‘Tis the Season to “Don we now our Yay apparel” — Mollie Vehling’s celebrated Selection Committee delivers Christmas in May, as the UCLA Spirit Squad unwraps this year’s Gifts from God
Forget Santa Claus — Just give me Lisa Estrada, Elita Loresca, and the rest of Mollie’s little helpers.
Once again, the illustrious UCLA Spirit Squad panel of judges has done a remarkable job of keeping UCLA on top of the Cheerleading World, by making unfathomably difficult decisions to come up with this year’s new squad. The girls who didn’t make the cut this year could easily form their own squad, and instantly become the second-best Cheer unit in the Country.
The UCLA Spirit Auditions were held Sunday on campus, and were open to the public, so that everyone could see how impossible it is for the judges to whittle the field of auditioners down to the final team. Several supermodel-types didn’t make it onto the squad, which should tell you something about those who did.
Even though Nikki, Erin, Jenna, Lani, and Frankie will not be back to the Dance Team, and even though Roxanne, Melissa, and others won’t be back to the Cheer Squad, the school will still be VERY WELL-represented. All the girls who wanted to return DID make it, including Dance Teamers Nicolette, Maya, Tiana, Savannah, Lizzi, and Kate, plus Cheer Squad members Kelly, Kayla, Sarah, and Kali. And as if that weren’t enough to be the best, the new additions are all top-notch… and not just in looks and talent.
For the first time, the Dance Team INTERVIEWS were open to the public, so the crowd got to hear how intelligent and well-spoken all the applicants were. Many come from UCLA families, some have hard-core double-majors including Micro-biology, and none of them were lacking in Sports knowledge either. One mentioned her adoration of John Wooden, while several others praised UCLA Alumni who have influenced them in their lives. I was expecting Kareem or Jackie Robinson to be mentioned, but I was surprised when Rahim Moore and Joshua Smith got some love.
Most of the girls who were asked were looking forward to cheering for the Football Team most of all, partially because of the big crowds of fans at the Rose Bowl. The unifying thread to the answers was that these girls LOVE UCLA like you and I do, and many of them have for a long time. I LOVED getting to hear these interviews, and I hope they remain open to the public in the future. It’s a great way to be reminded that these girls aren’t just incredible eye candy, but that they are also wickedly smart and confident, while still totally down-to-earth and humble. These personality traits are crucial to the selection process, and are what really set the squad apart from all the others.
As I have mentioned before, the Judges are unbiased professionals, who really know their stuff. Queen of the Laker Girls Lisa Estrada is a key member (who might even invite some of the girls who didn’t make it to the Laker Girl Try-outs). FHM’s Sexiest Newscaster of the Year Elita Loresca was also very involved in the questioning. Besides Lisa and Elita, there were about 15 or 20 more judges, including a former Clipper Girl captain, and other Dance/Choreography experts, as well as former Bruin Cheer veterans and award-winning Media mavens. I don’t know how these judges can separate such fine performers from one another, but they always seem to succeed in putting together a winning team.
Speaking of “winning,” and no, I’m not talking about Charlie Sheen, the late Osama Bin-Ladin, or even the still-disgraced U$C Coach Todd McNair who just lost his appeal. I’m actually talking about what an AMAZING time that I personally had at this audition event. It was my favorite one yet, for several reasons. Mollie was really funny in her emcee-ing; the applicants showed fantastic senses of humor during the Q&A; I got to see and talk to Nikki and Erin from last year’s Dance Team, and they were both SO nice; I got to talk to three MOMS (and one Dad) of current Dance Teamers, and these parents were SO complimentary and appreciative of my “work” (telling me that the Cheerleaders also look forward to my photos), that it gave me chills; And last but not least (at all): I got to sit next to a FUTURE Dance Team STAR. Young Marissa is UCLA-Caliber right now: Gorgeous, sweet, and 4.0 GPA-smart. And thanks to an obviously wonderful upbringing, mature and well-adjusted beyond her years. I can’t wait to see her audition next year — If her dancing is half as good as her beauty, personality and attitude, she will be a shoo-in. I wish I were one of the Judges.
Speaking of her upbringing, her Mom Liz was also in attendance, keeping me company, and making it apparent where Marissa gets her good looks and well-grounded demeanor. Liz reminds me of a young Cynthia Stevenson, whom I worked with briefly a long time ago, and have always liked. And like Cynthia, Liz’ daughter Marissa could easily be in movies too, but Marissa would be the Star of the picture. If it were “Mean Girls,” she’d be part of the cool clique.
Despite some difficult obstacles, both Mother and Daughter have survived, and excelled in being quality people, whom I hope to see again in the future, in Blue and Gold. And I trust that Mollie’s Selection Committee will recognize Marissa’s quality, like they identified lots of quality on Sunday. And here are 40 photos of the winners as well as the runners up, all of whom have bright futures ahead. [If you need to know which girls pictured actually got chosen, write in and ask, or wait until next weekend, when I post a pictorial that identifies the girls who made it. And a reminder to those MOMS — Write to me in June if you want me to send you unpublished photos of your lovely daughters.]