By Cami Fannin
Charming, charismatic, poised, friendly and open, are just some of the words to describe Courtney Johnson, a junior Strategic Communication major at TCU from Tyler, TX. Aside from being a full-time college student, Johnson is also a professional cheerleader. This summer she auditioned for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and was predominately featured on the show DCC Making the Team season 10. Read on to learn more about Johnson’s journey to audition and hear her best advice on rejection and confidence.
What’s your dance/cheerleading background?
I danced at a studio from 2 years old until I was 11, then did competition cheer, hip hop, and high school cheer until I was 18. I was the cheer captain at my high school. When I turned 18, I trained for a year in pro cheer, and I’ve been around the pro cheer industry in Dallas for the last three years.
You auditioned for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders this May. Tell me about your journey to join the DCC. What made you interested in professional cheerleading and specifically the DCC?
I grew up in Minnesota, and my dance teacher was a Minnesota Vikings Cheerleader, so that’s when I was first exposed to the industry. I was fascinated by the Vikings Cheerleaders. At my brothers’ hockey, football, baseball, or soccer games, I would to pretend to be a cheerleader on the sidelines. When I was about 10, I was watching a Cowboy’s game on TV with my family and a beautiful DCC was smiling at the camera. I remember asking my parents who she was and my mom replied “That’s a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. They are a BIG deal in Texas.” Many years later after starting at TCU and taking some pro prep classes, I decided to audition for DCC. The first time I auditioned, I was 19 and made it to the final round. I then auditioned for Dallas Stars Ice Girls and made it, and fell in love with pro cheer, so I auditioned again for DCC, this time making it to the very last day of training camp!
What was training camp for the DCC like?
Training camp was a whirlwind of emotions. It was amazing, enjoyable, surreal, and exhilarating, yet it was the most physically and mentally challenging experience of my life. It was a tremendous growth period for me in maturity and confidence. There were also so many priceless lessons learned and friendships made. Looking back, I can’t believe all of the crazy things in my life that have happened- so many incredible people and hundreds of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It’s like a dream!
What was it like to be on film for DCC Making the Team?
Seeing myself on TV is a little odd because I can be pretty self-critical. It’s challenging to watch myself, just as most people find it uncomfortable to hear themselves speak. It’s the same feeling. Everything is so raw and real and it definitely makes me vulnerable. Instead of getting upset at my flaws and mistakes, I’m using it as a tool to take a realistic look at myself and see what I can improve, especially in my dancing.
Can you give us some behind-the-scene details?
Working with CMT was so cool. Everyone from the lighting crew to the producers were invested in us and always kind and encouraging. The staff was a great group that truly cared about each and every girl there. I’m going to miss them a lot!
You did not make the DCC team this year, but you are a returning veteran for the Dallas Stars Ice Girls. How did you decide to audition for the Dallas Stars Ice Girls?
I knew there was a possibility I could be cut from training camp at any time, and I knew if I was cut I would re-audition for Ice Girls. The Dallas Stars Ice Girls is such a remarkable organization and truly the best in the NHL. My directors are some of the most loving, caring, and professional women I have ever met, so it made the choice really easy. The turnaround was exhausting, because after months of auditioning and training camp for DCC, I had only a few days before Ice Girls auditions, then I had to go through another intensive training camp for Ice Girls. I’m really happy I chose to come back to Ice Girls and I’m thankful the organization welcomed me back home with open arms.
I think confidence has little to do with talent, ability, or appearance; rather, it is a light inside of you that shines when you are truly enjoying what you are doing and living in the present moment.
How do you find your confidence?
My confidence comes from an assurance that God is in control of every situation. Hebrews 11 says “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I live by that.
Would you say that cheerleading/dance is your passion?
Cheerleading and dance has always been my passion from an early age. But it’s important for me to remember that I’m not always going to be young and able to do this. There will be a day that I won’t be able to cheer or dance anymore. In the end, it will not matter where I was in a formation, what score I got at an audition or how many turns I can do. All that matters is what is learned from the experiences and the relationships that came out of it. I love cheerleading and I’m so passionate about it, but it is an outlet that God has given me to inspire and uplift others, and that part of it is much more important than the actual cheering.
As a professional cheerleader, do you ever feel pressure to look or act a certain way?
Of course there is pressure, but I think that’s a good thing. Many teams have sky high expectations and it’s hard to reach what they think you should be. But I think if you continue to raise the expectations it will only improve the team. Professional cheerleading is about looking, feeling, and being the best possible version of you.
As a professional cheerleader, many may look to you as a role model. How do you feel about taking on that role?
Being a role model to a lot of young girls keeps me accountable for my actions. Before I make a decision or post something on social media, I reflect and think of all the people that are watching me. I remember looking up to women when I was little and mimicking exactly what they do, so I want to set a good example.
How do you balance being a college student and professional cheerleader?
It’s really, really difficult at times because I take school very seriously. The stress can be immense. My commute to practice and games is about an hour several times a week, so the hardest part is finding time for homework and studying. I study a lot on the weekends. It’s not your traditional college experience, but I’m so thankful for it, because I know I’m doing something so fulfilling and rewarding.
You were selected as a Core Sweetheart because you inspire others. Who/what inspires you?
I pull inspiration from everywhere I can, including stories, quotes, books, and people. The entire world is filled with little gems of inspiration, and I always keep my eyes open for them.
What is your advice to girls pursuing a career in professional cheerleading/dance?
My best advice to girls pursuing any type of cheer and dance is to never take a critique or a cut personally. It’s important to realize the judges and directors have a job to do and they are making business decisions. Your self-worth does not lie in a particular audition or a skill. So follow your passion, work as hard as you can, smile and accept defeat with as much grace and respect as success.
If I saw you on a random Saturday, what would you most likely be doing?
Saturday’s are the best! I usually wake up and do a long workout, like a few mile run or bike ride. Then I get groceries, run errands, and meal prep for the week! I’d probably spend the afternoon hanging out with my family or boyfriend. I’m not a partier-I’d rather spend a weekend night relaxing.
What’s next? What are your big dreams in life?
I have so many wild and crazy dreams- world traveler, author, talk show host, there are dozens of things I want to do! My next big goal is to graduate college. I’m aiming on graduating this summer.
Will we be seeing you at next year’s DCC tryouts?
Good question! It’s still definitely a dream of mine to cheer in the NFL. I would love to go back and give it one more shot. I can’t say exactly whether that is going to be next year or five years from now. I’m just trusting God’s timing.
Quote: “When you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it” Paulo Cohelo
Food: I love everything. As long as it’s pretty healthy I’m not very picky!
Workout: Running and HIIT
Outfit: A nice dress and heels
Hobby: Is Pinterest a hobby?
TV Show: 30 Rock- the humor is so smart and witty
Phone App: My Fitness Pal
Be still-The Fray
In your hands-Unspoken
Sailboat- Ben Rector
For more Core Sweethearts, visit CoreExperienceBlog.com