In America, it’s not at all uncommon for a woman to become a cheerleader at some point in their high school years. Nearly every school has a cheer squad, and consequently, a huge portion of current A-List actresses or pop stars spent some time shaking their pom poms on the side of the field for their high school team. However, that’s high school – a little bit of athleticism and a good sense of rhythm can get you pretty far on a squad that doesn’t do too many crazy stunts. To become a professional cheerleader, though? That’s a whole different ball game.
Cheerleaders for professional sports teams have to be in absolutely phenomenal shape, they have to maintain their physique and overall appearance with a razor-like precision, they have to be always beaming and gracious, and, perhaps most difficult of all, they have to do it all while making it look completely effortless. Add to that the countless events they need to attend (usually in uniform) in addition to the games, and the fact that they’re generally doing it alongside being a student or having another regular job? Not quite as easy as some might expect.
However, there’s no denying that it’s a great training ground for aspiring starlets, whether they aspire to become A-List actresses strutting down a red carpet or pop princesses bouncing around an arena stage. While most of the focus is on the athletes during the game, fans absolutely love watching the cheerleaders. It’s a big platform for a young girl starting out,and can help them gain the confidence they need to tackle larger pursuits.
So, which celebrities once cheered alongside some of the biggest names in sports before becoming household names themselves? You might be surprised to find out that these 15 women were once professional cheerleaders.
15 Melissa Rycroft (Dallas Cowboys)
Melissa Rycroft (or, as she’s known know, Melissa Rycroft-Strickland) is perhaps best known for her time on the thirteenth season of popular reality show The Bachelor, as well as her time on two seasons of Dancing With The Stars. However, there’s another guilty pleasure reality show that Rycroft has appeared on – Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team. Was she there as a hopeful, auditioning and trying to capitalize on her reality television fame? Nope – Rycroft wore the coveted Cowboys uniform for two years and now often goes back to judge the new hopefuls. Let’s be honest –while it’s tough to become a cheerleader for any squad, we can’t help but feel earning a spot on the Cowboys sidelines is a whole other level of difficulty.
14 Charisma Carpenter (San Diego Chargers)
While she might not be as well-known as of late, once upon a time Charisma Carpenter was a frequent feature in magazines, thanks to her role on shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Boy Meets World, Charmed, and Veronica Mars. Before she ever stepped foot onto a Hollywood film set, she was a California cheerleader, rooting on the San Diego Chargers (a team that has several celebrity hotties amongst its fans, including former Girl Next Door Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett.)
13 Teri Hatcher (San Francisco 49ers)
Thanks to her roles as Lois Lane in The New Adventures of Superman and Susan Mayer in Desperate Housewives, Teri Hatcher has been captivating audiences for years. While her memorable characters come from starring roles in television series, Hatcher continues to snag smaller roles in various films and television shows. However, did you know that the Palo Alto-born A-Lister was once a cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers? And, if you look at Hatcher’s age, you’ll see that she was there in the early 80s – that’s right, when Joe Montana was the quarterback. One can only imagine the cheerleaders had a lot to cheer about during that period of the 49ers’ history.
12 Paula Abdul (Los Angeles Lakers)
Even if you weren’t yet around during Paula Abdul’s prime, most will know her from her days judging American Idol and other television talent shows. Remember all of Abdul’s comments about dancing and choreography? Well, it turns out her role as a cheerleader was integral in launching her career. In the early 1980s, before she became a pop superstar, Abdul was a Lakers Girl, cheering on the Los Angeles Lakers. The talented dancer caught the eye of the Jackson family and they invited Abdul to choreograph some music videos. She became a steady choreographer in the early days of MTV, as well as a pop star releasing albums that were beloved by fans around the world.
11 Jill Marie Jones (Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Cowboys)
Jill Marie Jones has had several small movie and television roles over the course of her acting career, but she’s best known for her years playing spoiled real estate princess Toni Childs on the sitcom Girlfriends. However, what was this Texas-born girl doing before her acting career took off? Well, what any Texas girl does – cheering on her home state in sporting events, obviously! The only difference is, Jones was doing it on the sidelines rather than from the stands. She cheered for the Dallas Mavericks as a Mavs Dancer and was also an iconic Dallas Cowboys cheerleader for a few years.
10 Phyllis Smith (St. Louis Cardinals)
Okay, it’s probably easy to believe that some of the gorgeous celebs walking the red carpet today may have been cheerleaders a few years ago, but this one is a bit more surprising. Phyllis Smith came to prominence in her role of Phyllis Vance on popular sitcom The Office and recently did the role of Sadness in the film Inside Out. However, she had quite the life in the 1970s and 1980s, and apparently had some pretty impressive moves. In addition to working as a dancer and burlesque performer, Smith was also a cheerleader for the St. Louis Cardinals. Who knew?
