Page 97 - First Ladies of Football
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ALUMNI   Shaunte Usual ’98-’02 When I was asked to write about what I’ve been doing since retiring my pom poms, my first thought was... that’s going to be hard to sum up into bullet points. People tend to speak more on their accolades than their struggles and often times it’s the dash in between the start and end date that’s the real accomplishment. The dash is what helps us to stretch and grow or simply keep going. I’m blessed to be able to do what I do. It’s fun, exciting and I enjoy it. But, to see where I am today doesn’t really illustrate what the steps in faith looked like toward my goals. When I first started cheering I was singing everywhere. Literally. It felt like the girls on the team were getting engaged left and right and there I was singing at all of their weddings. I sang the national anthem on game day, performed at halftime shows and team appearances and was a featured singer and performer for the variety show; a select group of 12 girls that would perform all over the world. I sang overseas in over 25 countries spanning across 5 continents. Those experiences with the fans and my amazing teammates were priceless. As each of my five years brought in different teammates and new challenges, I knew I wanted more and would eventually have to leave in order to achieve it. I just didn’t know how and when. As destiny would have it, the opportunity came for me to move to Los Angeles, CA. By this time, I was a union actress with credits to my name and had just finished filming on HBO’s “The Wire”. I was the lead in a musical “Inner City On Stage” and booking as much work as I could on the east coast between MD, DC, NY, VA, and Philadelphia. In the midst of my grind and without much notice I took the opportunity to relocate. Uprooting and leaving all that was familiar left me with an influx of emotions. Challenged, courageous, fearful, excited... I guess you could say at times I felt each of those, but one thing for certain was that I was faith filled. You can’t be in the mecca of entertainment and lack confidence and preparation. All of my years of cheering and studying with beautiful and talented women who were mothers, business owners, students, choreographers, teachers, wives, and dancers prepared me for what LA would have to offer. The knowledge I gained from my cheer sisters and director, and all of their support throughout the years leading up to this point stayed with me. Being a Washington Redskins Cheerleader helped in nurturing my talents and pushing me to a new level. To them and for that I will always be grateful. But, that isn’t where it ends. That got me there. It wouldn’t be what took me the rest of the way. I had a degree, but couldn’t work a full-time job because it wouldn’t allow me to be available for auditions. So with my pride pushed way down, I took jobs that would allow me to have a flexible schedule. I remember one job I worked overnight as a hotel auditor. My shift was 9:15pm to 5:15am. I did music and auditions during the day, so sometimes I would have very little sleep or have to be awake for 24hrs. LA is a town where you have to do what you have to do, to be what you want to be. You have to put the work in. My working in NY and having that grind definitely assisted in the strength of my mind, but there were times where it felt like enough was enough. Everything was just so heavy on my shoulders. There I was, across the country with no family, missing holidays and special moments, and working crazy hours. I could get a great job, but it would forfeit my ability to be open to opportunities. All I had was faith. I’ve had many many setbacks that kept me traveling back and forth from the east coast to the west coast, however, I knew one thing was that I couldn’t give up. In the midst of having to take care of my niece and nephew and dealing with the grief of my uncle, stepmother, grandfather and aunt who passed within months of each other, there were moments where I just couldn’t move. I stopped all production for the music and music videos. Mentally I was exhausted and my heart was broken. In my line of work - whether it be acting or singing, emotion is the currency. Creativity is birthed through it. I was emotionless; I was numb. I just knew I couldn’t give up. By faith, I got up. I walked. I trusted. I pressed in and I began to accomplish my goals. Since leaving the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders organization, I have had opportunities to do and be a part of some pretty amazing things. With starting my own label, my music has been placed in tv shows, web series, and movies. I’ve worked with Grammy-winning producers and artists. Shot music videos, put out 5 singles and a new album #TUX : The Usual Xperience, vol. 1 that just released April 2019. In conjunction with my solo career I’m in a group called “Cool Peoples” and we just released an album as well. I’ve had radio and blogger interviews and have written for and performed with some incredible artists and producers. I’m currently promoting and doing press for both albums, working on vol. 2 of #TUX : The Usual Xperience, writing new music for the “Cool Peoples” second album, filming on a tv series and finalizing details for a performance in Africa where I and my team would assist in empowering the children of Nairobi, Kenya through creative art workshops; writing sessions, music, acting, and dance. This is just a spec of my story, but I hope you grasp hold of two points; preparation and determination. The Washington Redskins Cheerleaders Association selected me, groomed me and ultimately set the stage for me to be as prepared as I possibly could. Once my number was called on audition day, I took advantage of what they had to offer and made the most of the opportunity given to me. And from there with my faith in hand, I was determined to not give up. Late night rehearsals, tour rehearsals, standing and performing for hours in the sun and those east coast winter games, the ability to adjust to any stage or audience... cheering wasn’t just about Pom Poms. It’s a sorority, it’s a sisterhood, friendships and a foundation for your goals. Forever thankful, forever grateful. It was the time of my life.        

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