If you think the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders are just a bunch of pretty faces with curvaceous bods, you had better think again. A glimpse into the lives of the 40 women reveals there is a whole lot more than meets the eye.
While some people find it hard to get beyond their good looks and perky demeanor, dig a little deeper and you’ll find there is depth beneath the surface.
Some of them have bachelor’s degrees, some have master’s degrees, they are ambitious and goal-oriented and some have overcome great odds to make it to the elite ranks of professional sports cheerleading.
In fact, the requirements for becoming a ’Fins cheerleader include being enrolled in school or having a job, according to Emily Newton, the Miami Dolphins cheerleading coordinator and director.
Kristena Wright, 23, is one of six African Americans on the squad and you could say she is the complete package, possessing both brains and beauty.
Wright obtained a bachelor of science in Family Science from the University of Maryland at College Park. She knows the perception out there is that she and the other cheerleaders are simply there to serve as eye candy for the team and for the fans.
But, Wright said in an interview, many of her cheerleading colleagues, who range in age from 18 to 29, have college degrees and some are studying to become doctors and lawyers. And, she added, fortitude and ambition are common traits among this group of gorgeous ladies.
She knows about fortitude and ambition. A college cheerleading injury left her partly paralyzed for two months. “I had to learn to walk all over again,” she recalled. The injury left her unable to do traditional cheerleading, so she concentrated on dance. She landed a spot with the NBA and spent two years as a Washington Wizards cheerleader before joining the Dolphins, where she is in her rookie year.
Aja Stevens, 22, is also in her first year with the hometown football team. “Everyone doubted me because I’m a mom,” she said, in an interview at the recent Miami Dolphins Toy Drive at the team’s training facility in Davie. She is the only mother on the current squad, although in past years there have been others, Newton said.
Raised by a single mother and her grandmother, Stevens said, she was taught to shoot for the stars. “I’ve always had dreams of becoming a professional dancer or performer,” said the Opa-locka native. “I was so determined. I let nothing stop me, ever.”
Stevens has obtained an associate’s degree and is studying at Florida International University for a bachelor’s in Business Management and Marketing. “I feel that I’m motivation for a lot of girls,” she said. “I’m letting them know that nothing should stop them from their dreams.”
Mariela Campuzano, 28, who was born in Bolivia but raised by a single mother in Miami, is another example of a pretty face coupled with ambition and goals. She has received a bachelor’s in Liberal Arts and a master’s in Educational Leadership, but her life-long goal had always been to become a professional sports dancer. One of five Latinas on the Dolphins squad, she credits her mother with teaching her to strive for her dreams.
Newton, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, said although the girls are attractive, the team looks for other attributes, as well, such as a good personality, being physically fit and well-spoken. They must be able to represent the Dolphins organization at various appearances and at home games and charity events.
Most of the women said although nothing compares to the excitement of Game Day, it is the charity work they find most rewarding, particularly helping needy kids.
“My goal is to make them smile for today – even if I may never see them again,” said Wright.
Daphne Taylor may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured: Dolphins Cheerleaders Aja Stevens and Kristena Wright