My DCC Audition Experience

Letting the world know my dream of becoming a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader was one of the hardest secrets to let go of. I’ve dreamt of this for years and officially decided this was something I was going to go for my freshman year of college, planning to audition after graduating from college.

I never wanted to tell anyone about my dream for fear of failing and everyone feeling sorry for me. I never expected to be so proud of myself for making it as far as I did. I truly underestimated how huge it is to just make it to Semi-finals.

This past academic year has been an absolute whirlwind. It flew by faster than I ever could have imagined, bringing on my impending audition pretty quickly. I have juggled the ending of my collegiate cheerleading career, ending of my academic career, job interviews and so much more.

While I had always dreamed of becoming a DCC, I put the dream on hold for a while. A job opportunity presented itself in Austin, TX that took my attention away from my DCC dreams. I still held on to both for a while, until moving further and further along into the interview process for the Austin job when I decided chasing a career opportunity was more important than chasing my dreams.

That decision lead to me being stressed and miserable for the month where I had given up on my dreams. I looked at it as the auditions would come around again next year, but this potential job wouldn’t. I finally decided to take back control of my future and go after my DCC dreams two weeks prior to auditions. I felt a huge sense of relief, but also panic because auditions were only two weeks away.

I hopped back on my strict, healthy-eating regimen and made sure to run or workout every day. I never completely quit that, because thats just not in my nature to be completely lazy, but I went full force and put all of my energy into it. I could tell a difference in how I looked but more so how I felt about my body. The audition process is hard because you know they are not only looking at your dancing abilities, but also your physical appearance.

So lets skip to the week of auditions.

Thank the Lord for good friends who were there for me through the stress of this week. There is a long list of good friends who I owe my sanity to.

Coming up with an audition outfit was stressful. From speaking with former DCCs, they strongly suggested I wear bright colors and definitely add “bling.” I spent hours rhinestoning my audition outfit. Rhinestones and being overly flashy in that sense aren’t my thing nowadays.

I made sure to really focus on getting an ab workout in every day, and was so happy with my results. Abs have always been an easy place for me to target and tone quickly though. I did plenty of oblique exercises and also hundreds of Russian twists, my favorite ab go-to.

IMG_8456 213174172_10101842660480674_5431116286442580798_nI flew to Dallas on a 6:00 a.m. flight and was picked up by my mom’s good friend and coworker, Kimmie. Kimmie was my surrogate dance mother for the weekend and I like to think she had as much fun as I did. She has a beautiful home in Fort Worth, a quick 20 minute drive to AT&T Stadium. She also introduced me to Texas barbecue which I would say is just as good, but not quite better, than Carolina barbecue.

IMG_8462The night before auditions, we drove over to Power House of Dance in Dallas to meet with Kim, a friend of Kimmie’s and a former DCC, Dallas Mavericks dancer and member of many other professional dance teams. She made me dance freestyle, my least favorite thing to do, and also helped me with my slate (name, age, where I’m from etc.). She was so so helpful and gave me the confidence boost I really needed.

I knew I could dance, I know I’m a great dancer in front of the mirror in my bedroom, but can I dance well in front of 14 judges and a bunch of cameras? or 80,000+ fans? Kim was so reassuring of all of my concerns. She told me I had great rhythm, musicality and was a great dancer, everything I needed to hear at that time. I went to bed that night feeling ready to take on the preliminary round.

Preliminary Round

Falling asleep that night was close to impossible. The 5:00 a.m. alarm came way too soon, but I hopped out of bed right away and started getting ready. While I knew the actual audition process wouldn’t start until later in the morning and there would be time to fix my hair and makeup there, cameras are on you as soon as you pull into the stadium parking lot. Most girls came all made up and ready, but there were a few who came with plans to do their makeup there and quickly realized their mistake.

Check in began at 7:30, but the gates opened at 7:00. It was in between rain showers when I walked in, and because of the rain they let us wait inside instead of outside like you normally see on the show.

Waiting in line before registration was when you really start to realize it’s actually a TV production and not just an audition. Phil, the famous security guard who welcomes all the women and rolls out the numbers after prelims, had to do a few takes of his welcome speech while we were in line.

IMG_8467I checked in, got my number, 137, and headed to my seat where you then sign paperwork for CMT. The DCC staff encourage you to sign all the waivers, but make sure to let you know that you do not have to if you don’t want to. Then they handed the mic over to the CMT producer and she pretty much said sign them no matter what. You still could have said no, but the difference between the DCC staff and the CMT staff was very apparent.

After setting up my suitcase and mirror a CMT camera showed up in my face. At first they just wanted to get the shot of me and other girls getting ready and talking about the upcoming audition but then our conversation turned to other things like how I was missing college graduation to be there. The producer heard this and immediately started asking me questions and it turned into an impromptu interview.

