All of us have biases; snap judgements and assumptions that we make about groups of people based on a flawed system of beliefs. These become…
Hollywood can be full of surprises. This not only applies to what goes down in Tinseltown but down to the very intimate details of its most prominent figures. There are celebrities who have literally grown up in front of the world with tabloids and other sources of media broadcasting their lives; stars like Raven-Symoné, Drew Barrymore, Bow Wow, Shia LaBeouf, Lindsay Lohan, Justin Bieber, and the list goes on. On the other hand, some celebs had their big breaks come later in life and, at times, it can be hard to imagine that some of those stars lived normal lives growing up.
When it comes to things like high school senior notes and superlatives, some celebrities hadn’t even had an ounce of fame before receiving or not receiving titles like “most likely to succeed” or “class clown.” As for extracurricular activities, there are stars like Kirsten Dunst, who caught no one by surprise when she told Gotham magazine (via People), “When I was 16 and did Bring It On. I was that girl. It was like me being in high school as myself. It wasn’t a stretch at all. I was a cheerleader, my best friend was a cheerleader. I wasn’t in competitions, but I watched them on TV.”
That said, there are Hollywood A-listers, Academy Award winners, reality stars, and politicians whose backgrounds in cheerleading may catch folks off guard. Read on to discover the celebrities you didn’t know were once cheerleaders.
Meryl Streep underwent an early transformation when she became a cheerleader
Three-time Academy Award-winning actor Meryl Streep was once a cheerleader for Bernard’s High School in New Jersey, according to Hello Magazine. Author of Streep’s biography Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep, Michael Schulman revealed to NPR that leading up to her “senior year,” Streep “joined the cheerleading squad, she was the lead in every musical, she would do the French club and student council.”
Schulman mentioned that senior year Streep was a 180-degree turnaround from when she began high school — when she cared-less about her appearance and popularity — and the transformation was sparked after she paged through “women’s magazines like Seventeen and Cosmo.” The Iron Lady thespian changed her look, which Schulman detailed: “she had scraggly short hair, cat-eye glasses that made her look like a middle-aged secretary.” Plus, The Devil Wears Prada actor also changed her “kind of a bossy little bully sort of girl” attitude, the author noted. Those changes skyrocketed her popularity amongst her peers and were why she was voted “homecoming queen” her senior year.
The Mamma Mia! starlet’s path to joining the cheer team was at the forefront of the transformation that shaped her to become the talented and lovable actor that Hollywood adores. As noted in her yearbook’s senior notes (via NPR), Streep’s lasting legacy in high school was as a “vivacious cheerleader.”
Netflix reminded Chrissy Teigen of her days sporting pom poms
In 2020, supermodel Chrissy Teigen posted a throwback photo of herself on the cheerleading squad for Snohomish High School. The former cheerleader for the Panthers captioned her Instagram post, “watching cheer on Netflix got me reminiscing about how i sucked at cheerleading almost as much as I sucked at doing my brows.” The 2010 Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Rookie of the Year also mentioned that she cheered for “volleyball and wrestling” and “still” remembered her “mat cheers.” She explained her school had no distinction between “JV/varsity,” but there was no doubt in her mind that her team cheered for the school’s less popular athletic programs as the other squad was on the sidelines for “basketball and football” games.
While the Cravings: Hungry for More cookbook author may not have been the best athlete for her school’s cheerleading team, it looks like she had good memories on the squad. Back in 2017, she posted a flashback Instagram photo with herself posing alongside six members of the squad and wrote, “Yes ladies!”
Samuel L. Jackson became a cheerleader to step up his game
While it may be hard to imagine, actor Samuel L. Jackson, who has seemed to drop the most “mother-f-bombs” in motion pictures and that The Hollywood Reporter called “Hollywood’s most bankable star,” once joined the cheerleading team in college. Ask Jackson, and he’ll tell folks that there was ambition behind it.
In 2015, the Shaft actor told The Graham Norton Show he “became a cheerleader” in college to meet “women.” The once Academy Award nominee for Best Supporting Actor further divulged, “It wasn’t necessarily just to meet ‘a woman,’ it was so I could travel to all the places that the team went — to meet ‘women.'” The Marvel Universe actor detailed that he enrolled at an “all-male school” in Morehouse College, so the only time he’d interact with the ladies was when the “all-woman school” across the street, Spelman College, were borrowed as cheerleaders to represent his school. Jackson later convinced his roommate to join, and they were the only two males on the team. “It was totally dope,” Jackson said.
Jackson was really crafty with his decision to join the cheer team, but did his plan involve too much effort for himself and his roommate to make and stay on the team? As he explained, “We did some cheers” on the megaphone to yell, “Hey gang,” and clapped after “the girls” performed stunts. As Jackson noted, “We weren’t picking them up or holding them up or any of that s**t.”
Snooki revived her cheerleading career on Dancing with the Stars
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was the varsity cheerleading captain at Marlboro High School before shooting to fame on MTV‘s hit reality series Jersey Shore. In 2015, Snooki told USA Today: High School Sports at age 13 she “made it to states” in gymnastics but ultimately chose cheerleading going forward.
