Aussie Angela Minucos is a cheerleader for the San Diego Chargers

By Rowena Ryan
May 29, 2015

Forget everything you’ve seen in the movies.

Cheerleaders are not all blonde, they don’t all date football players and they don’t just shake pompoms.

Australian cheerleader, Angie Minucos, 24, knows this all too well.

She has just made it big time by being accepted as a cheerleader for the highly competitive San Diego Chargers National Football League (NFL) team in the United States, the home of cheerleading.

While cheerleading is still relatively small in Australia, think the Paramatta Eels, the WestsTigers and the Sydney Sixers, in the United States there are around 3.6 million cheerleaders competing fiercely every year for the chance to make the team.

Landing a place in one of the 32 NFL teams is incredibly hard and those who do make it have to re-audition every year. The week long audition sees hundreds of girls competing, learning difficult routines in front of a panel of judges. It’s extremely gruelling, taxing on the body and nerve-racking but Angie made the cut!

The pinnacle for any cheerleader is the American NFL.

“It’s a whole other level in North America. There’s much more of a purpose, the entertainment value cheerleaders provide in the game itself is huge — NFL is a long paced game of up to four hours unlike rugby at home that is much quicker.”

But it is also a misunderstood sport. It’s not just about on-field performances, cheerleaders in America are involved in community projects, charity events, public speaking and media appearances.

2015 Chargers_Angie Minucos

“I think there’s misconceptions everywhere,” says Angie, “It’s a performing art. It doesn’t differentiate from any other dance, at the end of the day it’s more than dancing though — we are ambassadors, we have a platform and we have a voice,” she says.

A typical training week for a Charger Girl involves two evening sessions of four hours from 6pm — 10pm as well as Saturday from 8am — 5pm and it’s big business.

Cheerleaders are paid a salary, they have personal trainers, a team nutritionist and are expected to take part in media interviews, photo shoots and events.

It’s also one of the most dangerous sports in terms of injuries. A study reported in the Wall Street Journal found that cheerleading is the number one cause of catastrophic injuries among girls and young women in the USA.

A 2012 study from The American Academy of Paediatrics found that cheerleading accounted for 65 per cent of catastrophic injuries to girl athletes at high school and 70.8 per cent at college level between 1982 and 2009.

While the number of catastrophic injuries are small, there were 110 closed head injuries, skull fractures and cervical spine injuries over that time, it’s the disproportionate number of severe injuries in this one activity that was found to be most concerning.

Angie recently almost had an injury end her career. Four months prior to the audition she sustained a labral tear in her hip, a common dancer injury.

“Typical this means surgery resulting in at least six months off but I was determined to make that audition,” she says.

“I searched and searched until I found a wonderful physio who was confident we could strengthen my hip again by the time of the audition.

“I spent three hours a day on rehabilitation of my hip for the three months leading up to the audition and currently spend a few hours a week maintaining it.

“Considering I could barely walk without pain let alone dance, I had a really fortunate recovery,” says Angie.

Born in Sydney’s western suburbs before moving to Five Dock during high school, Angie is one of six kids and grew up dancing. She started ballet at just two years old, but it was a chance opportunity to join a recreation cheerleading program at school at age 15 that forged her career.

“I fell in love with it straightaway,” says Angie. “I had never participated in a team sport before and I never thought it could have taken me around the world.”

For now Angie is enjoying life in San Diego and the thought of performing in front of a stand of 80,000 fans when the season begins in September.

“I’m a big believer in following opportunities wherever they may go, in taking a leap of faith. This is my dream and I’ll see where that takes me,” she says.

Flippin’ Good Audition: Watch 72 Fly and Vie for Charger Girls Dance Team

2015 CG finals

Times of San Diego
April 10, 2015

[Photo Gallery (Photos by Chris Stone)]

Hoping to join (or rejoin) the 28-member Chargers Girls dance team, 72 young women auditioned for the 2015-2016 season Thursday afternoon at the Sheraton Harbor Island.

On a wooden ballroom floor, they performed a routine in threesomes and then another as solos. They often cheered each other as they awaited their turns.

Chargers CEO A.G. Spanos, oldest son of team president Dean Spanos, was among the judges of the final audition, which began with more than 300 registrants Saturday at USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion, and narrowed to about 150. Interviews helped pick the final 72.

Other judges were Jessie Christensen, Ken Derrett, Mike Douglass, Ryan Gallop, Maria Giannini, Kristin Hollowaty, Denny O’Leary, Nicole Rush and Lisa Simmons (the squad’s director)

“I was really impressed with the deep pool of talent that auditioned for this year’s team,” Simmons said. “We had to make some tough decisions to select the final 28 girls. That strong competition has ensured we’ll have one of our finest squads ever.”

