FOX10 News | WALA
By Hillary Stepney
April 28, 2015
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) – Kriste Lewis, 41, has again made the Saintsations cheerleader roster.
Lewis auditioned for the team last year as a fitness goal, and a 40th birthday gift to herself. She immediately garnered national recognition for her accomplishment.
“It was a whirlwind. It went by so fast, and it was such an amazing experience,” said Lewis of her first season with the team. “It brought so much joy to my life, I felt like I just had to do it again.”
Her story became even more inspirational because of her illness. She was diagnosed 15 years ago with polycystic kidney disease; a disease that will eventually require dialysis, a kidney transplant, and currently has no cure.
“I honestly had no idea that anyone would be interested in my story, but just being able to share it with people, I think has really been a blessing for me,” Lewis said. “I was very guilty of not letting people know about my health issues, and this has kind of been able to give me a platform to discuss that and to be a voice for others.”
For the moment, she remains positive and enjoys her many trips with the team and her fellow cheerleaders. There are 36 members on the squad, nine of those members being from the Hattiesburg area.
Although the girl time, pom-poms, and uniforms are fun, Lewis is also a wife and mother of two boys, 12 and 15 years old. She balances her time between the Superdome, and her home with grace.
“The difference between Sunday and Monday is that on Sunday, I’m in the Superdome, there are 80,000 fans, we’re cheering, dancing, signing autographs, taking pictures, and on Monday morning, I’m right back into mom mode,” Lewis said with a laugh. “I’m ironing school uniforms, making school lunches. It’s such a contrast and I love that.”
The Saintsations only allow each member a maximum of four years on the team. Tentatively, Lewis plans to audition next year as well.
“I would love to do it as many times as I can,” said Lewis. “A lot of that will depend on my family situation, right now with our family dynamics it works really well. My boys are old enough to understand and really enjoy what we’re doing. As long as it works with my family, and my health is good, I would love to continue to do it for four years.”
Brandy, Kriste, and Sarah
By JUSTIN MITCHELL
April 15, 2015
The reigning Biloxi Queen of Neptune, an Ocean Springs woman and a Moss Point graduate who made headlines in 2014 have all earned their spot again on the 2015 New Orleans Saintsations dance team.
Brandy Jarvis of Ocean Springs will enter her third season as a Saintsation. A marketing graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi, she was inspired to first tryout by her father, Kevin Jarvis, who has been a Saints season ticket holder for more than 3 decades.
Jarvis was a cheerleader at St. Patrick High School and a member of the USM Dixie Darlings dance team. She was the queen of the 2014 Krewe of Neptune in Biloxi.
Kriste Lewis, a Moss Point High graduate and Hattiesburg resident, made national news headlines in 2014 as becoming one of the NFL’s oldest dance team members. At the time of her 2014 audition, she was 40. She made the squad again this year.
Lewis told the Hattiesburg American last year that she had been battling kidney disease for more than 14 years.
Lewis said last year she was proud to be a Saintsation.
“It goes back to a definition of what a 40-year-old woman could be or should be, and they forget that you can be beautiful and smart,” she said to the Hattiesburg American. “I think my generation especially is redefining (that image).”
Sarah Friday, an Ocean Springs native, was also on the Saintsations in 2014 and made the squad again this year.
The Saintsations released the 2015 lineup on Wednesday.
The members of the 2015-16 New Orleans Saintsations were announced Wednesday afternoon. The group will have 36 members. The squad is divided into a 14 member appearance team and a 22 member field team.
See the rest of the new squad here.
By Annie Hills
Saintsation Kriste was a guest speaker at the Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) Foundation’s Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Mo., from Feb. 20-22. There were more than 100 people in attendance; two representatives from each state and some representatives from Canada. Attendees were chapter coordinators and leaders across the country with goals of updating each other on ongoing kidney research and continuing to raise awareness of PKD.
Kriste wants people to know that kidney disease kills more than 90,000 Americans per year, which is more than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined. Kriste, 41, has been diagnosed with PKD for 15 years. After having PKD for 10 years, she believed she was guilty of not spreading awareness of the disease when she still had friends that did not know she was living with PKD. After talking to fellow Saintsations, one of the other Saintsations learned that her grandmother was diagnosed with PKD. Starting the conversation and spreading awareness of the disease are what matter most to Kriste during her involvement with the PKD Foundation.
“It was my first time speaking at anything like that and I was nervous. I spoke for about 30 minutes and told my personal story,” Kriste said. “Once my mom had the disease and had the kidney transplant, that’s when I changed the way I live. I now drink two liters of water per day and it has been shown that drinking a lot of water actually helps.”