In 2013, leading up to her “cheerleading-themed” jive dance routine on Dancing with the Stars, the television personality disclosed (via E!), “Cheerleading was my life in high school but it wasn’t always easy for me,” and further divulged that she suffered an eating disorder because she feared the lighter “freshmen” would “take [her] spot as a flyer.” The Celebrity Family Feud contestant lamented, “I started eating one salad a day, and then it became, like, one cracker a day, and then it became just one grape a day [and then] just not eating at all for three days. It was a really, really bad time for me.”
Ever since redeeming herself on the celebrity dancing competition series, Snooki rekindled her love for cheerleading. In 2016, she posted a video on her YouTube page where she performed stunts with “a level-five world competing” cheer team after a seven-year hiatus from cheering and shocked herself — “I’m surprised I could still stunt,” Snooki said. In 2019, Snooki posted a vlog on YouTube back in the cheerleading environment, that time, in the capacity of accompanying her daughter at her first cheerleading competition.
President George W. Bush went from baseball to cheerleading at Yale
President George W. Bush was a “head cheerleader” in high school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., according to The New York Times. The outlet reported the school’s dean of students was not impressed with Bush when he “initiated a series of humorous pep talks and skits in the weekly school assemblies,” suggesting the buffoonery “drew attention to the cheerleaders rather than to the football team.”
By the time Bush enrolled at Yale University, he had high hopes to add to his family’s baseball legacy at the Ivy League school. According to The Guardian, his grandfather was on the 1917 squad, and his father “played in the 1947 College World Series” and was also a captain on that ball club. But as Bush told the outlet, when he was “warming up in the bullpen,” the manager decided to have a second baseman pitch in favor of him, Bush lamented, “and that was the end of my career.” Instead, he worked his way up the cheerleading ranks and was selected the “chief cheerleader” to round off his family’s athletics legacy at Yale.
Bush certainly didn’t plan on adding “chief cheerleader” to his family legacy at Yale, but then again, when he was a kid, he had aspirations of becoming a Hall of Fame-caliber MLB player, as he told the newspaper, “I never dreamed about being president. When I was growing up, I wanted to be Willie Mays.”
Skirts were never the 'new black' for Danielle Brooks
It turns out that Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks quit cheerleading in high school because of the uniforms.
Brooks published a letter to her 15-year-old self on Refinery29, writing, “You really quit cheerleading because of how you felt you looked in your skirt?” She added, “Never quit anything again because you’re scared of what others might think of you — unless you become a stripper, only exception. But even then, quit because you want to.” Judging by the letter, it looks like she also regretted rocking another choice in regards to her bottoms, saying her mother was “right” when she told her, “You do not have to wear your shorts so short.” Brooks may have quit cheerleading when she was enrolled at South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, however, she did find her calling as an actor. Greenville News reported that Brooks visited her alma mater in 2017 and told the students: “This place really did give me the foundation, the basics of acting. It propelled me to where I am.”
Although her high school cheerleading career didn’t last, she found a drama program that helped her become a sound starlet in Hollywood, which is probably why she tweeted, “Proud to be from Greenville, SC.”
Teri Hatcher cheered during a Super Bowl
Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher was a member of the Gold Rush — the cheerleading squad for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers franchise. According to 49ers Gold Rush’s verified Instagram account, Hatcher was also an original Gold Rush member in their inaugural season in 1983.
The Tomorrow Never Dies Bond Girl reached the pinnacle of her cheerleading career when she cheered for the organization during the 1984 season. “That was a long time ago but a great memory,” Hatcher told TMZ in 2015. While the team didn’t reward her with a Super Bowl ring that year, in 2014, Hatcher explained to TMZ she got a Super Bowl ring a decade later when the team won the Super Bowl the 1994 season: “After I did Lois & Clark, I was friendly with the team and the owners.” Shortly after her former employer defeated the then-San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX in Miami, she earned a ring that she told the outlet she keeps “in a safe.”
Not only does Hatcher have the memories of cheering for the 49ers, but she also has a souvenir that even some of the most prominent Pro Football Hall of Fame players don’t have.
Eva Longoria reenacted her role as a flyer on the cheer squad
In 2020, Eva Longoria dressed up as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader on the Netflix Original Game On: A Comedy Crossover Event. That appearance, however, wasn’t the first time the 1998 Miss Corpus Christi pageant winner was in a cheerleading uniform. The Desperate Housewives starlet was a cheerleader at her high school and for the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Javelinas.
In 2014, Longoria posted a photo on Instagram of a friend lifting her in a pool as she reenacted a cheer-stance in a flyer position. She captioned the photo, “Me and John [Salazar] having fun reliving our cheerleading days!! #HappyThxGiving.” That year, Eva Longoria told USA Today Sports that growing up in Texas was when she became a sports lover, “especially football and cheerleading,” saying those sports “go hand in hand.” She added, “I’m highly competitive and I was athletic when I was young … I was raised in a sports culture in Texas.”
