Friday, January 18, 2008

Meet the Champions of Cheer 

Posted by Sasha at 3:04 PM ET

Dave Hollander

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (DCC) are the winners of the AOL Hottest Cheerleaders Tournament. To accept the title, the DCC sent us Megan Fox, a four-year veteran and last year's Pro Bowl selection. She questions what Giants fans have against cheerleaders, points out the suspicious timing of the release of the new DCC Barbie and lends emotional support to Terrell Owens.

Megan Fox, a four-year veteran of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, calls her team's championship in AOL's Hottest Cheerleaders Tournament an honor. In the competition's final round, voters chose her squad over the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders 64 to 36 percent. [photos]

Dave Hollander: A Texas-sized congratulation on winning AOL's first-ever Hottest Cheerleaders competition.

Megan Fox: Well thank you so much! That's quite an honor. I'm going to be honest. For a little while I had no idea it was even going on. Then we actually got word from a couple of my friends who cheer for other squads that we were leading it, so that was really exciting.

DH: Once you realized you were in the tournament which cheerleading squad did you fear most?

MF: You know what? It's kinda funny that it got narrowed down to us and Miami because I've always thought so highly - not that I don't think highly of every professional cheerleading squad - but I've always thought those women were beautiful. But I also feared San Diego a little bit. Because you know those Californians are classic blonde beauties. I thought they may give us a little run for our money also.

DH: So you weren't surprised to see the Miami Dolphins in the finals?

MF: Not at all. I think the whole beachy-coast type of girl could be a little bit challenging. Now, they say everything is bigger and better in Texas so I thought we maybe have an edge there.

DH: You'd think with 1-15 record the Miami girls would be ashamed to show their faces.

MF: You would think. But then again, you gotta have something to hold onto. When you're 1-15 you kinda have to rely on something so I think the fans definitely looked to their cheerleaders for a little bit of entertainment.

DH: After earning a first round playoff bye winning the NFC east title, you knocked off the Redskins in a divisional playoff game (58 to 42 percent). How satisfying was it send your old foes packing?

MF: We have little bit of bitterness toward anyone in the NFC East and we're one left out of the three cheerleading squads - Eagles, Redskins and us. Yup, we always have a little bit of animosity towards anybody in the NFC East so it's always exciting to knock off your competitors.

DH: The Giants don't even have cheerleaders. What's up with that?

MF: I know! You know I kinda wondered that, because everybody says "Oh it's so cold!" and I think Buffalo has cheerleaders and those girls get out and do that every week. And it can be kinda brutal there. What's interesting is I wonder why Giants fans haven't gotten a little offended by [not having cheerleaders]. And it's funny because they don't even really like us. Like we just played them in the divisional playoff game and those fans don't even like us. Either those fans are just solely focused on their football team that they don't even think about the fact [they don't have cheerleaders] or they're just really jealous that they don't have cheerleaders like everybody else.

DH: Your toughest battle was in the NFC title game, beating the Carolina Panthers (54 to 46 percent). Given that two of their squad were arrested in a Tampa bar fight a couple years ago, did you expect they might be a scrappier bunch?

MF: Not necessarily. You can't peg a whole squad for the mistakes of a couple girls. I actually have a very good friend who cheered for Carolina. She is wonderful and I think she's absolutely beautiful. Like I said you can't let a few bad eggs spoil the whole bunch. I think they're a great group of girls and obviously beautiful and talented enough to be on the squad. It's interesting to get America's perspective on what they see as "hot." You know what I mean? Like the hottest girls. That every squad has backing is not a shock to me at all.

DH: It's no surprise you guys were tournament favorites, known worldwide for your trademarked outfits. How big of an advantage are your outfits in a tournament like this?

MF: You know what? I think it helped out a lot in that the uniform hasn't changed over the years. Whether we're traveling worldwide or nationwide or in the state of Texas the uniforms are recognized by everyone. We had a have lot for tradition and it's a very prideful uniform to wear. So I think it does help in a tournament like this because no matter where you're form or who you root for, you kinda go "Okay, I definitely know that uniform and it belongs to the Dallas Cowboys and to America's Sweethearts." Everyone recognizes the blue and white.

DH: You're also the only squad with your own Barbie doll. How big of an advantage is that?

MF: We are so excited! It's every little girl's dream to have a Barbie resemble you, period, but also to have it represent something you hold so dearly like the way we do for our organization. Funny, the release of this Barbie to the public coincided with the AOL competition. It definitely put our name and trademark out there. There was a little buzz about that so it could have influenced the voting. Really, in a completion you kind of take any edge you can get. And with Mattel and Barbie being as big as they are, that covers a huge span of people across the nation. It must've helped.

DH: It also can't hurt to be the only cheerleading team with a national cable TV show, "Making the Team" on CMT. How can other cheerleading team hope to overcome the kind media power you guys bring to tournament?

MF: You know Dave, you're pointing out a lot things to me that I'm like "Yeah, that is funny how that works out." CMT has been very good to us and good to our organization. We started out with that one two-hour special which briefly, and I emphasize briefly, touched on our audition process. And the last two seasons it's been an eight-week series. I think people have gotten to feel like they know our squad, our organization the actual cheerleaders which puts us out there in front of everybody, especially on Friday nights when families sit down together and watch the show. At the same time probably hypes something like an AOL Hottest Cheerleader Tournament because you think about how people must now have new found appreciation for what all the squads are doing and how hard you work to do this job.

