BEHIND THE SCENES

Confessions of an American cheerleader in India’s glitzy cricket league

Quartz india
Quartz india

She hates the racism of the Indian Premier League. “Slimeballs” routinely demand that she pose for photos with them. Most of all, she’s a feminist. Those are among the revelations made by an American IPL cheerleader who participated in an AMA—shorthand for “Ask Me Anything”—on Reddit last Wednesday.

While the woman remained anonymous for the public at large, she had apparently submitted picture proof to the moderators of the site to establish her identity, but didn’t want it made public for fear of losing her job.

The online event attracted over 500 responses and she went on to answer a wide range of questions from food to travel and, of course, the highs and lows of her job.

This is how she described herself.

I’m from the U.S.A and so far I’ve been loving India. I might be a rare Westerner in that I love the chaos here. People are living, kids playing cricket in the streets, goats and cows wondering around, people selling fruits and veggies on corners, I love it. It beats the closed off living you’ll find in major cities in the U.S. the U.K. or Australia.

I was a cheerleading for an All-Star team and for my high school for 7 years, but that was 8 years ago now so admittedly I’m a bit rusty. This is only my third week in IPL.

My love for dancing and experiencing new things and new cultures brought me here. I actually get payed very little.

HornySingh, who had organised the AMA, started with a direct question as to whether she could share any inside scoops. Her response:

Oh my goodness, the costumes are the biggest drama. I liked our old ones but apparently the big boss’s 13 year old daughter decided she wants to be a designer and designed our new outfits. We’ve been through 3 different cheer outfits now and I still hate the final outcome.

aar_640 asked: “What is the biggest thing you hate about your job?”

I hate the racism. Why is my team made up of 99% white girls? Why do Indians feel it’s ok to dress white girls up in skimpy outfits but they won’t let their fellow Indian women do it? It’s messed up.

aar_640 also asked how cheerleaders coped with abusive and cheap words hurled at them. Her response:

…for the most part I can’t hear them. The music is loud enough and the accents are thick enough I’m mostly oblivious to the words. This doesn’t mean I can’t tell that there are some obvious slime-balls behind me. I try my best to ignore them. And I’ve made a personal rule for myself not to take pictures with fans unless they’re women or children. I’m not keen on becoming someone’s fap bate for the night.

ek_ladki had a question on the working conditions in India, whether she thought she was being paid fairly and felt that she was treated with respect.

Conditions aren’t the best. If I were back in the U.S. I’d be shocked at the state of our toilets, changing rooms, and on occasions our hotel rooms.

Police personnel watch cheerleaders during an Indian Premier League cricket match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab in Dharmsala, India, Tuesday, May 17, 2011.
Police personnel watch cheerleaders during an Indian Premier League cricket match. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

Gtarumble followed that up by enquiring about the accommodation the cheerleaders were given.

The first two games they were more like 1 star hotels. Cockroaches, I saw a rat and rat droppings, it was pretty bad. But we quickly spoke up and realized our manager for that trip had been skimping us and pocketing the money he was saving on a cheaper hotel. Now they’re more like 3 star. Perfectly comfortable but not over the top.

The manager has since been fired, she revealed. When asked about the difference between crowds in India versus other countries, she said:

The men in the crowd in India are much more intrusive. But you’ll find pigs wherever you go.

discr33t_enough asked about what annoys her the most during games. Her response: “Gross men being vulgar”.

pcmaniacxx asked: What is the funniest thing you ever saw a cricket fan doing in a stadium?

Honestly? I put a blank stare on for the most part when I’m facing the crowd. There’s just so many nasty men making kissy faces and taking my picture that I tend to just block it all out. Often I’ll lock eyes with some nice people that are smiling and those are the people I’ll focus on for most of the game. So I haven’t really seen many funny things. If someone genuinely made me laugh though, that would be a welcome thing.

vareen’s question was on advice to kids wanting to take up cheerleading.

I’d advise not to take up cheerleading as an only profession. If you want to be a cheerleader, study dance and work on getting jobs in dance. Use your resume to apply

shiva_ram asked: “It must be very exhausting to dance every 5 or 10 minutes in searing hot weather. What do you do keep energy levels high?”

Her reply:

The heat gets annoying. I try to embrace it. The energy is just part of the job. We have to appear upbeat even if we’re exhausted.

 I also enjoy what I do regardless. But I wouldn’t renew this contract for another year unless things changed. 

But the takeaway from her interview seemed to be what she ended up having to repeat more than once, that “the sexism is worse here by far.”

notsosleepy asked her if she was a feminist and to share her thoughts on cheerleading, especially in India, being a means to objectify women as sexual objects.

I am a feminist, and I admit that I am bothered. When I danced and cheered in the U.S. I felt less like that. If you were to watch female dancers on Broadway, regardless of their outfit, you probably wouldn’t call them a sexual object. You’d call them a dancer. I went into this contract as a dancer, finding that I’m treated more as a sex object.

I try to be forgiving of human nature so I’m rolling with the punches. I also enjoy what I do regardless. But I wouldn’t renew this contract for another year unless things changed.

This post first appeared on Scroll.in. We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com.

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