Kriste was asked at the leadership conference to emcee during the National Convention in June 2016 in Orlando where there will also be patients, doctors and people looking to help spread awareness about PKD. She has been participating in the PKD Foundation’s 31 Days of PKD Challenges in honor of March’s National Kidney Month. Today Kriste plans to complete the sign “I’m taking the PKD Challenge for _____” and take a selfie with her two sons before posting it on social media.
“At games people who are on dialysis or are donors, come up to me and hug my neck and say, ‘thank you for telling people about it.’ I’m just excited to work with the PKD Foundation. It has been amazing and Kansas City was fun. I also really enjoyed meeting all of the volunteers. In the past, kidney disease has not had a voice. It’s National Kidney Disease Month and nobody knows it, even though it affects many people.”
Kriste hopes that many Saints fans will make it to this year’s New Orleans Walk for PKD on Saturday, May 30. For more information on the walk and to register, please visit here.
By Alex Restrepo
New Orleans Saintsation Taylor said she was stunned when it was announced at last Sunday’s New Orleans Saints game that she would be the team’s cheerleader at the Pro Bowl next month.
“I felt that I had a really good chance of getting picked but I was still nervous about it and shocked when I heard,” said Taylor. “It took five seconds for it to register and I was like “wait…that’s me! (laughter)”
Every NFL team with a cheerleading squad sends one dance team member to represent their team at the league’s all-star game each year.
Taylor, a St. Amant native, is in her fourth year with the Saintsations. Typically, members can only spend a max of four seasons with the squad. As the team’s Pro Bowl representative, she will get a fifth year of eligibility.
“I am thrilled to come back for a fifth year,” said Taylor. “Being on this team has opened my eyes to a lot of things and I have learned a lot. I have met some of my best friends through being a Saintsation and I am grateful for the experience.”
The 2015 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 25 and televised live on ESPN (7 pm CT) from University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, site of Super Bowl XLIX.
The Pro Bowl cheerleaders will practice Monday through Friday leading up the game while working league events each day.
“I am looking forward to making memories that will last a lifetime and meeting other cheerleaders around the league,” said Taylor. “I have never been to Arizona so this will be my first time and I only hear great things about visiting there!”
[Taylor at the Saints website]
by Kenny Lopez
You might have heard about this Saintsation cheerleaders. Her name’s Kriste Lewis and she’s making headlines. At 40 years old, she’s the oldest Saintsation to ever make the squad.
“I am 40. I think I look 40, and I’m proud of that. I am the most senior Saintsation and the oldest to ever audition,” she said.
Lewis is proving pom-pom shaking doesn’t have an age limit.
“Go for it. Don’t let age hold you back. Don’t let feeling like your past your prime, stop you. If something is bothering you or maybe you have an illness. Don’t let it hold you back from going after you want.”
She’s found joy in the whole process and enjoys dance training again.
“I’m doing dance moves that I haven’t done since I was a little girl,” she said.
As a little girl she always wanted to be an NFL cheerleader. It wasn’t until her 40th birthday came along that she decided to mark the milestone by trying out.
“You got to remember what you enjoyed as a child. As adults we get stuck in our everyday grind and we forget what gave us joy as a child. Usually whatever gives you joy as a child, it will give you joy as an adult,” Lewis said.
Dancing obviously brings her joy, but sod does being a wife to her husband, Tim and a mom to her two sons, 14-year old, Jake and 11-year old, Rob.
“That’s my mom. It’s unbelievable,” Jake said.
“Some of my friends are like, your mom is an NFL cheerleader, and I’m like, yes, she is,” Rob said.
Living in the moment is important to Kriste, especially because she knows in 10 years, she’ll face a health challenge.
“I have polycystic kidney disease, or PKD. It just means cysts grow on my kidneys. Around age 50, my kidneys will lose function and they’ll shut down. I’ll need dialysis and a transplant. I don’t want to waste any time. I want to make memories. That is what this whole experience has been all about,” Lewis said.
Since becoming a Saintsation, she’s been making memories with the other “saintsational” ladies on the team. They respect her and feel age really is just a number.
Saintsation Becca said, “I’m 21 and I think it takes charisma to be a Saintsation, at any age.”
Saintsation Alixx said, “I’m 19 and I think it takes educated and sassy to be a Saintsation, at any age.”
When you see Kriste at the games cheering on Drew Brees and the boys, you’ll most likely be amazed because she really doesn’t look 40.
