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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Three Cheers For The Bride-to-be 

Posted by James at 1:56 PM ET

By Chris Kuhn
The Tampa Tribune
To say Milly Figuereo's life changed when she became a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleader would be an understatement, if you ask her. "It changed immensely! It's like being part of a juggling act," she says. "But I love it and it just takes being strict with your schedule and living by that Blackberry."

Figuereo's life is about to change immensely again. The 27-year-old is engaged to be married in March. These days, if she's not at cheerleading practice, she's busy planning her wedding. Her fiancé popped the question earlier this year when the couple traveled to the Dominican Republic, where most of her family resides.

"It was my first visit home in seven years. I was born there but moved here when I was 9. My entire family except my mom and brother are there," she says. "That's why it was so beautiful that he proposed to me where all of my family could share in the engagement."

This is Figuereo's second season as a Bucs cheerleader and she still loves every minute of it, recalling the thrill of her first game before the crowds. "It was an exhilarating rush. I'd been to Bucs games and various NFL games before, but everything looks different when you're out there on the field. You really feel like 65,000 people are screaming for you!"

Milly, Bucs Cheerleader

She says that Bucs fans have been very welcoming and encouraging. "When someone takes the time to write and tell me that they really appreciate our hard work, it means a lot to me."

Figuereo has always loved to dance, cheering throughout junior high and high school, and participating in the University of Tampa's dance program.

"I was always musically inclined and the entertainer of the family. My mom would say 'Oh, Milly, get up and dance for us,' but it was never something I looked to as a full-time career."

She insists that being successful on the field takes more than musicality and that cheerleaders must bring four crucial elements to their performance: a great personality, positive attitude, leadership skills and charisma. It also takes hard work and dedication, something she says she's always seen in her ultimate role model.

"My mom's really taught me a lot, coming over to the States to make a better life for her, my brother and me. Everything I do, it's all for her."

She admits she was surprised at the challenges of professional cheerleading, including the long practices and impact of the heat. "When I started, I didn't know all of the work that went into cheerleading. I thought that the girls just danced on the field, but public appearances and events are such a big part of the job."

Since joining the squad, she's participated in events for organizations such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and Metropolitan Ministries.

Figuereo also works full time as an office manager for a local commodities brokerage and enjoys spending free time with friends. To unwind, she does yoga at home or a nearby studio, preferring hot yoga, which involves performing basic moves in a room heated up to 105 degrees. "This really helps you train for cheering because it's so hot, just like the field," she says.

Aside from yoga, Figuereo keeps fit by going for brisk walks early in the morning a few days a week or hitting the gym with a friend. She also walks with her dog, Gus, a beagle-hound mix who loves to dig and who, according to Figuereo, has single-handedly destroyed the yard.

Milly, Bucs Cheerleader

With the holiday season in full swing, Figuereo prepares for the usual family feast that offers a blend of cultures and food. "My stepdad is American and my mom Dominican, so we usually combine dishes during the holidays which might seem unusual to some people," she says. "So we'll have turkey and roast pork, too. Along with the mashed potatoes, we'll have rice with pigeon peas."

Figuereo has a solution for beating the stress of the holidays, wedding planning and that daily juggling act: a day off at her favorite spa. "We'll get in a workout, massage, manicure, pedicure, facial — and maybe a little shopping time afterward!"

Online home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders here.