Reunited and it "Cheers" so Good!
Alumni Cheerleaders is excited to catch up with the talented Kristena Wright, a former NBA Dancer (Washington Wizards) and NFL Cheerleader (Miami Dolphins)!!
Tell our readers a little bit about yourself and where you are you from.
I was born in Homestead, Florida and am the eldest of three children. My father was in the Navy so my family had to move a lot. I learned at a very young age to make the most of every situation and opportunity. We never lived anywhere more than 4 years so I credit my love for traveling to my upbringing. Starting over, making new friends, and establishing a presence became a normal thing for me and has truly helped mold me into the outgoing go-getter I am today. My parents taught us never to be afraid to try and that nothing was impossible if we set our mind to it and kept God at the center of it all. No one will know what you can bring to the table if you aren't willing to put yourself out there, in a positive way, to be noticed.
Were cheerleading and dancing a part of your life when you were younger and how did you get involved? We also understand you did some pageants as well. Please share with us about that experience.
I had a lot of energy as a child and my parents wanted to find a way to direct that energy. I spoke so well at 2 that I was allowed to sing in my churches children's choir. I had to stand on a stack of books to actually be seen! But the choir wasn't enough. So we tried piano lessons, girl scouts, karate, and soccer. They held my attention for all of two weeks, but once I went to my first dance class, I was hooked and my parents were thankful. Having been a military brat, I trained in a wide range of styles including: ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, modern, pointe, African, baton, acrobatics, and hip hop, with studios in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and California.
In high school, amongst all of the other sports and clubs I was involved in including track & field and student government, I joined the cheerleading squad as a way to get into all the football and basketball games for free. It was really fun and I happened to do it well, so I cheered for 3 years and served as Captain. I had the option of running track in college, but the University of Maryland offered me a scholarship to cheer and I took it! This experience also lead to a job working for Spirit Unlimited Cheer and Dance Inc. in Maryland. After 1 month of training I was promoted to head cheer/dance choreographer and I went on to instruct for 4 years.
While cheering for the University of Maryland, I suffered a herniated disc in my lower lumbar and was partially paralyzed for 6 weeks. The doctors told me in so many words, I could never cheer again. As a base, if I were to get hit wrong again or hold too much weight, I ran the risk of being paralyzed for life. The news was devastating and the injury was life changing. As an out-of-state tuition paying student, I refused to return home so I was determined to find money for school elsewhere. I first won my school pageant, Miss Unity University of Maryland and received scholarship money. I then found the Miss America Organization and competed in my first local pageant. I then went on to win the titles of Miss Southern Maryland, Miss Fairfax Virginia, Miss Hampton Roads Virginia, and Miss Chesapeake Virginia, all of which awarded me scholarship money for school. I competed at the Miss Maryland State pageant as well as the Miss Virginia state pageant, earning the honors of non-finalist talent. Although I never won my state pageant, competing helped groom me into a much more well-rounded young woman and allowed me to do what I love which is dancing and give back to the community. My injury also led to me try out for and make my first professional dance team!
You are a former professional cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins and Washington Wizards. Please tell us about the team (s) and what year(s) you cheered. Was there a difference cheering for the NBA and NFL?
I danced for the Washington Wizards for two years 2006-2008. At the time I auditioned and made the squad, I was one of the youngest girls to have made the team in history. I also cheered for the Miami Dolphins during the 2010-2011 season. The two years I was on the Wizards, we performed like a true dance team including triple turns, jumps, leaps, and fouette's. You had to have great technique and dance experience to make the squad and I loved that aspect. The major difference between cheering for the NFL and NBA is the obvious difference in the season. I cheered at between 42-48 NBA games per season with the Wizards but only 10 games during my year with the Dolphins. Furthermore, cheering indoors verses the sunny South Florida sun and/or rain, paints a very different picture. Cheering for these two teams when I did, was perfect for the stage in my life in which I cheered for them. I couldn't honestly choose one over the other, I just know that I had an amazing experience with both.
What is one or several of your most memorable moments as cheerleader?
One of my most memorable moments was the first time I made the dance team for the Washington Wizards. I had put so much time and effort in to my training and preparation, that hearing my name called as one of the contributors to the team was like a dream come true. I have enjoyed dancing for so long, as well as the rush of performing in front of thousands of people -- this fit my personality to the T.
What advice would you give to a current or future cheerleader?
The advice I would give to a future cheerleader would be don't give up on your dreams. If you have decided in your mind that cheerleading is what you want to do, then do it. That's not to say that the road will be easy, or that nothing else is required -- but your goals start with a dream, and a passion to achieve it. From there, do your research and put in the hours to fine-tune your areas of struggle. You have to put in the time and effort to make your dreams a reality.
To current cheerleaders, I would tell them to utilize their platform to its fullest potential. You meet so many different people, experience so many different things, and travel to so many different places while you are on the team. Those opportunities are given to us as cheerleaders in order to establish professional relationships and open up other opportunities in the future. Don't just "live in the moment", work the angles so that you can use the professional relationships and connections developed to take you to the next level in your life and/or career.
"Be so good, they can't ignore you." - Steve Martin
Tell us what you are doing now and “After the Poms”.
Today I work as the Alumni Relations Coordinator for American University in Washington, D.C. My portfolio includes managing all benefits and services our over 115,000 alumni can receive in addition to a travel program, insurance program, and alumni audit program.
I recently opened my very first 1650 sq ft dance studio in Forestville, Maryland. With my love of dance, finding studio space to use at my leisure that didn't require a gym membership or battling for convenient class time was a truly difficult feat no matter what state I was in. I was, most recently, the dance team choreographer for the Washington Eagles Arena Indoor Football Team in Laurel, Maryland. Hearing about the practice space issues my team and other semi-pro teams were facing really propelled me into action. So, with the help of my very loving support system, decided to create a solution. I built my studio with the mindset that anyone who could use my space to further their craft or enhance their event would have the ability to do so. Be it dancers, step teams, photographers, conventions, parties, etc, all are welcome to contact me about renting it out for use.
Furthermore, I am the choreographer for Grove Baptist Church of Portsmouth, VA's Judah Praise Dance Ministry, as well as, for Going Pro Entertainment and Throwback Cheer. In my spare time I have a consulting venture I have lovingly entitled Wright Choice. I use it as my go-to name for the services I provide in the wedding/event planning, pageantry, and professional sports industry. I planned my first wedding as a solo coordinator in 2011 in Hollywood, Florida. I've provided countless pageant prep and pageant day support to young ladies competing in the Miss American Organization, The Alpha Phi Alpha Miss Black and Gold pageants, Hal Jackson's Talented Teens Organization, and numerous school related pageants. Lastly, I took on my first full time professional football player in 2011 providing services including but not limited to Travel/Relocation Arrangements, Charity/Foundation Assistance, Endorsement/Sponsorship Assistance, and other Administrative duties.
Travel destination: I love to travel in general! Every year I try to make sure I stamp my passport with a new destination.
Book: I love love so I am all about a great romance novel. I typically support romance novels written by African-American authors, but I love all books by J.R. Ward and Brenda Jackson.
Movie: I am a movie junkie! The go to the movies at 11:59 PM opening night type of movie junkie. I really enjoy action packed movies the most but enjoy all genres. I can't really pick just one but there are plenty of movies that I watch EVERY TIME they come on TV.
“You can't rise to low expectations!” - Pastor Melvin O. Marriner
"We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams." - Anonymous