Behind the Scenes at the ChivaGirl Photo Shoot

The Sunday before last, the ChivaGirls (dance team for the MLS Chivas USA ) reported to the Home Depot Center in Carson , CA for their very first team photo shoot. The plan for the day was to photograph the girls individually for their team photo and profiles on the Chivas USA website. With almost 20 women to beautify, outfit, style, and photograph in a single day, they certainly had their work cut out for them.

When I arrived around 8:30 in the morning, things were in full swing, but you could tell that the switch to Daylight Savings Time had hit everyone pretty hard. It was a bit chilly in the room, though and that helped wake everyone up. I checked the digital thermometer on the wall. 54 degrees. Woo! This was going to be fun! As always, I took tons of photos for you guys. Check them out here.

The previous day, ChivaGirls Director Aimee Edmundson had clued me in on the plans for the photo shoot. There would be a new approach to the team photo this year. The team shot is their signature photo and will be posted on the Chivas USA website and will be autographed and handed out by the dancers at numerous game day and community events.

A lot of people will see this photo, so it has to be perfect.

Instead of a standard dance team photo, with the ladies lined up in rows, Aimee was going to try something entirely different. A little elbow grease was called for, as this project involved props.

Aimee’s husband Gavin had been put to work constructing a collection of giant letters to spell “ChivaGirls.” The plan was to position the girls in and around the letters. They’d shoot each letter individually, and then Photoshop them together for the team photo. Photographer Mike Nowak (who also shot the team’s swimsuit calendar) was going to jazz it up a little in post-production, so the finished product would be really slick. I couldn’t wait to see it all come together.

Aimee was the first person I saw when I walked in the door. She showed me all of the letters set up in the corner of the room. Each letter one was about five feet tall and made of half-inch foam board and plywood. A few of the letters had 2x4s built in for the girls to sit or stand on. Gavin swore up and down that the boards were sturdy enough to support a dancers’ weight, but I was a bit doubtful. A 2×4 is pretty narrow. I kept thinking how funny it would be if someone jumped up on that letter H and the whole thing crashed to the ground. Crash! Bang! Boom! I mean, it would be bad of course. It would kind of ruin the photo shoot, and someone could get badly bruised. But imagine watching that video over and over. It would never get old.

(Does that make me a bad person?)

I was particularly interested to find out which girl would have to perch on the center bar of the letter H. Somebody’s hindquarters would be extremely sore by the end of the day. I wonder if the ChivaGirls get hazard pay?

Most of the girls had arrived before I did and a few of them were already in hair and makeup. Big curlers. Fuzzy slippers. Uggs. It was all glamour.

There was a lot of ChivaWear laying around the room. Some of the girls were trying on their uniforms and warm-ups for the first time. All of the girls got new boots. There was a cardboard box off to the side, where the veterans had tossed their old boots. Poor, sad go-go boots. They had obviously seen some rough times.

Looking around, I immediately noticed someone I didn’t expect to see there. She looked an awful lot like the a red pailette girl I mentioned in my earlier post. (FYI: her name is Erica. Thank you Amanda, for the scoop on that.) I mentally ran through the photos of girls who had made the team. As far as I knew, the only blondes were Laura and Mandi. Yet here was a third. After about 5 minutes of peeking at her from the corner of my eye, I was 100% sure it was Erica.

What was she doing there? I’d seen the list of girls who made the team, and her name wasn’t on it. I did a quick headcount. She can’t have replaced someone. All 17 members were accounted for. Had she shown up at mini-camp and everyone was too chicken to take her aside and say “Look honey, you didn’t make the team. This nice man right here is going to escort you from the building.”

(Just to clarify, I’m not saying Erica hadn’t been selected because she is a bad dancer. She’s a great dancer and a beautiful girl, and I was surprised when she didn’t make the team. But what was going on here? Somebody had some ‘splainin to do.)

I casually sidled up to Kelley and Marie. “So, uh….what’s with blondie over there?”

The scoop is there are actually 19 ChivaGirls, not 17 as I believed. Two of them had been left off of the Chivas website for various reasons. Erica is one. Liz is the other.

Erica and Monique
(Meanwhile, I really need to talk to Aimee about this thing with the odd numbers. What is up with that? 17 and 19 aren’t even divisible by anything! Why not 16? Why not 20? Who picks 19 girls for a team? I am sorry, but that is just weird.)

I did another headcount. This time I came up with 18 ChivaGirls. Sandra was absent because she had to be out of town for a prior commitment. Whatever it was must’ve been pretty important for her to miss the photo shoot. The group photo is kind of a big deal. Now she’s going to spend the entire season autographing that photo and she’s not even in it! Bummer. Surely there’s some way to include her. Can’t they photoshop her head in there somewhere? Or maybe draw a stick figure in a red and white vest, with an arrow that says “Sandra.”

I mentally tucked that away to ponder later, and went looking for Jebbel and Alheli. Somebody needed to tell me how to say Jebbel and Alheli.