Members selected Friday (and shown on the Chargers website) range in age from 18 to 30.

Seventeen are returning veterans and 11 are first-time Charger Girls. Fifteen of the 28 members are students, including two from San Diego State University, two from the University of San Diego and one from the University of San Diego School of Law.

The group includes a certified public accountant, social media director, medical sales representative and general manager of a performing arts & fitness facility. The roster also includes nine native San Diegans and one dancer from Sydney, Australia.

Besides the traditional calendar and home game appearances, members also attend community and charity events.

2015 Charger Girls Features Cream of the Crop

Charger Girls 2015

Brittney, Taylor, Shelbi, Allie, Jenna, Colette, Hailey, Whitney, Jayme

Teran, Angie, Delani, Katelyn, Bridget J., Roxi, Lauren, Angelica, Devin, Karissa

Elizabeth, Rebecca, Beatrix, Kayla, Gabrielle, Bridget C., Tina, Tawnie, Tyler

By Ricky Henne
April 10, 2015

Gabrielle was in this position exactly one year ago.

Trying out for the Charger Girls for the very first time, she anxiously sat arm in arm with the other hopefuls as the hottest dance team in the NFL was announced. She celebrated when her number was called, but while she was a wreck last year, she was even a bigger bundle of nerves this year.

That’s because she knew what was at stake.

“Coming back this year was honestly the scariest audition because I knew what I had to lose,” she said moments after learning she’d made the cut for the second straight season. “I wanted to come in with confidence, but of course I was nervous. I know what made me come back was so much more than just dancing. When I made it last year I was like, ‘Yay! I get to dance on the sidelines for the Chargers!’ But this year, I know it is so much more than that. We get to be role models, especially for the Junior Charger Girls and the youth we interact with. We get to be ambassadors for the organization and the community. Along with the sisterhood of girls you join and getting to dance, it’s honestly an irreplaceable feeling. I’m so grateful to be back!”

That sentiment was shared by each returning veteran as being a Charger Girl is an experience they never want to give up.

“Auditions get more and more intense each year because you know what you have to miss,” said Karissa, who made the team for the third consecutive season. “You want to be able to come back and relish in everything you’ve experienced. There is nothing like it, which is why the auditions are so nerve-wracking. It’s like a roller coaster, and you’re going tick-tick-tick the whole time. It’s an amazing ride, and I’m so happy for everyone who made it. It’s a whirlwind experience.”

Hundreds of girls auditioned once again for a coveted spot on the 28 woman squad. Auditioners came from all over the globe, from as close as San Diego to as far as Australia. They ranged in age from 18 to the mid-40s as they chased their lifelong dream of being a Charger Girl.

View gallery: Best of Charger Girls Final Auditions

“It’s incredibly rewarding each and every year to have women try out of different backgrounds, style and talent,” said Lisa Simmons, who is entering her 11th season as Charger Girls Director. “It’s something we look forward to as it’s a reminder every year that we have a prestigious program that hundreds of women want to be a part of. The organization is one that is sought after for cheerleaders and dancers. It challenges us to continue to raise the bar, and pull in that excitement and energy every season.”

The audition process began on Sunday, and when the sun set the cream of the crop was narrowed down to 72. The remaining hopefuls conducted interviews with the judging panel throughout the week before reconvening for finals on Thursday night. As always, finalists had to perform two dances – the first a set choreographed routine and the second an individual free style one. While it’s always a tough decision to whittle the talented field down to just 28, Simmons believes this year’s squad is among the best they’ve ever assembled.

“This is the most difficult night as we have tough decisions to make, especially this year. We deliberated for almost two hours, which is good because it means we have a lot of talent to pull from. We want that, and it’s a good problem to have. We are confident that we’ve put together the best possible team. It gives us a lot to look forward to. It is an incredibly talented team of accomplished women. They are ambitious, beautiful and driven women who are also cheerleaders at heart. You can feel that energy in the room, so we are thrilled with this year’s squad.”

The dream of being a Charger Girl may be best embodied in Rebecca. She grew up in America’s Finest City watching the them perform every Sunday with the lifelong goal to one day be a member. Having her number called Thursday night was an emotional experience as it culminated a dream that was a lifetime in the making.

“This is an indescribable feeling and I’m still in shock right now,” she said with a huge smile. “I’m a senior in high school, so this has been a huge dream come true for me and I couldn’t be happier than I am right now. When my number was called I couldn’t believe it. Did they really just say that? I started to cry. I watched the Charger Girls perform all the time growing up, and what it meant to be a part of that team and how happy they were radiated in their performances. I always wanted to be a part of this, and now I am!”