So when Longoria had the opportunity in Hollywood to merge her passion for sports, being a Cowboys enthusiast and, of course, acting, she didn’t hesitate to suit up in the iconic blue and white uniform to play a member of “America’s Sweethearts” for a cameo on Netflix.
Halle Berry did it all in high school
In 1997, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno talk show host shared a photo of Academy Award-winning actor Halle Berry in high school. The image showed the Die Another Day Bond Girl posing alongside her fellow cheerleaders from Bedford High School in Ohio. The Cleveland native told Leno she cheered for the school’s “basketball and football” team before performing a chant for Leno and his studio audience.
PJMedia (via MILO) tracked down former classmates of Berry who proved that she was just as desirous in high school as she was in Hollywood when she was dubbed Esquire‘s “Sexiest Woman Alive” in 2008. A classmate of Berry’s, identified as James D., told the outlet, “I talked to her everyday, she was a cheerleader too and treated like a queen!” Another classmate, sourced as Wendy P., noted, “[Berry] was super popular, all the guys wanted to date her, all the girls wanted to be her.”
The John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum actor seems to have accomplished nearly every feat as an entertainer. From Prom Queen to Miss Ohio and, as InStyle noted, “Berry was the first African American woman to represent the U.S. in the [Miss World] competition.” She’s also “the first Black woman” to win an Oscar for Best Actress (via ABC), so it only makes sense that Berry, according to Pageant Life, was once a “head cheerleader” in her high school days as well as the “class president” and school “newspaper editor.”
Kelly Ripa has never ditched her cheerleading roots
Live with Kelly and Ryan host Kelly Ripa first danced her way to fame as a teen on Dancin on Air and Dance Party USA. At school, she was a cheerleader for Eastern Regional High School in New Jersey.
Ripa was quick to jump back in a cheerleading uniform once more on her daytime talk show Live With Regis and Kelly back in 2006. On that episode, the Dunbar High School cheer squad was promoting Lifetime‘s 2006 reality show Cheerleader Nation where the All My Children star praised the athletes’ commitment and explained that during her day “cheerleaders, they didn’t consider it a sport,” and added, “You girls, I think, pound for pound are probably stronger than … the wrestlers, the football team.” After the interview portion, Ripa didn’t pass on the opportunity of stunting with the cheer squad before the segment concluded.
The Class of 1989 graduate sure looked like she had a lot of fun being a part of a cheer team again. She has since continued to support student cheerleaders and, in 2012, took it on another level when she, along with her husband Mark Consuelos, teamed up to executive produce a cheerleading-focused reality show for CMT covering a squad in New Jersey. Ripa then said in a statement (via Daily News): “Having been a cheerleader, I know all too well what these girls give up to join forces and compete.”
Moon Bloodgood lived out her childhood dream as a Laker Girl
Actor Moon Bloodgood was a dancer for the Los Angeles Lakers when she was 17, telling M&F, “I was the youngest girl on the squad.” The once “backup dancer” for Prince told Advocate, “Being a Laker Girl was a dream of mine since I was a kid.” Before she shifted her talents solely towards acting, in 2006, the Terminator Salvation actor admitted to Phil Star Global, “It’s not the easiest transition from a Laker Girl to an actor,” and added, “I was always a dancer and I never thought of myself as an actress.”
When the reoccurring NCIS: Los Angeles guest star found her niche in acting, she divulged to Advocate that being a Laker Girl actually prepared her for her acting career, especially in action projects, saying, “It helped me develop my physicality, which later helped me with stunts.” She noted, “[Doing Terminator Salvation] I wasn’t afraid to run, jump or hang from harnesses. I wasn’t fearful of executing those stunts because I have that center of gravity from dance.”
The Day Break actor got the best of both worlds as she was able to live out her childhood dream as a Laker Girl and transfer those skills to a long term career as an actor in Tinseltown.
Sandra Bullock has saved her cheerleading uniform
The class of 1982 graduate, actor Sandra Bullock, was a varsity cheerleader for Washington – Lee High School in Arlington, Va. In 2018, the Bird Box actor told Jimmy Kimmel Live she cheered during basketball games but “had no idea what [she] was cheering about.” She added, “I was not well-versed in basketball terminology, but I had spirit.” The Oscar winner expressed she was particularly good at being “the base” during the pyramid stunt and when it came to cheering, she reacted by emulating what the head cheerleader did and followed her instructions on what to chant. So in a way, she built an actor-director relationship with the team’s leader, saying, “I knew when to do my job.”
While there are numerous resurfaced videos online where Bullock is back in her cheerleading attire, The Blind Side actor has kept a souvenir from her high school days. In 2015, the Ocean’s 8 starlet told Glamour (via People) that she still has her cheerleading uniform and joked, “That might come in handy some sexy night. I don’t know who I’m saving it for.” While we’re still wondering whether or not she’s busted out her uniform for that special someone, she just may take it to her grave, as she playfully said, “I want to be buried in it.”
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