Second-year Buccaneers Cheerleader Milly Figuereo proved to be a natural in front of Sports Illustrated's camera this past summer
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders could be spotted all over the place in 2007, from the beaches of Hawaii to Conan O'Brien's late-night set.
It looks like 2008 will be no different. The next place you may catch a glimpse of a Buccaneers Cheerleader: Your mailbox, if you happen to be a Sports Illustrated subscriber. And soon.
In yet another example of the world-wide appeal of the Buccaneers Cheerleaders, second-year member Milly Figuereo will be featured in Sports Illustrated's wildly popular Swimsuit Issue. The issue, due to hit newsstands and mailboxes this week, will include a photo section devoted to Figuereo and 11 other NFL cheerleaders.
The 2008 Swimsuit Issue will be unveiled officially on Tuesday at a red-carpet release party in New York City. All of the participating cheerleaders will be at the party, rubbing shoulders with the athletes and well-known supermodels featured in the issue, though Figuereo plans to do a little afternoon reconnaissance for a sneak peak.
"I'm going to every bookstore and newsstand I see until I find it!" she said with a laugh.
Figuereo's eagerness is understandable. She has been sitting on this stunning piece of news for half a year. The photo shoot took place last summer in New York but the cheerleaders were instructed quite sternly to keep it a secret. Had news of that section in the issue been leaked, SI would have yanked it.
Since the Buccaneers' season ended in the first round of the playoffs in January, Figuereo's excitement has been even more difficult to contain.
"During the season we're doing so many things that you're able to put it in the back of your mind," she said. "But these last few weeks, since we found out about the release party, have been the absolute hardest. Now it's like, 'This is really happening! It's coming out soon.'"
Sports Illustrated decided to include NFL cheerleaders in the Swimsuit Issue after noticing how much traffic similar photo sections were attracting on its web site. They choose the Buccaneers Cheerleaders as one of 11 squads to feature, then requested pictures of several of the ladies on the squad. The magazine's editors then called the team to specifically request Figuereo.
To view images from resulting photo shoot on SI.com, please click here.
Figuereo isn't the first Buccaneers Cheerleader to participate in a photo shoot for a major magazine - Maxim and FHM. came calling in recent years – but this year's opportunity with Sports Illustrated was especially thrilling for the whole squad. SI's Swimsuit Issue has an undeniable world-wide cachet.
"Everybody on the team was so happy for me," said Figuereo. "Our squad – we're sisters. We go through everything together. After this news came down, I was getting text messages from everybody, somebody was even crying – that just makes you feel really, really good about what you're going up there to do. They selected one person, but anybody could have been selected from our squad. That one person is representing everyone. We're so proud of one another."
Within weeks of being selected, Figuereo was in New York with the rest of the hand-picked cheerleaders, working with SI's talented photographers and handlers. She now admits to being anxious as the photo shoot began, though she found a way to calm her nerves and give the photographers what they needed.
"It was absolutely amazing," she recalled. "I just kept on thinking, 'This is not happening.' I'm not going to say I felt completely comfortable. After awhile I felt like I was starting to get in a groove, but at the beginning I was extremely nervous. You hear the music going but it seems like it's going in slow motion.
"Finally, I had to take a step back and say, 'You know what? This is happening, so try to enjoy it.' I was so nervous. I just had to relax and tell myself, 'They picked you for a reason. They saw something in you.'"
Sandy Charboneau, the Buccaneers' cheerleading coordinator, accompanied Figuereo to New York for the appointment last summer and has also worked with all of the women on the squad at several Buccaneers Cheerleader Calendar photo shoots. She was impressed by how well all of the NFL's representatives did on the set, and says the magazine chose to expand the shoot, and possibly the section in the magazine, after working with the cheerleaders.
"Milly might have been nervous, but I was there and she did a fantastic job," said Charboneau. "I was really proud of her. This is so big - Sports Illustrated! We're all very excited."
Added Figuereo: "Everyone from SI was just so full of energy. And they said they were blown away by the cheerleaders and the energy we brought to the shoot. They work with models and sports stars, so it was great for them to say that about us."
Figuereo first became a Buccaneers Cheerleaders in 2006 and has loved every minute of her two years on the team. She knew that being on the squad can open some surprising doors, such as those aforementioned Maxim and FHM shoots, but really wasn't motivated by that factor.
"Never in a million years did I think this would happen for me," she said. "I never even thought about something like that for me. When you try out for the squad, you try out because you want to dance, because you love the team, because you know about the community events the team supports. You don't try out because you think you're going to get a photo shoot out of it. This is unbelievably humbling for me."