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Washington Redskins Cheerleaders: All work, (almost) no pay

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(Photo: Matthew Beck/TBD)
Redskins cheerleadersPhoto: Matthew Beck

At a Sterling, Va., Gold’s Gym one March afternoon, a few dozen young women have assembled for “Project Cheerleader,” a three-hour seminar that lays the track to the sidelines of FedExField. Inside, cheer director Stephanie Jojokian leads a stable of current and former cheerleaders, makeup artists, hairstylists, and spray-tanners in airing their tips for making the squad. “Please don’t have a nervous breakdown,” says Jojokian, pregnant in a cream-colored sweater, faded jeans, and cuffed slouchy high-heeled boots. “Any suggestions we give you are to help you.” Attendees have paid $50 for the competitive advantage.

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Long story short

Redskins cheerleaders shake up money for the team, if not themselves.

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The average investment in an NFL cheerleader audition extends far beyond the know-how. “There’s a lot you can do to mentally prepare yourself to accomplish this goal,” one audition expert informs the women. “But you also need to have the look.”

And the look comes with a price tag. “I want you to understand, makeup is the quintessential factor in choosing who we choose for the team,” celebrity makeup artist and certified minister Kym Lee tells the women of Project Cheerleader. “Most of the girls who come to me . . . they make the team,” she says. “That’s the bottom line: How bad do you want it?” (Audition-day make-up touch-up by Lee or a member of her staff: $75).

Trainers from Gold’s Gym prepare the women for “a lifestyle change,” one that requires them to eat less and exercise more. “I know we’re here so we can all look freaking amazing for the Redskins and make the squad,” Tommy Houck, the gym’s director of personal training, tells the hopefuls. “It’s also about health.” (A standard Gold’s Gym membership: $36.99 per month).

Later, spray-tanners from Ninotch invite the women to cake on one of its 22 custom-blended organic skin tints, with extended spraying hours available pre-audition. Pale girls should schedule two appointments to “avoid the Snooki look” of “getting dark too fast.” No shade is safe: “I just want to say, black girls get sprayed too,” says cheer co-captain Kelly. (Ninotch’s advertised rate for a full body treatment: $45)

“When you’re looking down from the stands, you want to see that the cheerleaders have life,” one expert tells the crowd. “You want to see them animated. You want to see they have body in their hair.” At the seminar, Nicole White, a former Redskins cheerleader ambassador, delivers an impassioned testimony for the salon that cured her Afro. “Nothing wrong with the Afro,” White says, “but it wasn’t the best look for me.” Or for any cheerleader: “Every practice you have to wear your hair out,” Kelly tells the black women in attendance. “It has to be done. Shampoo, blow dry, flat iron, curl.” (A rep from Wheaton’s Ultimate U says that a full head of extensions runs $270).

Representatives from a Lasik eye surgery provider advise the women to let a surgeon “get you out of your contacts,” just “one last thing to worry about before your auditions.” (The going rate for LASIK eye surgery: $1,500-$2,200).

After the spiel, hopefuls page through a rack of sparkly spandex two-pieces from The Line Up. “Don’t cover your chest area too much,” Jojokian schools the women on their audition-day attire. “We’ll assume you are trying to hide something.” And “if we tell you to change your top, do it,” she adds. “The fact that we’re coming up to you and telling you this is a good sign.” (The Line Up’s tops range from $56 to $84; bottoms go for $38 to $76).

Redskins cheerleadersPhoto: Matthew Beck

When they leave here, the women are instructed to “take as many prep classes as possible,” even “if you have danced your entire life.” (A full 10-class program from the Washington Redskins: $250). Women in need of extra help are told to enroll in a jazz class with Jojokian at Capitol Movement ($15 per session).

Aspiring cheerleaders looking for a leg up can always cinch an advanced degree. The Redskins website publishes a collection of photos illustrating the essential character of a Redskinette: She must be “talented” (a line of cheerleaders execute a high kick); “flirtatious” (a cheerleader stares with lust from the sidelines); “sexy” (a cheerleader bends over to reveal her cleavage); and “intelligent” (two cheerleaders bend over to reveal their cleavage). At Project Cheerleader, women sporting two-inch inseams emphasize their academic qualifications. Cheerleader Buffy is working on her doctorate in physical therapy. Talmesha is a Ph.D. student at Johns Hopkins University medical school. Amanda hopes to secure a master’s degree in broadcast journalism. Donna minored in women’s studies. “See?” Jojokian says of her highly educated squad members. “She’s smart, too!"

When does it end? “Take a picture of yourself,” Lee instructs the women. “Look at the picture, and then look at the girls on the website and see if you look similar to that.” Each woman in attendance looks is if she’s already completed the seminar’s tasks backwards in high heels: top and bottom lids lined, eyelashes curled and extended, hair relaxed and blown out, tummies tight, feet carefully fitted into nude platforms. But a professional cheerleading audition ($40 application fee) is a whole other ballgame. “Are you going to do it?” one potential cheerleader asks another about Kym Lee’s $75 audition-day makeup touch-up. “I feel like I should do everything they tell me to do,” she tells her.

Redskins cheerleadersPhoto: Matthew Beck

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