DH: There must be jealousy form other squads. We've seen mascots go at each other on the field. In your four years with the DCC, how often have you guys tussled with opposing cheerleaders on the field?

MF: In the NFL we don't travel to away games. We let cheerleaders have their home field. It's their fans, their team and their home so they kinda run the stadium. I was very fortunate to attend the Pro Bowl last season as a representative from my squad and I made some of the very -- (emotional pause) -- some of my very best friends are cheerleaders from other teams. It helped me really appreciate what the other girls put into their squads and how hard they work. You realize they're giving it a lot. So I don't think the jealously factor is there as much as what other people think. Really, we're just fascinated to learn about each other's organizations. I got asked a lot of questions about the TV show, my training camp process; how extensive and how long it is. I think there's more fascination then jealousy. You really want to get the know the tricks of the trade.

DH: You were named AOL Hottest Cheerleader champs days after the Cowboys were knocked out of the playoffs. Has this made hard for you guys to celebrate out loud?

MF: No. Obviously what happened last weekend was really disappointing. There was a lot of hype around our football season, our ball club and our organization which was well deserved. I mean we went form barely squeaking into the playoffs least year to a first round bye and home field advantage which hasn't happened in Texas Stadium in ten years. So the hype around the organization put a lot of hype around us a well. I think that helped us in the AOL competition. Everyone is really good about letting us celebrate a "victory" despite what's going on the with the football team. We're proud of them and I think that our organization and our fans are proud of us as well, especially considering it went from a big group of squads to just us and Miami. That's a great contest to win. We can still celebrate pretty loudly.

DH: You guys are the emotional megaphone for the team. How much did Terrell Owens steal your thunder by crying in his press conference?

MF: Not so much our thunder. You can't fault a guy for being emotional about something like that. There was just a lot built around this team and how good they really were. Obviously the Giants showed up and played a great game and you gotta give them credit for being a better team that day. I think T.O. is well-deserved to have his spotlight and his moment. Our job is to be supportive of the team and the players. That's what we do. We're the emotional outlet I guess. But, if you were there on Sunday you would see we were quite emotional about it all. I think he's just kind of the face that showed how disappointed everyone was about the loss.

DH: The media focuses on silly things sometimes. Like I think it was unfair for the media to say Jessica Simpson had an effect on Tony Romo.

MF: Exactly! You can't fault a person's personal life. That's really none of our business. They're human beings just like we are. In their case they live it in the newspapers, televisions, magazines and tabloids. You can't blame anybody for that. It was the Giants' day. They had a better day. It's one and done in football. That's what's so hard about it. But you can't blame their personal life for that kind of loss. It's a team sport and team effort. You can't blame one guy.

DH: But do the DCC blame Jessica for taking camera time away from you guys during games?

MF: It's definitely expected. Anytime a big name like that is in attendance, especially when she is the starting quarterback's girlfriend or they're dating or heaven forbid I have no idea what the situation is. We're big fans of Jessica Simpson. The media is obviously going to make a big deal out of it. We don't take offense to it. I personally don't think the world gets to see the cheerleaders enough on the sideline as it is so I don't think it's her fault we don't get TV time.

DH: Anyway, Jessica may not have what it takes to be a good Cowboys cheerleader. The DCC rules clearly state, "no DCC may date any of the players, coaches, or other employees of the Dallas Cowboys Football Club." What happens if that rule is broken?

MF: It calls for immediate dismissal. That's a big deal in our organization, to keep a very professional relationship. It's a business -- our side and the players side -- so we do not mix the two. Our organization takes that very, very seriously.

DH: Many celebrities could take a page from your rules of conduct that make you such a respected brand. For example, DCC's are "not permitted to smoke, drink alcohol, or conduct themselves in any manner not becoming to the tradition of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders." Tell what the DCC tradition is to you?

MF: I take a lot of pride in what our organization has done over the last 34 years. To me, a lot of what this organization embodies is tradition and what the women 35 years ago started and the legacy we've carried on in my last four years and I hope the future cheerleaders carry on. I always want to look at this organization and be very proud to say that wore the uniform. You think about what Kelli [Finglass ](DCC Director) and Judy [Trammell] (DCC Choreographer) and the women behind our organization have done to make it as big as it is - a reality show, a Barbie. We travel more than any other entertainer all over the world with the USO. There's just so much this organization has brought to the table. It gave a me a newfound respect for what this profession is. You are supposed to embody everything a positive role model and real modern woman is.

DH: Squad Director Kelli McGonagill Finglass says of the girls who inherit the DCC Tradition: "They must be givers who understand that they themselves have been given a gift, and now have the opportunity to share that gift with others." It almost sounds like religious or missionary work.

MF: Sometimes people make that joke that this uniform is like (pauses) well, you know I would hate to put it anywhere near a religion or a religious practice by any means but it's a big deal to those who have worn the uniform that it be held to a very high standard. She's right about it setting a standard and for it to be a staple for Dallas and Texas. And that's why were labeled America's Team and America's Sweethearts. Those are such big shoes to fill. The bar is set very high and so we're expected to reach and surpass it.

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