View gallery: Meet the 2015 Charger Girls

Charger Girl Auditions Underway

The first rounds of auditions for the 2015 San Diego Charger Girls are in the books. Click here for video from the open call, and click here for photos!

2015 CG Auditions_1

Charger Girls to Host Two Pre-Audition Workshops


The road to becoming a member of the 2015 Charger Girls begins Sunday, March 8 with a pre-audition workshop from 2-5 pm in the Jenny Craig Pavilion at the University of San Diego. A second workshop will be held on Sunday, March 15, also at Jenny Craig Pavilion. Registration begins at 1:30 pm.

With more than 400 dancers annually auditioning for a spot on the Charger’s official dance team, pre-registration for the workshop is recommended as space is limited. Pre-registration can be done here. The non-refundable fee is $45 for one workshop or $75 to attend both workshops. On-site cash-only registration also will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis.

Pre-audition workshops are designed to prepare interested dancers for the auditions process and introduce the style of choreography performed by the Charger Girls. The choreography taught and material presented at each workshop will vary. Material presented will include application tips, style guides, interview prep and more. Attendees will have the opportunity to speak with current Charger Girls, and participate in a Q & A session with Charger Girls Director Lisa Simmons.

“We host a workshop every year to give a better understanding of the entire process,” said Simmons. “We work with them on dance technique and choreography in a supportive, non-competitive environment. This year we added an additional workshop to hopefully help them leave feeling more prepared and confident for the upcoming auditions. We do our best to prepare them for what they can expect in April.”

The Charger Girls perform at all home games and appear in the team’s annual swimsuit calendar. They also serve as ambassadors for the organization at hundreds of business, community and charity events throughout the year.

The Jenny Craig Pavilion is located on the University of San Diego campus at 5998 Alcalá Park.

Photo of the Day – February 11

A San Diego Charger Girl

Sad News: Former Charger Girl Loses Battle to Cancer

From Fox5 San Diego

lylyFormer Charger girl, Lyly Koenig-Mendez, lost her battle to breast cancer on January 20, 2015 in Houston, Texas.

“After hearing the bad news of not being able to treat her for the breast cancer which had metastasized to her liver and had spread… we decided it was best to spend the rest of the time with family,” James Mendez, Lyly’s husband, said Monday.

Mendez, who many described as the life of the party, spent six years cheering in the NFL. Five of those years was spent with the St. Louis Rams. From 2001 to 2002, she cheered for the San Diego Chargers, where she met her best friend, former Charger girl, Tracey Lackovich.

Lackovich recalled what she remembered of Mendez during their time in camp, “[Lyly was] always so happy go lucky. So fun. Her high pitched voice coming into practice, having nicknames for everyone.”

She continued on to say Mendez was a true fighter.

“[Lyly was] like a rock. You wouldn’t even know she was sick… I’m just overwhelmed at the amount of people Lyly has influenced. She clearly left a lasting impression in the hearts and the minds of so many women,” Lackovich said.

Mendez was an orphan from Vietnam. She was rescued in “Operation Baby Lift” in the 1970’s. Camp Pendleton received the orphans rescued by the U.S. military during that time. That’s where her family adopted Lyly, then raised her in a town outside of St. Louis, Missouri.

Mendez’s battle with cancer was brutal. It started in 2006 when she was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer. After treatment, she was clear of cancer just one year after diagnosis.

In 2009, she was diagnosed with recurrent breast cancer.

“The time it attached to her rib cage, at her sternum,” her husband said.

Following more rounds of chemotherapy and radiation followed as well as surgery, she was said to be cancer free.

Soon after, she was a new bride to James Mendez of the U.S. Army. However, the day he was deployed to Kuwait in 2012, Lyly discovered she had Stage IV cancer that had spread to her bones, liver, lungs and lymph nodes.

One of her final requests before she passed was to have her ashes released in her birthplace of Vietnam, as well as her two favorite beach towns, including San Diego and Miami.The 40th anniversary of “Operation Baby Lift” is scheduled for the end of March, which is when her family hopes to bring her ashes to Vietnam to be reunited with her brothers and sisters. A fundraising website has been set up to help her family make that wish a reality.

Charger Girl Alum to promote Uganda tourism

Marlina was a Charger Girl from 2007 to 2010

Marlina was a Charger Girl from 2007 to 2010

East African Business Week
January 11, 2015

KAMPALA, UGANDA – American super model Marlina Moreno, is expected to lead a team of high profile Americans to trek the Margherita, Peak of Mountain Rwenzori on January 17, 2015.