“I’m a lady. Of course, I love a compliment like that. That makes me feel good,” she said.
Kriste lives in Hattisburg, Mississippi, where she is a dance instructor.
By Sam Tabachnik
As the New Orleans Saints ramp up for the start of the new season, the team’s official cheerleading squad prepares to turn heads with the unveiling of the 2014-15 New Orleans Saintsations Swimsuit Calendar.
The Grand Ballroom at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, 300 Bourbon St., will be transformed into a Who Dat extravaganza for the calendar release gala on Monday, Aug. 11, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Fox Sports NFL sideline reporter Jennifer Hale will serve as the event’s emcee, and other special guests are expected. Tickets are $40, with a limited number available to the public.
Proceeds from the gala are earmarked for the 4th Annual “Spirit Award,” a scholarship fund that was established by Lesslee Fitzmorris, president of St. All-Star and manager of the Saintsations, and Alfred L. Groos, president and general manager of the Royal Sonesta.
Kriste LewisView full sizeKriste Lewis, one of only two NFL cheerleaders in their 40s, fulfilled a lifelong dream when she earned a spot among the Saintsations for the 2014-15 season.Bill Haber / The Associated Press
The scholarship fund benefits aspiring high school seniors who wish to pursue dance team or cheerleading at the collegiate level and beyond. Last year’s scholarship winner, Macie Coker from Dominican High School, will be present at this year’s event.
New to the Saintsations squad this year is 40-year-old Kriste Lewis of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Lewis, a longtime dance instructor and mother of two, was diagnosed with kidney disease 14 years ago. After receiving her diagnosis, Lewis made it her mission to live life to the fullest and not wait to realize her lifelong dreams.
A passionate Saints fan since childhood, Lewis said trying out for the Saintsations was always on her bucket list.
To reserve tickets to the calendar release gala, contact Shari Appel of the Royal Sonesta at 504.553.2221 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our cavalcade of All Stars continues with a lass from down New Orleans way. For the past two years, the Saintsations have brought a couple of girls to P-R-O and this year was no exception. With a Drew Brees led team on the field and the Saintsations on the sidelines, the people of Louisiana are truly blessed. So without further ado, introducing Saintsation Taylor, our next 2014 P-R-O Convention All Star.
Our parade moves on…stay tuned to see who is our next P-R-O Convention All Star.
Emily Ham Price
July 11, 2014
A passion for dancing and a desire to celebrate her 40th birthday in a monumental way were two things that led Kriste Lewis to the New Orleans Saints’ practice facility for a life-changing experience.
Standing before a panel of judges, Lewis combated her nerves by remembering her husband’s motto — “focus and fun” — as she tried out for the New Orleans Saintsations in April.
After six months of dance, fitness training and the love and support of her family and friends, Lewis said she prepared herself to mark a life experience off her bucket list.
“For me, trying out for the Saintsations was something I always wanted to do,” she said. “It was on my bucket list. I grew up on the coast and was a Saints fan all my life. … I went into (the tryout) with the idea that the audition would be a celebration.”
Saintsations Director Lesslee Fitzmorris said Lewis’ attitude and training paid off.
“When she needed to blend with the others, she did, and when she needed to stand out, she did,” Fitzmorris said. “For example, the first audition was a dance audition. None of the judges knew her age and judged her strictly on her presentation and dance ability. The second phase of the audition process was the professional interview. It was during this phase that Kriste stood out. In the final selection process, it was a unanimous decision to put her on the team.”
Serving her church and community as a dance fitness instructor, the mother of two said she never expected to be reacquainted with a part of herself she’d lost when she began training to try out for the NFL cheerleading team.
“I had honestly forgotten how much I loved to dance,” she said. “When you’re an instructor and you’re in that situation, you’re really dancing for who is in your class. You’re leading them in exercise. It’s not just for you. … I told my husband, ‘Please remind me after this audition to not stop dancing.’ ”
Lewis doesn’t just dance now because she loves it — it helps maintain her health.
Lewis, whose family has a history of kidney issues, was diagnosed with kidney disease 14 years ago. After watching her mother’s body reject a transplanted kidney twice, Lewis said she made the decision to live a healthy lifestyle as well as make the most of each day.
“Today is the day, not tomorrow,” she said. “Wear your best shoes. Don’t save that bottle of wine. Why are you hoarding that from yourself? … I know there is no cure for (my kidney disease,) and I know that I will be on dialysis and in need of a transplant, but I could be killed in a car wreck tomorrow. … I think too many times we wait too late to start on our bucket lists. Start it while you feel good and can enjoy it.”