IMG_8473I knew it was a TV show I was signing up for and I had mixed feelings about it. They feature several girls throughout the process and I was often asked how I felt about that. I always looked at it as if I made it all the way, then of course being featured would be great, but if I didn’t then I didn’t want to be featured, for obvious reasons. I do know they interviewed at least 100 girls so theres no way to know for sure if they’ll use any of my interviews, but if they do, I have every intention of embracing it.

So then we move to the famous scene of all the girls sitting in the seats listening to Kelli, the DCC director. She spoke about the process and what we could expect. She also told us we had done the hardest part of the audition already, getting there. She was right about that. There are so many women out there who dream of this, but don’t go for it for fear of failure. I can’t say I blame them, but I’m glad I did go for it.Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 8.17.16 PM

After that we moved back up to the main concourse where the auditions took place, took a short break and the first round of auditions began at 11:00 a.m. I was calm sitting there waiting. Being number 137, I was pretty far back in my row and also behind a very tall girl and couldn’t see much of the women performing. When it was finally time for my row to go, it hit me just how nervous I was.

My Freestyle Audition

I walked out in front of the floor with my group and waited my turn to take the mic. This was one of my favorite parts. I felt very confident introducing myself. I said my slate and also included that I was a college graduate as of that day. Charlotte Jones Anderson, one of the judges sitting next to Kelli and also the Cowboys Chief Brand Officer, told me congratulations with a big smile. It was reassuring, but they also smile like that at every girl.

After each girl introduced herself, we stepped back and took the floor. This is where things get blurry for me. I remember the start of the music ( Justin Timberlake, Can’t Stop the Feeling), I remember my first few seconds of freestyle, but everything else happened so fast. I had a few 8-counts made up to use if I ever felt lost in the freestyle or just needed something to pull from. I had every intention of using them because they were pretty great, but I think I maybe did half of one of the 8-counts. I talked to several girls after and they said the same thing, they had 8-counts made up but didn’t do any of them, meaning I wasn’t alone in that. I wish I had more to say about this part of the audition process, but I honestly don’t remember.

I do remember making eye contact with a few different judges and making one of the men on the back row change from a straight face to a big smile when I held his gaze for a few seconds. Making eye contact and finding a way to engage the judges other than Kelli and Judy, is so important. Kelli and Judy are well trained at keeping a happy face regardless of what they may be writing on their papers, but the other judges aren’t as good at that. If you can engage them and make them smile, you’ve likely made a good impression.

IMG_8495The music ended, we all stepped forward and smiled for the judges (hard to do because you’re so out of breath and your mouth is so dry at this point from smiling and nerves) and then walked off. This was the worst part. There was nothing else I could do to help my chances and I couldn’t even remember what I did out there. It was 12:30 at this point and we knew results wouldn’t be posted until around 6:00.

The CMT producers pulled several girls after their audition for a sit down interview with a producer. I was one of them. This was nice to take my mind off of everything and distract me from the waiting. I was also able to talk to several of the other women who were so nice.

In my interview, they asked me the standard questions like “What was it like walking out into the stadium this morning?” “How do you think you did?” “What would it mean to you to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader?” It was fun and I felt like one of the contestants on The Bachelor being interviewed.

They pull women to be interviewed for several different reasons. They’re really looking for something that makes you stand out and will make viewers want to get to know you. Many of the girls stood out simply because they were good, some stood out because of background stories and unfortunately some stood out for all the wrong reasons. I’m hoping I stood out for being good, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever know.

IMG_8483Waiting for hours was definitely the worst part. They told us we would hear at 5:00, then they told us we would hear a little after 5:00 and they finally pushed it back to 6:00. There was a lot of tension and a lot of nerves in the air. When they announced that they were going to set us up for results, everyone jumped up so quick. We all knew a lot of days were going to be made and a lot of hearts were going to be broken.

Once outside, because the rain finally stopped, we waited forever. It took Phil a few takes to get the rolling out of the board the right way for CMT. At this point, I prepared myself for not making it. Its much easier to accept a “No” if you’re preparing yourself for it, but it’s still easy to accept a “Yes” if you’re preparing for “No.”

Phil finally pulled the cover off of the board and I couldn’t see much of anything but the top few rows of the board due to me being in the back of the crowd and standing at only 5’1″. Luckily, my number was in the top two rows!

The relief I felt was indescribable. I had to double check my number and the board at least five times. I couldn’t believe it. I called my mom, who was at my little sister’s dance recital and texted every single person that knew I was there. It didn’t even really hit me that I had made it to semi-finals until later that night. This was when I finally decided to let everyone know I was there and I was actually going for my dreams. It was a tough decision but the support I received from everyone was so overwhelming and so reassuring. I’m so glad I finally went public with it!