ChivaGirls Pronunciation Guide:
Alheli. Pronounced All-hey-LEE. Alheli is a type of flower (similar to an oleander). FYI: the whole plant is poisonous. If you ingest it, you’ll get really really sick. Like “barfing up a lung” sick. If you burn the plant and breathe the smoke, you’ll be dead. Keep that in mind before you mess with Alheli.
Jebbel. Rhymes with Dave Chapelle’s last name. The J is a soft J like “Elijah.” Not a hard J like “Jerry.” Jebel (slightly different spelling) means “mountain” in Arabic. There are a lot of mountains called Jebel this or Jebel that in the UAE and that area of the world. I don’t know if that’s what her parents were going for.

(Yeah I looked it up. You got a problem with that???)

The actual photography was scheduled to start at 10. In the meantime, there were various activities going on: sleeping, reading, writing, working, playing “The Price is Right” on the I-phone, br

It’s so interesting. During auditions, everyone has their game face on. It’s only after you make the team, and that you start to see what you’re working with. They’re a bunch of goofballs and troublemakers, if you ask me. It’s just that some are quieter about it than others.

The other person on hand was Aimee’s son, aka Hurricane Keiran. He is two and a half, and like most kids his age, has an insane amount of energy. He’s the kind of kid you have to tag-team to keep an eye on. Aimee had him. Then Gavin had him. Then Megan, then Marie, then Kelley. Keiran has a monster crush on Marie. He luuuuuuvs Marie. He went outside and picked a flower for her. Soon after that, he passed out, dead asleep. Oh man, I miss being two years old. Was that the life, or what?

I helped Aimee move the letters to an open area so she could figure out everyone’s individual pose and how they would all look together. They did “Chiva” first and Mandi was the lucky girl who got the “H” (snicker). Aimee told her to hop up there and Mandi’s eyes got big like “I thought you were joking about that part.” But she climbed up there. A few minutes later, she was looking mighty relieved when Aimee had her switch places with Alheli.

Meanwhile, Marie was cute as a bug in a rug, tucked into the letter C like that.


All of this was a bit more challenging than it looks. Remember, those letters are made of foam board, which isn’t sturdy enough to support anyone’s weight. So everyone appearing to lean or rest on the letters had to fake it a little. Those who were sitting on the 2x4s didn’t have a much better /br /Alheli was next. I have to give her credit. She rolled with it like it was no big deal, but she had to be in some of the most awkward, uncomfortable positions ever. She was sitting there with one leg in front of the H. Aimee and Mike couldn’t decide if they wanted the other leg in front of the H or behind the H, so she had to keep moving it. Keep in mind that she was sitting on a 5inch wide board, 3 or 4 feet above the ground. Every time they wanted her to move that leg, she had to balance on one side of her tush and lift the other foot way up in the air and over the H to get it to the other side. After watching the first couple of attempts, Emi stepped in to keep her from toppling over. (I wanted to take a photo of it, but I was too busy laughing. Come on, it was funny!) Then they told her to take one boot off while she was balanced up there, and I just about lost it. But Alheli did all of it without batting an eye. That’s what I call a team player!

Emi gives Alheli a hand

Monique and Mandi were next. I don’t know whose idea it was for Monique to have her foot up in the air like that. I warned her she was going to be in serious pain afterward. She didn’t believe me. “I only have to hold it for a few seconds” were, I believe, her exact words.

Monique and Mandi
br /I hate to say “I told you so.”
(But I did tell you so.)

Methinks it’ll be a while before Monique does another heel stretch.

On the other hand, some of the girls had it easy. Megan, Emi, and Amy were all sitting on the floor, so they had it made. Nicole had the G, which is the easiest letter ever.




(Serena, on the other hand, I’m sure had board marks on her posterior long after the shoot was over.)



Tiffany’s pose looked a little painful. She had to squat down and balance on one foot with the other leg stretched out to the side. I bet she really felt it when she stood up afterward. That whole crouching thing was not working. A little voice in my head was sing-songing “I see London. I see France…” Somebody put this girl in a different pose already.

Aimee called in Lindsay for reinforcements on this one. Lindsay is a former Clippers dancer and now works a steady stream of dance gigs. It took a minute, but Lindsay was able to come up with a pose that put Tiffany on the ground in a position that didn’t require squatting. It was sort of a halfway kneeling thing, and I know Tiffany was grateful. (Although I bet that one hurt too.)


Speaking of Tiffany, check out her new hairstyle. The stylist took a few inches off and created a graduated bob that’s a bit longer in the front than the back. That hair gives her a lot more “oomphf.” And who knew she was so adorable?

Liz had a tough one too, leaning against the A like that. I think they put Ashley on the other side to keep the A from wobbling.

Ashley and Liz

Can we talk about Ashley’s hair for a minute? She’s got this gorgeous, curly hair and it is huge. She is not a big person so when she sits down, it’s like a big pile of hair with some legs and feet sticking out underneath. I’d love to have that hair. I’d trade with her in a heartbeat. I’m serious.