9 Bonnie-Jill Laflin (Golden State Warriors, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys)
Many former cheerleaders end up going into the entertainment industry, whether it be as actresses or performers, but Bonnie-Jill Laflin also kept one foot in the sports world. Laflin, a cheer veteran, was on the sidelines for various teams including the Golden State Warriors, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Dallas Cowboys. She went on to snag several acting roles, but interestingly returned to the NBA to become a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers. Hey, she probably got a lot of insight watching so many athletes from the sidelines for so many years!
8 Sarah Mitchell (New England Patriots, New York Knicks)
Sarah Mitchell may not exactly be a household name yet, but she’s snagged roles in several films, including Music and Lyrics, Burlesque, and Did You Hear About The Morgans? Plus, in Hollywood, let’s be honest – one minute you’re nobody and the next minute you’re an A-List superstar. This Massachusetts girl did her home state proud by becoming a New England Patriots cheerleader, one of the youngest in history – and, she even cheered during a Super Bowl! Not content to limit herself to just one sport, she also cheered for the New York Knicks.
7 Dawn Richard (New Orleans Hornets)
Any fans of girl group Danity Kane, which got its start on Diddy’s Making The Band series, will know exactly who Dawn Richard is. The Louisiana-born songstress was a member of the group for over five years and in 2009 was signed to Diddy’s Diddy-Dirty Money label. Before making it into the big leagues, Richard was performing around New Orleans and flexing her vocal muscles – as a singer, but also as a cheerleader. That’s right – while she was a student at the University of New Orleans, Richard also cheered for the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets.
6 Lisa Guerrero (Los Angeles Rams)
While most cheerleaders go on to become actresses or pop stars, there are a few who keep their foot in the sports world after hanging up their pomp oms – and Guerrero is one of them. She cheered in the 1980s for the Los Angeles Rams, and not long after, became entertainment director for NFL teams like the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. Guerrero’s long career in the entertainment industry included a stint on television before she turned to sports anchoring, sharing the stage on shows like Sports Geniuses, The Best Damn Sports Show Period, and Monday Night Football. Then she switched paths yet again, and now works as Inside Edition’s Chief Investigative Correspondent. What a busy woman!
5 Kristin Adams (Dallas Cowboys)
Adams took the stage along stars like Kelly Clarkson on the first ever season of reality show American Idol, making it all the way to the semi-finals. However, singing wasn’t the only part of the entertainment industry that Adams was excited about – she went on to snag small roles on television shows and hosting gigs, and has spent the past few years working as a morning radio co-host in Texas. There’s seemingly no part of the broadcasting industry that Adams hasn’t tested out and that includes cheer squads, While she was a student at Texas Christian University, Adams got a spot on the coveted Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders roster.
4 Stacy Keibler (Baltimore Ravens)
Many WWE fans know Stacy Keibler well from her Diva days, when her legs that went on for miles were frequently showcased in the ring. However, when she briefly dated actor George Clooney, Keibler became a household name – everyone, not just wrestling fans, knew who she was. Keibler began to diversify, getting various small acting roles. Did you know, though, that she wasn’t always a California girl? Back when she was freshly 18, Keibler was on the sidelines as a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader. We can’t imagine how distracted those Ravens would have been with Keibler on the sidelines.
3 Jenilee Harrison (Los Angeles Rams)
Audiences who only love shows from the past decade might not be too familiar with Jenilee Harrison, but anyone who loved classic sitcom Three’s Company will know exactly who she is – she’s the actress who snagged the coveted role of blonde bombshell Chrissy after Suzanne Sommers left the show abruptly. Harrison managed to take the fame from that role and earn parts on some of the most memorable shows in the 1980s, including Murder, She Wrote, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Dallas. However, before she ever stepped onto a set, she was just another California cheerleader on the sidelines for the Los Angeles Rams. In fact, her pom-poms got her her first role, as one of the Rams cheerleaders featured in an episode of CHiPS.
2 Sarah Shahi (Dallas Cowboys)
Sarah Shahi proves that you can do whatever you set your mind to. The Persian-American grew up playing sports, but her parents also took note of her beauty and entered her in beauty pageants from a young age. She won the Miss Fort Worth pageant in 1997 and when she decided that acting was her dream, the Texas girl used her pageant training to earn some fame on a bigger platform – namely, the coveted Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders squad. Unlike many of the former Cowboys cheerleaders, Shahi had never cheered before, but she managed to earn her spot and even appear on the cover of the 2000 calendar. She eventually gave up Texas for sunny Los Angeles, and quickly began snagging roles on shows like Chicago Fire, The L Word, and more.
1 Anjelah Johnson (Oakland Raiders)
Anyone who is a fan of this stand up superstar probably knows about her cheery past, as she’s referenced it many times throughout her performances. However, in case you didn’t know, before she was on MADtv and scoring her own stand-up specials, comedienne Anjelah Johnson was a Raiderette, cheering on the sidelines for the Oakland Raiders. She was with the organization for several years, and has all the tips for keeping that bright smile plastered on. We can’t help but wonder if her former penchant for ponytails came from her cheerleading days.