I IMG_8494went home that night and started freaking out about the written test coming the next day. They give everyone a written test on the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders history, NFL, current events, dance terminology and overall football knowledge.

I wasn’t worried about my knowledge of football, current events or the NFL, but I knew they asked specifics about the Cowboys and DCC history. I studied the Cowboys coaches, assistant coaches, position coaches, the owner, VPs, draft picks and their positions, what schools they were from and more. I studied DCC history, how they started, who former directors and choreographers were, how many changes have been made to the uniform over the years and much more.

I went to bed that night feeling overwhelmed with love and support and also with the importance of the next day weighing on my mind.

Semi-Finals

Another 5:00 a.m. alarm and the same routine as the day before. I get to the stadium at 7:00 and stand outside in line with all of the other girls. Everyone stood there studying their notes. Many had notebooks, binders with tabs and pages of notes and others had their phones pulled out to study Quizlet, myself included. Tension and nerves were high all around, but also excitement of being one of the 104 women to make it to semi-finals.

IMG_8498We checked in at 8:00 and most women tried to check in with others close in height because we all knew we would be performing a kick line with those in our group of five. I ended up with number 45 for semis and next to a girl not too, terribly taller than myself. We all set our stuff down and headed to our seats. From there we went down to the field.

This was my favorite part of the day. Dancing on the field was an amazing experience that I have every intention of doing again. Many people get in a space like that and feel small or overwhelmed. Seeing 80,000 seats is exciting to me, it energizes me and makes me want to dance and perform that much bigger.

We learned our routine fairly quick, eight 8-counts, and put it to music. The routine wasn’t too hard and was really fun to perform. I did have trouble connecting a few of the sections of the routine which made me nervous, but felt confident by the end of our field time. After that we learned the kick line. The kick line was simple and easy, but tiring after performing the dance so many times.

We stayed out on the field for about 45 minutes to continue practicing and after that, headed back to the main concourse to prepare for auditions. Everyone was practicing everywhere. I practiced it plenty of times, to the point where if I did it anymore I would only be tiring myself out and making myself more nervous about it. I was feeling ready and excited at this point.

We finally sit down in our chairs and the auditions begin. I didn’t feel nervous about performing until we stood up to wait in line to go. The group that had just gone came over and brought us their poms and we start running through everything on the side. This was when panic started to set in and I let my nerves get to me.

We did the same as the day before and started with introducing ourselves over the microphone and then stepped back on the floor. I remember performing in semis better than preliminaries, but not much better. This time, I tried to remember to be more present in the moment so I would be able to remember, but it didn’t work.

Like I said, I let my nerves get to me here. I know I messed up a few times in the dance which kills me now because I know it was just my nerves. We performed the eight 8-count dance four times through, back-to-back, and then moved straight into the kick line which we performed twice back-to-back. There was hardly any time to breathe through the whole thing. I smiled the whole time, and tried to not let my nerves show on my face.

IMG_8481I walked away from this round with a not so great feeling. I knew I messed up while performing and that really got to me, mainly because I knew I could do so much better than that. I do know that I did my very best that I could while I was out there considering my circumstances. Could it have been better? Absolutely. Did I give up on myself out there? No way.

Once all 104 women finished their audition, the judges went to make their decisions and we went to take our written test. I thought the test wasn’t bad at all. I knew answers to most of the questions about the Cowboys, DCC and knew all of the dance terminology. The NFL questions were easy but the overall football knowledge was tougher than I thought.

The test asked how many teams are in the NFL, 32, what division the Cowboys play in, NFC East, and who all plays in that division, Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Washington Redskins, and other similar questions. What tripped me up a little was a photo of an offensive and defensive lineup. With a word bank, I had to name each position on the field. There was also referee hand signals that I had to identify. Both of these, I knew most, but definitely not everything!

After the test (I was one of the first to finish 💁🏻), the waiting was awful and I was preparing myself for a “No.” We all waited and waited and again, they pushed back the time we would find out to a later time. Finally, they sat us all back down in our chairs and Kelli and Judy came on to the floor.

They took 48 women to Finals, and I was not one of them. I walked away from this entire experience feeling so proud of myself. I never expected it to be just as hard as it was. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and I knew I would have to work very hard, but I never knew I was going to be so proud of myself just for making it to Semis.

The hardest part is making yourself standout in Preliminaries among so many other talented and beautiful women. What got me through all of it was constantly reminding myself to not compare myself to others. I was working hard to put my best self out there, and comparing myself to all the others there would have only broken my confidence down.

No tears were shed, my heart wasn’t broken and it only made me want it that much more next year. Will I be back? My plan is yes, but it depends on where my life is one year from now. I am certainly not giving up on this dream.

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