Taneshia Blackwell: Uniting #InSisterhood to SuperBowl LI
Tell us about your background in cheer leading and dance. How long have you been cheering professionally and what inspired you to initially audition?
I started cheer leading when I was 5 years old. I cheered on park recreation, all-star cheer, middle school, high school and college teams throughout the years. I didn’t start dancing until high school when I made the auxiliary dance team at Martin Luther King, Jr . High School with the Kings of Halftime and went on to become captain my senior year. When you start something young and continue working to get better, you naturally want to become a professional, which is what inspired me to audition to become a professional cheerleader.
You just had the opportunity to travel with the Atlanta Falcons to cheer in Super Bowl LI, tell us about that experience, and what were your favorite moments?
That experience was such a blessing, and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the Atlanta Falcons organization. It was special to me because I grew up knowing and loving the Falcons, so getting to wear that uniform to cheer on the world’s largest stage brought on so many emotions. My favorite moment was at the official Falcons tailgate before the game in Houston. The organization set up an indoor tent full of amazing food, decor, fans and great energy. We were surprised with a performance by Big Boi of Outkast and Ludacris and we got to just jam out as a team before heading back to NRG Stadium for the game.
How was the energy this season of the fans in Atlanta in the final year in the Georgia Dome compared to previous seasons you cheered?
The energy this season was on another level. I have never seen this city come together to cheer on the Falcons like they did this season. Most people in Atlanta are transplants and remain fans of their hometown teams when they move here. This year I saw so many people convert over to fans embracing the #inBrotherhood to blow the roof off the Georgia Dome every home game! Even for the Super Bowl, you would have thought Houston was Atlanta the way the Falcons fans took over that city. It was heartwarming.
What is your favorite part or aspect of being a cheerleader with the Atlanta Falcons organization?
My favorite part of being an Atlanta Falcons Cheerleader is the sisterhood I’ve gained. My teammates (current and alumni) and two amazing coaches have grown to be my family and they make this experience that much more enjoyable. I even had several of them in my wedding party! My teammates are awesome, inspiring “Wow Women” who excel on and off the field and I can’t be more appreciative of the relationships I get to cherish forever.
Tell us about your full-time career and the challenges you face as a professional cheerleader balancing a full-time career, cheer appearances, practices, gamedays etc.
I currently work at Delta Air Lines as a Senior Account Executive on the SkyMiles Partnerships team. I manage Delta’s strategic relationships with car rental partners like Hertz, Enterprise, Alamo and National. Our coaches have careers and families of their own and they understand that the cheerleaders do as well, so practice times, appearances, and game days don’t actually interfere with work. Our practices are only twice a week after business hours and everything else is set pretty far in advance to allow appropriate time to communicate at work.
What are some of the major stereotypes that you have faced with being involved in professional cheer leading?
Of course people think we hang out with the players, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We actually don’t even interact unless it’s cheering them on from the sidelines at the games! We cheer for the team because we are Falcons fans and we enjoy what we do. Also, I’m not sure where this stereotype came from, but lots of people think cheerleaders are ditsy and unintelligent. But that’s the complete opposite. Our team is comprised of professional women with a range of successful careers, higher levels of education, and more.
What is your favorite song on game day that gets you the most hype?
Ahh there are so many! Being an Atlanta native, I can never get tired of "Welcome to Atlanta" by Jermaine Dupri ft. Ludacris, "We Ready" by Pastor Troy, "Put On" by Young Jeezy ft. Kanye West and "Neva Eva" by Lil Scrappy for a pregame boost. And I love hearing "All Day" by Kanye West during the game because it means the visiting team is on 3rd down, and "This Is What You Came For" by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna because that’s what plays just before we get to hit the field and perform.