Watching everyone transform from “regular girl” to “ChivaGirl” was fascinating. It was like watching Bruce Wayne turn into Batman. (But with chicks in short skirts.) Hey, they both wear tights, right? And boots. ChivaGirls may not have a utility belt like Batman, but at least they don’t wear their underwear on the outside.

Kelley was doing double duty as one of the two makeup artists for the day. She used to work for MAC. Now she freelances for special occasions (weddings and such.) That really says something about Kelley, because a bride on her wedding day is one of the scariest creatures alive. Wound up. Hysterical. Tearful. Crazed. Drunk. And that was just MY sister on her wedding day. (Well, except for the drunk part.)

Jebbel and Marie were the first to get dolled up and ready to

Jebbel and Marie

After their turn, they wanted to look at photos. Aimee had to put an end to that because they were getting hypercritical and picking themselves apart. It’s not that they were all having a Jan Brady moment (I’m ugly! UGLY!), but each found at least one body part to be horrified about. They were making themselves mental over it, so Aimee cut them off. (Access to the photos, I mean. Not their body parts.)

Marie, you look fine

I don’t know if that helped or not. Sometimes the unknown is scarier than the known. Clearly some of them were sitting around, convinced that they would look like drooling, cross-eyed lizard-women in their photos.

On the other hand, I guess it could’ve been worse. They could have been stomping around the place like “I cannot believe you are unable to capture my innate hotness with your camera.”

It’s not that they’re shallow. I mean, I get it. If someone was taking a photo of me and I knew
(A) hundreds, if not thousands of people would see it
(B) I would be surrounded on both sides by good looking women,
(C) looking good is part of the job, and/or
(D) there are no do-overs,

I guess I’d be a little paranoid too.

I don’t like people taking my picture, and nobody ever even sees those!

Mostly, they just got this pained expression on their faces.

I was sympathetic at first. I started out the morning, like “What are you talking about; you look totally cute in this picture.” But that wore off a couple hours into it and I found myself torturing them instead.

ChivaGirl: Ugh. My thighs are huge.
That is not true. The one on the left looks perfectly fine

ChivaGirl: I think one of my eyes is bigger than the other.
Me: You noticed that too, huh?

ChivaGirl: Why does my face look like that?
Me: Genetics. We all have our crosses to bear.

Hey, I kid because I love.

Honestly, they all looked great. Better than great. I wished they would realize that and stop fussing about it. I really wanted to stand up on a chair and say “Listen up, ChivaGirls. Knock it off!”

A few letters into the shoot – somwhere around V or A, it all started to come together. I could visualize the end result in my head. This photo is going to be so cool.

The girls shooting in pairs (letters C-I-A-R-S) were interesting to watch. Inevitably, one girl’s pose was way easier than the other girl’s pose. Take Amy and Laura, for instance. Amy sat down, and she was good to go. Meanwhile, it was “turn this way Laura, turn that way Laura, take a step towards me, turn to the side, nevermind, go back to where you were, can you do something different with your arms?”

Everyone’s trying to figure out where to put Laura and Amy’s just chillin like “Whatever. Take your time; I know what I’m doing.”

Yeah, except where’s the rest of your uniform, Amy?
D’oh. So easy to forget about that vest.

Amy and Laura

Once they were into the letters G-I-R-L-S things started to speed up. The girls at the end of the word were thinking they still had a lot of time, and then all of a sudden, it was “Get it together girls. I need bodies over here!” Then there was a big red and white flurry as everyone hurried to get ready.

Kelley and Dalila were the last pair. Earlier in the day, the news that they were going at the end, was a real downer. What none of us realized though, was the girls with the last letter would have the first individual shoots. So in the end, they actually wound up finished before everyone else. Nice!

Kelley and Dalila

Dalila stepped up to go first for the individuals. Dalila is a baseball-hat-and-sweats kind of gal, and she looked more than ready to be done with the shoot and jump back into her comfy clothes.

The other girls were off to the side, trying to figure out poses that were flattering and not weird-looking. Each girl did a few photos with the soccer ball and a few without. Believe it or not, there aren’t that many things you can do with a soccer ball. Especially if it’s a ¾ standing shot. You can’t kneel or sit or rest your foot on the ball. You can’t hold it over your head, because you’ll look like a lunatic. It’s pretty much “do I want to hold this thing on my right side or my left side?” Given the limitations, I thought they came up with some good ideas.






The individual shots went faster than fast. They kept it moving like an assembly line, and the next thing I knew, it was over. That was around 3-ish, I think.

I wondered what a ChivaGirl does when the photo shoot is over and she’s standing there in sweats with a face full of makeup. There’s still plenty of daylight left. Do you take that face and that hair rollerblading? Do you go see a movie? Go home and defrost the freezer? Do you find your boyfriend and make him watch while you peel off your lashes, because you know that freaks him out?br /br /Or am I the only one who thinks like an 8 year old?