An NFL Super Bowl Cheerleader’s #1 Advice to Anyone Interested in Joining a Professional Dance Team
After this year’s big game, Jennifer “Jenn” Padilla can now add “NFL Super Bowl Championship Cheerleader” to her resumé.
Padilla began auditioning at 18, the minimum age requirement to audition for professional teams. After numerous tryouts, she finally landed a spot on the NBA dance team for the Boston Celtics at 19 years-old.
And by 21, Padilla became an official “Laker Girl.” But it was no easy feat; she auditioned a total of three times before landing a spot on the iconic LA dance team. And for two years, Padilla cheered alongside her fellow Laker Girls, some of the greatest NBA players of all time, and of course, the celebrities sitting courtside. But then, she was cut.
After being cut, Padilla saw this as a blessing in disguise and auditioned for LA’s returning football team a few months later and secured a spot on their dance squad. By her third season, she’d cheered in her first Super Bowl. And in 2022, the team made it back to the Super Bowl, and this time they won.
“I was in shock,” Jenn told mitú. “I kept asking my teammates, ‘Did we just win the SUPER BOWL?’”
FIERCE caught up with Padilla to talk about her professional dance career, the work ethic her parents instilled in her, and advice for those looking to secure a spot on a professional dance team.
Q: What was going through your mind once you knew your team won the Super Bowl?
A: It had been a long week of so much work leading up to the Super Bowl, like appearances, community work, etc. The game was so close and made me nervous because I wanted them to win so badly. Once we made that touchdown and our defense sacked the quarterback on the final possession, I was in shock. I’m still in shock.
Q: What was your proudest moment during your journey?
A: I have a few. 1. Becoming a captain. 2. Going to my first Super Bowl and taking my parents. 3. Going to my 2nd Super Bowl and WINNING! 4. Most importantly, I remember one game where my entire family attended, and I was able to see them from the field. They were so proud and probably the loudest in that section. I felt so proud at that moment because they’re my ride or dies.
Q: What’s the most difficult challenge you faced throughout your journey?
A: Not making it back to what would’ve been my third year with the Lakers. It was the first time in my dance career where I experienced a sense of rejection. I had to learn the hard way that your talent requires hard work alongside it. Making a team is hard, but staying on a team is a lot harder. The work never stops. It was a wake-up call for me. I had to put my ego and embarrassment aside and keep going. Sometimes veterans get cut, but the rejection wasn’t going to be the end of the road for me.
Q: How did your Latinx upbringing contribute to your success today?
A: I am a first-generation American, so my parents came here and have been grinding to create opportunities they never had for my siblings and me. I learned how to work extremely hard for the things I wanted in my life, and I was usually rewarded 95% of the time. My parents were always encouraging and did about anything to support us. The Hispanic culture is so overlooked in how hard we work and how we show up for each other, and the love we give for our families and for people we don’t even know.
Q: What’s something most people don’t know about professional cheerleaders and dancers?
A: People underestimate us. We are diverse career men and women who value our community, and we work extremely hard to get to where we are, specifically on the stage we’re on. We are athletic and graceful, with integrity and discipline. For many of us, it’s a bonus job that creates opportunities for a lifetime that only a small percentage of the world gets to experience.
Q: What advice do you have for someone looking to audition for a professional team?
1. Research each organization – Auditioning is truly a skill. I researched each organization to understand its mission and expectations at auditions from start to finish. Some teams hold prep classes for auditions, which are extremely helpful. If you stand out positively, they will remember you when you return to the actual auditions.
2. Train, train, train – I trained hard after I didn’t make it back to the Lakers. I built my confidence back by taking dance classes and working out to come back as a better, refined version of myself. You have to be on your A game.
3. Rejection doesn’t always mean it’s the end of your dream or goal – If I had made it back to the Lakers dance team, I wouldn’t have cheered in two Super Bowls. Rejections are an opportunity to continue and apply what you learned from past failures or mistakes. Trust that your experience and skills will work out for you. Go after your dreams unapologetically. You never know what will happen unless you go for it. Remain true to yourself, and the right team will choose you to be a part of it.
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