EL SEGUNDO, CA-Sunday, July 9, was a big day for Jessica Elliott, who manages game entertainment for the Los Angeles Lakers. It was audition time. To many people, July represents summer fun and a cool down period of vacations, short getaways and activities. For Elliott, July represents the beginning of the start of a new NBA season.
It is this time every year that the Laker Girls hold their annual tryout.
Several hundred women from all over Southern California, dressed in dance attire, leotards and tights, lined up for their chance of chasing a dream at the Toyota Sports Complex. They signed registration forms, warmed-up and stretched and listened to instructions on the dance routines they were going to be asked to perform to see if they had the right moves to be part of this fraternity.
The smiles, the pizzazz, the nuanced dance moves and the glamour go up a couple of notches when you watch the Laker Girls perform. The Laker Girls are the face of dance in the NBA. Surviving the cut, one round at a time, is a huge accomplishment.
If you were good enough, you made it through the daylong tryout of elimination and moved on to the next round of auditions. If not, you went home unceremoniously with a sweat party being your best friend, plain and simple.
Trying out to be a Laker Girl is no easy task.
“We’re looking for girls with that total package,” Elliott said. “So of course, we need strong dancers. At Staples Center, performing for the all the fans, we need girls who are energetic and really dynamic to get that energy to the fans. The Laker Girls are ambassadors for the Lakers organization and they go out in the community a lot and engage with our fans. So, we’re also looking for girls who have that personality and the charisma that they can connect with the fans and be good representatives of the organization.”
Britney Warren wanted to be that representative. She went through this process in 2016. She had an idea of what to expect this time around. Last year when she tried out for a spot on the Laker Girls roster, she got too caught up in the moment and auditioned with a lot of pent-up nerves that took over her ability to perform on cue.
This time around, the ballet-driven dancer said she was determined to let loose, perform and let the chips lay where they may.
“I tried out last year for the Laker Girls, so it’s a lot of feelings; it’s nerve-wracking,” Warren said. “I’m trying to think positive thoughts, just a lot of new people and get through the day. I’m hoping I get all the way to the end, but you know I’m just taking it one step at a time. I’m trying to enjoy it while I’m here. The last time I didn’t do that. I was so nervous, I was just keeping to myself and praying the whole time. This time I’m just trying to have fun, just live in the moment.”
For Brandi Cooper, going out to be part of a professional sports team dance squad is quite different from the world that’s she’s used. She’s a natural when it comes to cheering. Being a cheerleader is something that is old hat for Cooper. But as she found out when she auditioned to be part of the Charger Girls, the movements required to make a sports team dance roster is upside down from she’s done in the past.
“That was a little bit more intimidating because that was my first time, and there was a whole bunch of girls, so this time I came in feeling a little more confident,” Cooper said. “I made it to the finals there. This is basketball, so I’m sure this is a little bit different. I’m just trying to see how it goes.”
It kind of makes things easier when you’re trying out for a dance team that is part of an organization that our family adores. Cooper said that her grandmother is a huge fan of the Purple and Gold. So, the combination of her grandmother’s passion for the Lakers, along with her cheerleading background, gave her the confidence to try out, she said.
“My grandma is a really big Laker fan, so growing up, it was Lakers, Lakers, Lakers,” said Cooper. “And I’m a big cheerleader, so it was just Laker Girls and cheerleading. That was the first professional team that I’ve seen, so I’ve always had a dream to do it…I always second-guess myself, so I just figured why not try. I would have been upset with myself if I never tried. I came out here and I tried.”
Elliott, who also serves as manager of the Laker Girls, said the audition is something many of the participants have always wanted to do. Being a Laker Girl would simply be a dream come true for them, she said.
“For a lot of the girls here today, it’s something they’ve been thinking about or had their sights set on for a long time,” Elliott said. “The Laker Girls are known across the country, but also across the globe. So today when they came in there was a lot of excitement, definitely some nerves. But I think once we started dancing, they warmed up a little bit and I think they’re just excited to be here and ready to kind of see where the day takes them.”