by Katherine Greene
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 24, 2009
Fame hit Gilbert’s Kayla Oberg when she least expected it.
The “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit model was at the grocery store with no make-up on, wet hair and glasses. She was putting the contents of her cart on the conveyor belt to check out when the older man in front of her asked when the new “Sports Illustrated” was coming out.
“I was like, ‘Please, don’t look this way!'” she said.
She turned her face away and forgot to take all of the items out of her cart.
“I’ve never stolen anything in my entire life and here I was about to jack a Valentine’s Day card,” she said, giggling. “I was so nervous.”
Oberg, a Phoenix Suns dancer, is one of ten NBA dancers featured in this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. It hit newsstands Feb. 11.
Oberg said she got a wave of text messages the day before that, when the photos went online.
“It’s kind of overwhelming,” she said.
The Time Inc.-owned magazine chose Oberg after seeing photos of her published on the NBA Web site, she said. Last year, the magazine featured 10 NFL cheerleaders.
The shyness Oberg experienced in the grocery store isn’t normal for her, she said. Four years of work as a NBA dancer helped her get comfortable in front of the Sports Illustrated cameras during the 13-hour shoot, even in her skivvies.
“When you dance for the Suns you have to have 100 percent confidence. Otherwise, you couldn’t get out there,” she said.
The toughest part of the photo shoot wasn’t getting in front of the cameras, she said; it was waiting to see the photos afterward.
The magazine’s representative showed Oberg only one photo two days before the photos went online.
“I’m actually more nervous that it’s out, knowing everyone can see it,” she said.
Oberg was born in Mesa and grew up in Gilbert, attending Gilbert High School and enrolling in Arizona State University for a short time. Her husband of 10 months owns the Stax Burger Bistro in Scottsdale.
Her husband and father were a little wary of Oberg having the photos taken, but they’ve both been supportive, she said.
“They’re just so proud of me,” she said.
Oberg has wanted to be a performer almost all her life. The passion started when she was 4, in a dance class taught by Amy Mickelson, golfer Phil’s wife.
Amy Mickelson was a dancer for the Suns at the time, Oberg said, and it inspired her to perform. As soon as Oberg was old enough to audition, she did – and made it. The first year she was part of the team, the Mickelsons attended a game.
“I was so excited,” she said. “I don’t even think she recognized me.”
Oberg has made the team every year since.
She doesn’t see much of a future for herself in modeling, Oberg said. Her 5’2″ frame limits where she can apply. Most modeling agencies ask that you not send in photos unless you’re 5’9″, she said.
And her addiction to the food at her husband’s restaurant has her a little worried about the future of her figure, she said. To stay in shape, she walks her two puppies every other day. But she also has dance practice twice a week and performances during games that help her stay slim.
If any modeling jobs come her way, she’d jump at the chance, she said.
And she hopes to have kids in the next few years, she said.
Meanwhile, she’ll stick with dancing.
Click here to see her Sports Illustrated video.