Premiering Sept. 29 and airing Fridays at 9, CMT presents Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, an eight-episode series chronicling how nearly 1,000 women competed this year for the 36 available slots on the squad. Heading up this "Lone Star Search" of sorts is former Cowboys cheerleader-turned DCC director Kelli Finglass, who shared with TVGuide.com a bevy of the beauties' secrets.
TVGuide.com: You have here, inherently, the most attractive cast of any TV series; the stakes are high, being the esteemed Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders; and the production values are decently slick. Are the Big Four networks kicking themselves for not snatching this up?
Kelli Finglass: Well, I can't speak for the networks, but I will say that it is quite compelling to see the struggles and the triumphs of the ladies going through the audition process. I myself was occasionally pulled in watching it, and I've done this for twentysomething years! Some of the scenes were upsetting, because you see how devastated some of the women are if they don't make it.
TVGuide.com: Among those we get to meet, there is a Lynlee, a Deryn and Kalli. Do you think a uniquely spelled name is some sort of genetic marker for cheerleading talent?
Finglass: No, I don't.
TVGuide.com: Some of the auditions are bad. Like, American Idol bad. Are you ever surprised by the caliber of people who throw their pom-poms into the ring?
Finglass: Yes, sometimes you do wonder if they were really aware of the job description, the uniform and the requirements. Having said that, I have seen some people audition because they want to go home and say, "Hey I auditioned for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders!" I take my hat off to that courage and confidence.
TVGuide.com: One of the wannabes was originally on the DCC 11 years ago, and is now a mom of five. How hard was it not to get pulled in by her story and give her some extra leeway?
Finglass: Inga had cheered with us before and had a good history with us, but she is competing against girls who are at least 10 to 15 years younger than her.... For her [to audition] was very admirable, because most people wouldnt subject themselves again to such scrutiny, and she did a good job. When it came down to selecting the top 36, she faced serious competition.
TVGuide.com: Two of the candidates are best friends and hope to make the team together, but obviously that can't play into your decision-making.
Finglass: Right. The audition is each girl competing on her own and in some ways against herself. We're looking for beauty, excellence, poise, image....
TVGuide.com: And you can't worry about hurt feelings or possibly fracturing a friendship.
Finglass: No, I can't. I am aware of it and sensitive to it, but it can't affect our final decision.
TVGuide.com: This is more than hinted at and blurred out in the first episode: Just how many tube-top-caused wardrobe malfunctions do y'all typically get?
Finglass: [Laughs] There are always a few wardrobe malfunctions each year. It breaks up what would normally be a long day for our judges. The question would be, "Did you practice dancing in that top before you decided to do this on national television?" And the answer is probably no.
TVGuide.com: I was sitting there, like you were, with my jaw on the table, when one candidate, after being asked whom she would call if she only had an hour to live, said "Miss United States."
Finglass: [Laughs] We had a day full of "I'd call my mom," "my husband," "my child," so when she said that, it was so out of left field! We were trying to figure out, "What does she mean? What possibly could be meaningful about that being your last phone call?"
TVGuide.com: Is it really true that team members need to reaudition each season?
Finglass: Yes, they do. We need to be able to compare them to the new candidates, and also, if they think they're a shoo-in each year, complacency might settle in. It's important for them to stand out and look more prepared, more "wow." If they dont show the confidence that they should, it makes you wonder.
TVGuide.com: One of the gals makes it to training camp despite what you and your staff observe are "thick arms," and being a bit "soft." Do you figure that will be remedied during camp, or is there a heart-to-heart where you say, "Listen, we like you and are inviting you to camp, but... "
Finglass: We do both. We give them honest feedback, both verbal and written. I dont promote or expect much weight loss during training camp, so if they're at auditions and showing signs of a problem in that area, I dont usually like to bring them into camp just to put pressure on them. My experience is that that type of improvement takes a lot longer than a couple months. It's safer, healthier and less troubling for everybody involved if we see them at next year's audition which we have, several times.
TVGuide.com: What is the biggest mistake girls coming to auditions can make?
Finglass: If they dont show improvement and they dont take direction well, thats where we start to lose faith in their dedication. If they're the first one here and the last one to leave and they're doing as much as they can, that will have a positive impression on us. If they're lazy or don't address whatever we're talking about, from hair color to showmanship to weight, then we dont want to fight an uphill battle. We have too many people who want to be here.
TVGuide.com: What are some little-known appearance guidelines a Cowboys cheerleader has to adhere to?
Finglass: They're required to have manicures; we dont like them chewing gum; they're required to dress like ladies in all situations, such as airplane trips. They basically need to be camera-ready at all times.
TVGuide.com: As the DCC director, not as a producer on the series, are you comfortable with the amount of T&A that made it in?
Finglass: I'm comfortable with the presentation of the show. I'm comfortable that everything is treated with integrity and that it's real. In some cases, it's too real in that it's hard for me to watch us cutting somebody. That part of it, when I watch the show, is very sad for me. If anything, I wish we could tell even more of the story, of the friendships and the travels and the experiences that they have well beyond our first football game.
TVGuide.com: Is it a concern that after the series airs, you'll get an even bigger turnout next summer?
Finglass: Concern? No. I would love to encourage more people to audition!
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