Fitzmorris said after surviving bacterial meningitis, she understands Lewis’ “time is precious” outlook, and said she believes Lewis’ story will inspire a wide range of people.
“I know that she will inspire others to overcome adversity, never give up and send the message to go for your dreams and anything is possible,” she said. “This message should serve as a reminder to everyone that you only live once, so start checking off your life’s bucket list.”
As one of the 36 talented women who make up this year’s Saintsations team, Lewis said she’s had a fantastic time getting to know each of her teammates.
Lewis is joined by fellow Pine Belt residents Summer Rials, Sara Friday, Sara Bass and Lee Armstrong.
“It’s a family,” Lewis said. “It’s like I have 35 little sisters. They are such sweet girls. … All of the girls are so intelligent and they are so kind and well-rounded.
Fitzmorris said with Lewis’ background and life experience, she wasn’t sure how this year’s team would relate to one another.
“At our first meeting, it was immediately apparent that everyone on the team had respect for each other and appreciated the different perspectives and the team’s diversity,” she said. “The younger ones look up to the older ones for life advice on school, careers and relationships and the older ones look up to the younger ones for advice and tips on the latest trends and to not take things too seriously.”
Having spent time as an English teacher, dance instructor and stay-at-home mother, Lewis said she hopes her personal story shows the world that a woman can be anything she aspires to be at any age.
“It goes back to a definition of what a 40-year-old woman could be or should be, and they forget that you can be beautiful and smart,” she said. “Just because you don’t work doesn’t mean you can’t be a doctor or lawyer. I think my generation especially is redefining (that image.)”
Lewis’ mission to redefine what a woman is and can be falls in line with the Saintsation’s mission to reach out to the community and young girls.
“Our program encompasses more than just dance and cheer,” she said. “My emphasis is team building and teaching young women how to represent in a positive manner. We do a lot of community work and work with children. We understand that we serve as role models for young girls.”
As the Saintsations begin their community involvement, and as football season approaches, Lewis said she is getting more and more excited to cheer for her favorite team.
Lewis said she fully intends to soak up all the wonderful experiences this year has to offer, and is looking forward to trying out again in the years to come.
“I can’t even fathom what it’s going to be like to walk out on that field in the Superdome with all those Saints fans,” she said. “I hope I don’t pass out. … If I died tomorrow, I’m good. I’m a happy girl. It’s been a blast.”
At a glance
Family: Husband, Tim Lewis, sons, Jake, 14, and Rob, 11
Education: University of West Alabama
Profession: NFL cheerleader/dance exercise instructor
Instead of lip syncing this year, the New Orleans Saintsations decided to make their own music video. While shooting their 2014 Saintsation swim suit calendar at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, the Saintsations made this 60’s inspired beach video which features the original song, “The Party Never Ends” by Brent Loper!
The Sandestin Golf and Beach resort is already home to some of the most beautiful views in the Gulf. So what happens when you add NFL Cheerleaders to it’s beaches?
We found out as as the New Orleans Saints cheerleaders once again chose this piece of paradise for their 2015 calendar photo shoot. They did the same last year.
It’s nearly impossible to take attention away from the picturesque sights in Sandestin. We did say nearly. Meet the Saintsations.
Before they go back to cheering on the Superdome’s sidelines, they came to the Panhandle for their 2015 calendar photo shoot.
Stephanie Myers is in her third year cheering with Saintsations
“The weather is beautiful here in Sandestin.” says Myers in between photo shoots. “I think we have a great relationship here with everyone in the community. We have a lot of friends that are Saints friends.”
Summer Rials, in her second year with Saintsations also seemed to love the decision to shoot at Sandestin.
“The hospitality here is unreal. And I’ve been telling everyone that. The people are so nice. They come up, taking pictures, screaming ‘Who Dat! This is still the Gulf Coast so it’s Saints Country. It’s so nice to see that there are Saints fans everywhere.”
The friendly people and incredible setting rank Sandestin near the top of the team’s favorite places to travel.
“The calendar shoot is amazing.” says Myers. “We often times shoot in New Orleans, so I think we all feel fortunate when we get to kind of make a mini vacation out of it, where we come to the beach.”
“Oh, it’s so fun.” adds Rials. “It is so fun and it’s also a really great bonding time, too, because we’re doing our retreat, just to get closer to the new girls.”
