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A Woman You Should Meet: Jackie Perez

By: Bianca Teixeira|August 21, 2015

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How long have you been with the Argos?

I’ve been with the Toronto Argos since 2011. I’m entering my fifth year with them and my fourth as captain. In my third year with them, I started doing the social media for the Argo’s cheer accounts.

What are tryouts like?

We have a team of 35 and they’re divided into three squads spread throughout the stadium: one on the home side, one on the away side and a squad running around the stands interacting with the fans.

The ones who perform on the field have to go through a dance-based audition, and if they get past the preliminary round, they have to audition in front of a panel of judges. The girls who are chosen receive a blue rose. The promotional squad is chosen more for their personality; dance isn’t as much of an issue because they’re in the stands hyping up fans.

Which squad are you in?

I’m the captain of the promotional squad. It used to be that all the girls would rotate through each squad, trying out all the different roles, but now everyone kind of has their place. I grew up dancing. I did it for 16 years before becoming a cheerleader. But when I joined the Argos, the promotional squad really spoke to me. I’m a huge sports fan and I really wanted to learn more about sports media.

What’s your favourite part of being in the league?

The Argos do a lot for the community. There’s a program we do called the Huddle Up Program and it’s about bullying prevention. The players and the cheerleaders go to schools to talk about bullying. During the day, we separate the boys and the girls and we talk to the girls about social bullying. We remind them that we all experience it, we all feel the same about it and we should support each other as women.

You said you’re into sports. Was football always your favourite?

Actually no, I always loved basketball, volleyball and baseball. I grew up playing all three. Football was new to me. By my second year, though, I was really into it. That was in 2012 and it was the year the Grey Cup was in Toronto. It was nuts. CFL cheerleaders are invited to attend the Grey Cup every year no matter where it is. I’ve been all over Canada to be a part of it.

What are your experiences with the fans?

They’re so great. They bleed with us when we lose and they celebrate with us when we win. They’re so passionate. I’ve seen older men with their beards painted blue and middle-aged moms with their faces completely painted with the blue-and-white wigs.

Do you face a lot of misconceptions about being a cheerleader?

People don’t realize how much work it is. A lot goes into our work. Most of the girls have been dancing their wholes lives. We train three or four times a week and that’s on top of working out every day. A lot of them are in school full time or have other jobs as well. What you see on TV, that’s just the final product, so much has gone into it at that point.

Do you have another job besides cheerleading?

I went to school for communications and I have a background in journalism. I did some public relations for a bit. Being a cheerleader started out as a hobby, but the more I did it, the more responsibility I took on. I‘ve been doing some on-air work and was actually asked to be the game-day host during a few Argos’ games. I’m a workaholic, but I love it and I’m passionate about it so it doesn’t really feel like work.

What do you do when you’re not working?

Because I’m always so busy, when I’m not working I’m just relaxing. I love being anywhere where I can sit beside water. It’s what calms me down.

You just shot the cheerleader calendar, didn’t you? How was that?

So much fun! We do the calendar every year to help fund our trips to the Grey Cup. Last year, we tried something new and turned it into a swimsuit calendar. I was very lucky to be chosen to go on a cruise to the Carribbean to do a photoshoot on location. I wasn’t super comfortable to be in a bikini in front of a camera [laughs], but we work very hard for our bodies, so it’s nice to have them featured. They’re sold online and at home games.

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