Moreno is a Los-Angeles-based super model, TV host, and former National Football League [NFL] cheerleader. She also models for NIKE, Samsung, Canon, Virgin Atlantic and Siemens.

According to the Uganda Tourism Board, Marlina Moreno has decided to visit Uganda to experience The Pearl of Africa.

“At the end of her visit, she will profile Uganda’s major tourism attractions and produce a documentary to be aired to millions of Americans through her travel platforms Examiner.Com, and as well as her travel blog,” a media release from UTB read.

The components of the media campaign will include a combination of travel articles and videos to be featured on at least two top lifestyle and travel websites as well as the filming of an eco-travel show pilot as part of a travel series pitch about Africa.

The series will follow her work as a travel writer and filmmaker and highlight her transition from NFL Cheerleader, model and television host to wildlife conservationist and eco-adventurer exploring all that Uganda in particular and Africa in general has to offer.

The key activity during the supermodel’s visit will be a trek up the mountains of the moon, the world’s highest range of mountains named by Ptolemy in 150 A.D as Mountains of the Moon.

Uganda Tourism Board has partnered with Rwenzori Mountaineering Services an organization that provides trekking services and Events 256 a Ugandan events outfit to enable Ugandans and all persons resident in Uganda to climb the mountain with the supermodel.

The chief climber will be Maria Mutagamba, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities.

Zonas Designs Wishing You A Happy New Year

banner2Happy New Year! You know what that means, NFL cheerleader auditions are just around the corner!

My name is Stacie Marie and I am the owner of Zonas Designs along with a former NFL Pro Bowl Cheerleader. I cheered in the NFL for 6 years and after a constant struggle of not finding that perfect audition outfit…I created Zonas Designs, a company customizing audition uniforms for girls wanting to stand out and make a statement.

After having 3 children in a 2 year period…the business became a little overwhelming and I had a take a step back and focus purely on the production of custom swimwear for NFL Swimsuit calendars. Now that my youngest will join his twin sisters in school part-time, I am ready to dive back in and do what I love, producing the dream audition uniform that will give you every advantage possible to make that team! I will also continue to design and produce jersey inspired uniforms along with NFL and NBA dance team uniforms and specialty costumes.

Zonas designs has produced swimwear and uniforms for the Washington Redskins, San Diego Charger Girls, Chiefs Cheerleaders, San Francisco 49ers, LA Clipper Girls, Jets Crew, KC Wizards MLS soccer, HBO Boxing Ring Girls, Pro Bowl Cheerleaders..etc.

Feel free to contact Stacie at for any of your custom uniform needs!

Photo of the Day – January 8


A San Diego Charger Girl

Local Cheerleaders Competing in the 2015 Miss California USA Pageant

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

For more information on the Miss California USA pageant, please visit their website here.

Broncos Kick The Chargers When They Are Down

[This article was originally published on]

Another week, another big game.  This time, it was the Denver Broncos who rode into town to play the Chargers and like the Patriots last week, the Broncos brought a whole lot of orange clad fans to watch the festivities.   And if you like field goals, this was the game for you as the Broncos kicked five of them in route to a convincing victory over the suddenly listless Chargers.

Final Score: Bucking Broncos – 22, Sparkless Chargers – 10.

With the victory, the Denver Broncos clinched the AFC West title and secured a spot in the playoffs.  As for the Chargers, well…we have the Charger Girls in their blue velvet Christmas uniforms!








It was another beautiful day in San Diego…stop me if you heard this before…beautiful blue skies and sunshine.  What that meant for me, photographically speaking, was mixed lighting in the first half and shadows in the second…just another day in paradise.

Okay let’s get on with our final game day report of the season and begin with the Captains: Katelyn, Clarisse, Angela M. and Natalie.





This week’s Charger Girl of the Day is one of my favorite Charger Girls to photograph and one that I can always count on for a great shot…introducing Angela M.







Angela is getting married soon, so this might be her last year on the squad. And I hear there might be a few more retirements among the more veteran Charger Girls…and I thought last year was a bad one with 14 veterans leaving the team. Well, I would encourage them all to reconsider retirement because you rarely get a second bite of the apple. And I got a $100 bucks for one CG in particular, if she returns…you know who you are.

Continue reading Broncos Kick The Chargers When They Are Down

Katelyn is the Pro Bowl Charger Girl

The votes have been counted and veteran Charger Girl Katelyn has been chosen to represent her team at the 2015 Pro Bowl. Congratulations Katelyn!

