The St. Louis Rams have one of the most impressive cheerleading squads in the NFL. Now I may be a little biased because when I was growing up in Los Angeles, the Rams were my favorite NFL team. I grew up watching Roman Gabriel and the Fearsome Foursome. I agonized when the Rams seemingly lost every year in the playoffs to the Dallas Cowboys in the early 70’s. I endured quarterbacks Vince Ferragamo, Dante Pastorini, Bert Jones, and a bevy of pretty boy signal callers. And I remember the Embraceable Ewes, the Rams first attempt at fielding a professional cheerleading squad.
So you can say, I have had a long love affair with the Rams. They were my team as much as I can call any NFL team my own. But when the Rams left Los Angeles in 1995, the realities of teams moving on to greener pastures kind of killed that. I have since become a season ticket holder to the San Diego Chargers, the only remaining team left in Southern California. NFL football is no longer a life or death existence for me. Its just an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
But you never forget your first love and as my “hard core” passion for NFL football has waned, I still have a special place in my heart for the Rams…the St. Louis Rams.
This past Tuesday, I was fortunate to cover the 2012 St. Louis Rams Cheerleaders Final Auditions. And let me say, that passion was rekindled.
The 2012 St. Louis Rams Cheerleaders final auditions were held at The Pageant Theatre in the Delmar Loop district. Fans were lined up well before the doors opened at 5:00 pm. The festivities were scheduled to start at 6:30 pm and would include an interview portion, a swimwear segment and a final dance audition.
This was my first pageant style audition final and I was concerned about where I would be able to shoot from, so I got to the venue a little early to check out the floor plan and the lighting. My concerns were unwarranted because venue was amazing and Keely Fimbres, the Rams Director of Special Events, ensured that I had full access to cover the event.
And it was an amazing event, non stop action from the moment the finals began…but I am getting ahead of myself.
When I arrived the girls were finishing up a last minute run through. Upon completion of the rehearsal, the girls queued up for make up and hair. With 51 finalists, this was a major undertaking, but one well worth the effort for this was not an audition as so much as it was a formal performance in front of a live audience.
While they were getting made up, the Captains arrived. Three of them would be on the 2012 squad and two were retiring from the squad They would be leading off the festivities with a performance, but I took the opportunity to take a few posed photographs of them in their Angela King designed uniforms.
As the finalists began to assemble backstage, I made my way toward the judges area to stake out my shooting position. Showtime was near. Now this was a first for me…the Master of Ceremonies made an announcement that, like at the Edwards Jones Dome, guests were allowed to take photos of the finals but with cameras with lenses no longer than 3 inches. Those guests using cameras with lens in violation of these rules would be removed from the venue. Wow! It’s a good thing I was credentialed in advance because there is no way I could get these photos with a point and shoot camera or my iPhone.
At 6:30 pm, the final auditions began with a rousing performance by the Captains.
After the Captain’s performance, the 51 candidates were introduced to the audience. I was told about 20 returning veterans were trying out, so that meant about 30 or so new girls trying out with the veterans at this year’s finals.
The first event of the evening was the interview portion. One by one, the finalists were escorted to center stage by members of the Missouri Army National Guard…the luckiest guys in St. Louis on this night.
Up at the microphone, the finalists were asked such questions as “who would you like to play opposite you in a movie?” or “what sports personality do you admire the most and why?” or “if you could meet one person, alive or dead, who would that be?”
With respect to the question regarding who would you like to play opposite you in a movie, one of the girls answered “Ryan Reynolds”, which seemed to be a popular answer with the mostly female crowd. Another finalist answered, “Kobe Bryant because he’s humble” to the question of the which athlete did she admire the most. And the most creative and funny answer of the evening was given by a finalist who was asked what one thing would she take if she was stranded on a desert island. Her answer was “a boat”, which was both funny and reasonable at the same time.
I suppose this segment is designed to see how well the finalists will perform in a setting where public interaction will take place. Lest we forget, one of the primary responsibilities of a cheerleader is interacting with the public and being the face of the organization, so you want to select a candidate with a good personality and public speaking abilities. And I must say, each candidate was engaging and personable.
As the finalists completed their answers, they were shuttled off stage to immediately change into their swimwear. As soon as the interview portion ended, the swimsuit portion began…without delay, I might add. As I said earlier, there was non stop action at The Pageant Theatre and I wasn’t kidding. I could barely make it back to the judges table 20 feet away to change out my batteries before the next segment began.
I have attended many auditions and one of the characteristics of all cheerleaders who make it to this level is physical fitness. Its a integral part of being a NFL cheerleader and we all know that the uniform is form fitting and rather skimpy. So what better way to judge a girl’s physique than a swimsuit competition.
As the girls paraded down the length and width of the stage, they were serenaded by the vocal styling of Nikko Smith, a former American Idol finalist and St. Louis native. He is also the son of Hall of Fame St. Louis Cardinal baseball player, Ozzie Smith.
And let us not forget that most NFL squads produce a swimsuit calendar, so this portion of the finals has a relevance beyond merely showcasing the physical beauty of the girls.
No rest for the weary as the girls immediately changed from their bikinis into their dance wear for the next phase, the final dance audition. Girls were brought to the stage in pairs and performed the same audition routine in front of a panel of judges, which included famed choreographer John Peters, former Rams player Orlando Pace, and noted designer Angela King-Twitero, a former S.F. Gold Rush Director and cheerleader.
51 finalists would perform, their friends and family shouting out their support. From my vantage, all the finalists were worthy of being selected. But the dance portion is, perhaps, the most important of the three sections of the final auditions. NFL cheerleaders are first and foremost dancers. So the girls had one final chance to showcase what they had to offer.
After the last grouping of three girls performed, Keely and her staff retired to tabulate the judges scores. Fifteen minutes later, the results were in and the Master of Ceremonies announced the new squad by calling individual girls back to the stage. The lucky girls were escorted by Rampage, the Rams Mascot, and presented a Rams Cheerleader warm up jacket by one of the 2012 Captains.
Once the last name was called, the 2012 St. Louis Rams Cheerleaders were presented to the audience. 28 girls would make the squad this year. Of the 2o or so veterans trying out for 2012 squad, two were cut. The returning veterans join the three returning Captains and a handful of rookies to round out the squad. Judging from the number of girls wearing St. Louis Rams warm up jackets, this is going to be an amazing squad.
When the girls had finished posing for their friends and family, the curtain was drawn and Keely Fimbres assembled the 2012 squad to let them know what was ahead for them. After the announcement, the realities of their new responsibilities set in. There was a brief discussion about what they could say about the night’s events, for you see these girls were now a part of the Rams organization and they were told what they should avoid discussing on the social media sites.
Keely let the girls know what their upcoming schedule would be, for in two short days their first public appearance had already been scheduled…a draft day party event. The girls would have to pick up shirts and shorts, their uniform for the event, before they left this night. Not ten minutes had passed since the announcement and the 2012 Rams Cheerleaders were moving forward with the first of many events and season full of excitement. Congratulations and welcome to the NFL.
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I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Keely Fimbres and the staff of the St. Louis Rams for allowing me the privilege to cover the 2012 Rams Cheerleaders Final Auditions. I had a wonderful time covering your squad and hope to see you soon.