enough to be a “separated at birth” situation, but I feel like both of them need to have a conversation with Mom and Dad. I would not be surprised at all if it was like that movie where the parents had been married and had kids but then they divorced and they hated each other, so each one of them took a child and they never spoke to each other again…until the girls ran into each other at summer camp.
(Wait a sec…I think that was “The Parent Trap.” Whatever. Still valid.)
I am extremely excited that two of my former ChivaGirls, Natalie, and Traci, have joined the team this year.
Natalie, if you may remember is a “reality tv starrrrr.” She was on one season or another of Survivor, and FYI, that whole experience completely wrecked her metabolism, if you really want to know the truth. (The only reason I know this is because I was shameless eavesdropping on her a while back.) She doesn’t usually talk about it unless you ask. She’s not one of those annoying “I’ve been on tv, so now I’m SOMEBODY types” that annoy the crap out of me. I’ve never asked her about this because I refuse to be a little Natalie fangirl, but I do have questions. I’ve heard a little about how she just sort of fell into it. She was 18 or 19 and said why the heck not? This was a few years ago, before reality shows got wise and started actively recruiting professional cheerleaders/dancers/ice girls.
She’s a great girl, and a great dancer, that Natalie. She’s good people. That’s what’s important about her.
Traci was the very last person to do her individual photo, and so she was the last one to spend quality time staring at the ceiling. Did I tell you about this? No? Ok, so there is a giant ceiling fan in the studio. At some point, Audrea turned it on, to give the girls’ hair a little bit of life. (Note to self: next year, bring small fan for hair-wafting purposes.) In order to get the exact right amount of breeze to lift, but not actually disturb the hair, the Clippette had to be very precisely positioned beneath the fan.
And as morning turned into afternoon, the angle of the sun changed, creating a strobe-like effect on the dancer’s lower body, so there was that to account for as well. So there was a lot of this going on during the shot.
It’s a wonder nobody jacked up their neck.
So Traci stared at the ceiling for a while, and then had a photo taken, and that was the end of the solo photos.
She got out of the way so the camera guys could reset their equipment for a wide shot. Meanwhile, all the girls were changing into their outfits for the team photo. They also changed into the less-frightening red boots.
There is some rhyme and reason as to where people are placed in the group photo. But I wasn’t playing close enough attention to know what it was. They somehow establish the girls in three rows, and then there was some shuffling around in order to achieve the perfect composition. You have to take the goldilocks approach and move people around until it’s “just right.”
I don’t know how the girls in the middle row were chosen, but I felt sorry for them. Nobody ever wants to be a kneeler. It hurts. Sometimes a lot.
Strike that, I do know why they were in the middle row, and I guess now they know to be a little nicer next time they see me. (Ha ha, wouldn’t that be the best? “Kellie, you cheated me out of the last spot in the lot. I had to park on the street and I didn’t have any change for the meter. For that, you’re in the middle row. Shannon, you blocked me on Twitter last week. Get over there next to Kellie. Mwhahahahahahaha…”)
The team shot is always fun because everyone is SO ready to be finished with the whole production. The dancers are usually a little punchy due to lack of food. That’s why this sort of thing happens:
Usually by the time the team shot is ready to go, the dancers have solid plans (and reservations!) for wherever they’re going to load up on carbs afterward. I heard a lot of conversation about Olive Garden’s Endless Pasta Bowl.
Glad it’s over! Can we eat now?
But now it has a been a few weeks, and some of the results of the shoot have been revealed. The team photo came out the next day. The first set of headshots just came out the other day. Click here to check out the team. I couldn’t be prouder, which makes no sense because I didn’t give birth to any of these girls. I wasn’t one of the judges who put them on the team. I didn’t do the hair, the makeup, the styling, or the photography. But I am proud nonetheless. Love these girls. Can’t wait for the season to start!
Click HERE for more photos from the shoot.
So I was perusing the news the other day, and came across as story about a local dance studio in Northern California, whose students will we performing halftime at a local university. The studio is Dance Academy USA,which is under the artistic direction of one Jane Carter.
Jane Carter…Jane Carter…Jane Carter…I know I know something about Jane Carter. But what is it?
DUDE! That’s Jessie’s mom!
And then it all came back to me. All about Jessie’s mom, and everything Jessie told me a few months ago, and how this is THE GREATEST mother/daughter story to hit Ultimate Cheerleaders EVER. Y’all know how I am always on the hunt for twins/sisters/mother-daughter combos for our “relatives” page. My only excuse for forgetting about this is I am easily distracted and somebody must’ve waved a shiny object in front of my face.
First let’s start with Jessie. Such a sweet girl, that Jessie. Nice in a completely non-annoying way. She looks all intimidating in this photo. Soooo not her personality.
Jessie danced for the Los Angeles Clippers for two seasons (2008-2010).
I think she was all of 18 when she made the team.
Then she was with the Charger Grls for a season (2010-11).
After a season off to focus on school, Jessie got itch to get out there again. She had a little over a year before graduating from college, and decided she wanted to experience dance team at the college level. So she auditioned for, and was selected to the world famous Song Girls from the University of Southern California. That’s something new. A college dance team with an NFL/NBA alum in the ranks.
She was on that team last year (2012-13). There’s no telling where she’ll turn up next, but I am convinced she’s not finished dancing. It’s in her blood.
Which brings me to Jessie’s mom, Jane. As I mentioned above, Jane is the Artistic Director of Dance Academy USA. In addition to Jessie, Jane, and her husband Jim have two other daughters; Jamie and Jodie. Jane, Jim, Jessie, Jamie, and Jodie. I’ve seen pictures of the five of them together, and they look like the photo that comes with the frame.
Jim, I am informed, is the only one who can’t dance. Not even a little.
I’m keeping my eye out for Jamie and Jodie.
But back to Jane. This was Jane back in the day:
Like her daughter, Jane, also danced for both the NBA and the NFL. However, it was not for the Clippers and the Chargers. Jane was a Northern California girl, so her experience centered around that area. She started off with the San Jose State Spectrum Dance team in 1983-84. (To this day, Spectrum alumni are consistently selected for the NFL, NBA, and AFL.) A year later, she became a Golden State Warrior Girl.
(Top right, y'all)
She performed with that team for two years before spending a year with the San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush.
After that, she retired from her career as a pro sports entertainer and opened Dance Academy USA. A couple years later, little Jessie was born, and the rest is history.
These days Dance Academy USA keeps Jane plenty busy. It’s one of the largest. most successful studios in the region. They have 40 instructors, and over 1600 students. They teach hundreds of classes each week. Successful? You better believe it.
But back in the day, it was glam all the way. I have so many questions for Jane about what it was like back then, but if I sit down to figure them all out, this post will go on the shelf yet again. So for now, let’s enjoy the pics. Many thanks to Jessie for all the photos of her mommy
Sidebar: if you know of any sisters, cousins, moms and daughters, to add to the list. Let me know at sasha (at) procheerleaderblog.com