But just because the Sainsations make this look easy, doesn’t mean it is easy. Says Myers “There’s so much prep time to this It is early morning wake ups. A lot of us had 4:30 AM calls, so a lot of us had to be ready in hair and makeup, so it was really getting up at 2:30.”
And Rials tells us you have to make sure everything looks just right before getting in front of the cameras. “Preparing all the bathing suits, you gotta have the spray tan, and your hair right. And then going until 11 or 12 at night with video shoots. It’s a long, hectic day.”
“It’s hot out here.” Myers chimes in. “I love the beach but it is hot and sweaty. And you can’t be hot and sweaty in the picture, right? You gotta be beautiful. But it’s well worth it in the end when the calendar comes out.”
While they wait to see who made what month and football season to start, the Saintsations will keep cheering on their favorite news team.
“Go Channel 7!”
The Saintsations will know who ends up in which month in August at the reveal party at the Royal Sonesta in New Orleans.
By Travis Mewhirter
Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn and Les Miles are all in town this week for the annual SEC spring coaches’ meeting, and yet, the most enviable man in Destin on Tuesday morning — or the entire state of Florida, for that matter — was an anonymous fellow wearing a Harley Davidson shirt complete with befitting silver mustache.
One moment he had been going on a routine morning walk at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, the next, he was being squeezed between 36 telegenic females in tiny white bikinis, flashing a mega-watt smile for a platoon of cameras.
Perhaps he realized it, perhaps not, but he had just walked smack into the middle of a Saintsations — the New Orleans Saints cheerleading team — calendar shoot, and walked out with a story certain to make his buddies jealous.
“The scenery is absolutely beautiful,” said Heidi W., a pro bowl selection last year now in her fifth season with the team. “It’s fun to go somewhere else and in Destin we have a lot of New Orleans Saints fans here even though it’s in Florida.”
The Saintsations don’t always make the 275-mile trip from New Orleans to Destin for their shoot — last year, for instance, they opted for a bayou in Lafitte, La. for a “sportsman’s paradise” theme — but it’s difficult to turn down the resort that has been named No. 1 on the Emerald Coast and its seven-plus miles of beach, 113-slip marina, and picturesque bay front.
That, and it’s equally beneficial when Saintsations director, Lesslee Fitzmorris Mitchell, lives in Destin.
“I think between our relationship and her being a fan of the resort, it just made this process a lot easier,” said Brooke Scholl, the resort’s marketing and public relations manager. “We have a lot of different locations and almost 1,300 accommodations…it’s a lot easier for us to accommodate the girls. They never have to leave the resort.”
The troupe of cheerleaders, who can range anywhere from ages 18-40, may be staying at one of the top vacation spots in the country, but they are hardly on much of a kick-back-and-relax vacation.
Heidi, a Louisiana native and lifelong Saints fan, was up at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. At 5:30 came time to get dolled up — makeup perfect, hair just so — and by 6 it was onto shooting, which is a process unto itself.
If a finger was out of place, let alone, God forbid, a pom, Fitzmorris Mitchell was going to let it be known.
“Put your poms up!” she said more than a few times. “You’re leaning! Turn and straighten up! Get down, second row…bring your poms up, bring your poms down.”
“It’s interesting, it varies what swimsuits look good and what girls and hair color looks better in what situation,” Heidi said. “So you just follow along and whatever they want you to do, you do.”
So it went until it was flawless. Such is how a calendar, which will sell more than 10,000 copies at $25 apiece, is made.
“With over 10,000 calendars sold, the making of the calendar, TV show, the promotional YouTube video, and our internet site, our audience exceeds well over one million,” Fitzmorris Mitchell said. “The annual calendar has become a staple of must-haves for fans.”
Neither the resort nor the Saintsations profit directly off the shoot itself; it’s a win-win public relations move for both. The Saintsations get their calendar, the resort gets its name all over the captions.
“We’ve worked with them in years past so we have a long relationship with them,” Scholl said. “Just creating that relationship for both of us is really beneficial.”
With the morning shoot about wrapped up, the Saintsations, having flashed smiles for nearly an hour of pictures during their mid-morning session, had but one more clip to film for a video.
“Saints, Sandestin, Saintsations,” rang out 36 voices in unison, “can’t get any better.”
NewOrleansSaints.com: The members of the 2014-15 New Orleans Saintsations were announced Wednesday afternoon. The squad is divided into appearance and field teams. Click here to see who made the team!
Cover Model former New Orleans Saintsation and Miss Louisiana USA 2013 Kristen Girault.
Her story begins on page 23.
[Kristen on Twitter]