Local students learn their teacher is a Charger Girl

2014 Chargers_Dominique3_cropBy Neda Iranpour
San Diego 6
Dec 11, 2014

From pencils to pom poms, there are two sides to the stunning dancer and teacher, who proves with beauty comes brains. Her students had no idea of her career outside the classroom, until our San Diego 6 cameras were rolling. That’s when Dominique broke the news that she is a Charger girl, “now you know I’m also at those games and I’m on the sideline.”

She explained to her students some people may think of cheerleaders as ditzy but she knows firsthand that the San Diego squad squashes those sterotypes. A doctor, a lawyer, and a physical therapist have been on the team. And Dominique, who is the daughter of long-time local educators, earned her master’s in education. Assistant principal Melanie Brown said “as she is multi-talented, she wants her students to be multi-talented.”

Juggling both jobs, is a choreography of its own. For example , back to school night was on the same night as the Charger Girls’ calender unveiling party. “Who else can say I have to go and meet with parents and go and sign a swimsuit calender on the same night?”

They practice every Wednesday and perform at every home game, “we get their five hours before the game.” When I asked her her favorite part of game day she got emotional, “I’m going to start crying, I love game day.”

From the moment she runs out on the field, she’s living out a lifelong dream, “it’s been such a great year and I’m sad the seasons almost done.” Dominique made the team her first time trying out, showing passion prevails. She tells her students “no matter what people say it’s important to do what’s in your heart.” Real life lessons, from a real-life Charger girl.
Dominique will be performing with the squad on the sidelines at Qualcomm Stadium as the San Diego Chargers take on the Denver Broncos, 1pm Sunday.

Patriots Strong Second Half Dooms Chargers

[This article was originally published on]

This past Sunday, the New England Patriots were in town to play the Chargers in a nationally televised game.

This was a big game.  An important game.  One that had playoff implications for both teams.  The first half was a see saw affair, with the Patriots scoring first on a 22 yard field goal by Stephen Gosktowski.  But the Chargers scored the next fourteen points on a touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Malcom Floyd and a 53 yard fumble recovery returned for a touchdown by defensive back Darrell Stuckey.  It was the Patriots turn next and they scored ten points to end the half.

After the break, you got the feeling that the Patriots were on the verge of something big.  An injury to punter Mike Scifres in the first half meant that kicker Nick Novak would have to take over punting duties for the Chargers and in the second half the Chargers lost the battle of field position.  Every Patriot possession seemed to start from their 40 yard line because the Chargers couldn’t seem to move the ball beyond their 30 yard line.  And though Tom Brady wasn’t having a particularly Tom Brady-like day, when you start your drives near midfield, you are eventually going hit pay dirt.

And in the fourth quarter, the Patriot struck gold twice, scoring 10 points that would be the difference in an otherwise, tight game.

Final Score: Minute Men – 23, Scoreless Second Half Chargers – 14

Sunday Night Football always attracts a big crowd and there were many Patriot fans in attendance.  They must have heard about the great weather we were having out here and decided to join us for this game.  I overheard some fans with distinct northeastern accents mentioning how that this was great…if I recall correctly, they said the weather was “wicked good”.  Okay, I made that wicked good part up, but they were having a great time and did mention the mild weather…as if to lord it over their relatives and friends who were stuck in the cold back east.

We did have good weather.  It was about 70 degrees at kickoff and I came to the game wearing shorts.  Weather this good in December means that the Chargers Girls get to wear the equivalent of “shorts”, their regular skimpy uniforms.  Same old, same old.








Once again, I ventured out to the Bud Light Power Party to visit the Charger Girls and take some posed photos of the other two lines that I didn’t snap the last game.  Here’s a few samples of what I got.





The rest will be posted on my personal blog in a few days.

Since this was a nationally televised game, the Chargers organization arranged for a special half time performance of local band P.O.D.  What that meant for me was the return of the big stage in front of my section…so I got no photos of the Katelyn’s line and only a few photos of some of Clarisse’s line…heavily cropped photos and not what I would consider my best stuff.


Fortunately, they moved the stage after half time and my view of Angela’s and Natalie’s lines were blissfully unaffected.

So let’s begin with the three line Captains that I did get some photos of…Clarisse, Angela M. and Natalie.  My apologies to Katelyn and her girls.




This week’s Charger Girl of the Day is our first two time winner of the season. She’s a second year veteran who hails from San Diego and someone whom I refer to as the CG’s golden girl. Introducing…Lindsay!


Lindsay was killing it during this one sequence.








Continue reading Patriots Strong Second Half Dooms Chargers