Few things in this life are as quintessentially American as cheerleading. A wonderful spectacle, full of energy and color and razzle-dazzle, the cheer squad is an integral part of football and basketball games across the country. It should therefore come as no surprise that many celebrities got their first taste of the limelight as high school cheerleaders: still, this list includes a couple of entries that may well leave you slack-jawed in shock.
40. Miley Cyrus
Before she became a teen star as Disney’s Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus was a member of the Premiere Tennessee All-Stars Cheerleading Team. From the ages of five to 13, she was part of a 20-girl team that would travel to competitions on the weekends. She even picked up a bunch of prizes along the way.
39. Chrissy Teigen
Chrissy Teigen revealed this photograph of her cheerleading past on January 14, 2020. Posting to Instagram, she wrote, “Watching Cheer on Netflix got me reminiscing about how I sucked at cheerleading almost as much as I sucked at doing my brows. Truly no idea how I made this team.” Rubbish at cheerleading? We refuse to believe it.
38. Jenna Dewan
January 19, 2018 was when Step Up star Jenna Dewan posted a cute photo of herself in her Grapevine High School cheerleading uniform. The Texas native later told web portal AOL about her cheering days, saying, “I’m a Texan dancer, so glitter eyeliner was a way of life for many years. It was like, you wake up, you put your glitter eyeliner on.”
37. Reese Witherspoon
On a Throwback Thursday in 2015, Legally Blonde star Reese Witherspoon posted a picture of her time as a middle school cheerleader. She captioned the photo, “#TBT to my days as a proud General #cheernation #firstsquad #lilgeneral.” People magazine was able to add a little context, confirming that Witherspoon cheered for the Harding Academy Generals in Nashville, Tennessee.
36. Rashida Jones
In a 2012 interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Rashida Jones confessed that in high school she was very much “that girl.” In other words, a Type-A personality who wanted it all. She said, “I was social, I was overachieving. I was a cheerleader, I was in the math club, I was in the National Honor Society.” In 2018 she finally gave fans a peek at her cheerleading days with an Instagram post captioned, “#fbf get fired up, it’s Friday y’all.”
35. Jessie James Decker
Country pop singer and reality TV star Jessie James Decker took Us Weekly magazine’s “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me” interview in 2017. She revealed, “I was a cheerleader when I was in high school.” The world simply had to take her word for it until January 27, 2018, when she posted a picture to Twitter of her 15-year-old self in her cheer uniform.
34. Blake Lively
When Gossip Girl star Blake Lively posted a picture of her cheerleading days to Instagram in 2016, she revealed a sharp sense of humor. She captioned the photo, in which she is sitting on the ground while a teammate pretends to be sitting on her shoulders like they would usually do in a pyramid formation, with, “I’ve always been impressively athletic.” Good one, Blake.
33. Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep, arguably the greatest actress of all time, is not someone you would necessarily imagine was a cheerleader in her past. But this photo of her in uniform at Bernards High School in Bernardsville, New Jersey in 1966 shows that she was indeed a member of the squad. In fact, website Page Six revealed Streep was also the homecoming queen in her senior year. She was the Queen Bee.
32. Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz began modeling at the age of 16, while she was still a cheerleader in high school. Perhaps it was always written in the stars that she would become a movie star, though, as she cheered for Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California. Why is that significant? Well, it’s the same school that was featured in American Pie, The Craft and American Beauty.
31. Amy Poehler
Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler is an extremely funny woman who has carved out a great career for herself in TV and film. When the former Saturday Night Live performer was in high school, though, she was entertaining crowds in a different manner as a cheerleader. She cheered for the Burlington High School in Massachusetts from 1986 to 1989.
30. Sandra Bullock
Hollywood A-lister Sandra Bullock was a teen cheerleader at Washington-Lee High in Arlington, Virginia. In 2015 the actress confessed to People magazine that she still owned her cheerleading uniform. She joked, “That might come in handy some sexy night. I don’t know who I’m saving it for. I want to be buried in it.”
29. Kathie Lee Gifford
On a January 2018 edition of the Today show Kathie Lee Gifford showed off some old black-and-white photos of her cheerleading days at Maryland’s Bowie High School. She self-deprecatingly claimed, “I was like the worst of all the cheerleaders.” But she was then quick to point out, “We had a great cheerleading squad,” and that the team was “number one” when she was a member. She can’t have been too bad, after all.
28. Alicia Silverstone
When Alicia Silverstone came to international fame as Cher Horowitz in 1995 comedy smash hit Clueless, she was still in her teens. That’s right, she was only a few years removed from her time as a student at San Mateo High School in California, where she had been a member of the cheerleading team. In hindsight, it seems a bit of a missed opportunity that Cher wasn’t a cheerleader in the film. Oh well.
27. Cynthia Bailey
The Real Housewives of Atlanta star Cynthia Bailey posted a throwback snap of her cheerleading past in January, 2020. The reality TV star was once strutting her stuff with the pom-poms at Tuscumbia, Alabama’s Deshler High School. The photo was accompanied by the caption, “Be your biggest cheerleader. If you don’t root for yourself, why should anyone else?” Great advice, we think you’ll all agree.
26. Steve Martin
Comic genius Steve Martin told Newsweek magazine in 1990 that he was “mostly a goof-off” in high school, though he did put a lot of effort into something unexpected. He was a member of the Garden Grove High School cheerleading squad and even experimented by writing some funny cheers. Well, he thought they were funny, at least. “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” reportedly went down like a lead balloon.
The Queen of Pop was once a straight-A student at Rochester Adams High School in Michigan. She was also a cheerleader at the school, which must have helped her shape the dance skills she would later use to become an icon. She graduated a full semester early and went to the University of Michigan to study dance, before winding up with a six-week scholarship to New York City’s Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She never looked back.
24. Megan Fox
One of Megan Fox’s most famous roles is that of Jennifer Check, the demonically possessed cheerleader in acerbic horror-comedy Jennifer’s Body. But long before she played that part, she was a real-life cheerleader at Morningside Academy in Florida’s Port St. Lucie. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a particularly happy time in Fox’s life, as she has been open about the bullying she experienced there.
Former Black-Eyed Peas singer Fergie was once Stacie Ann Ferguson, a cheerleader and high-achieving student at Hacienda Heights’ Glen A. Wilson High School. The skills she honed as a member of that squad in California were likely helpful to her future career as a dancer and performer. After she left school, but before she joined the Peas, Fergie studied dance, became a children’s television star and sold a million records as a member of girl band Wild Orchid. Whoa!
22. Eva Longoria
Desperate Housewives TV star Eva Longoria’s time as a cheerleader continued on past high school and into her college years. She cheered for Roy Miller High School in Corpus Christi, Texas and took up the pom-poms again at Texas A&M-Kingsville. In 2020 the 45-year-old actress brilliantly referenced her past when she donned a Dallas Cowboys cheerleading uniform in an episode of Netflix’s Game On: A Comedy Crossover Event. And she looked awesome.
21. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
During a 2013 episode of Dancing With The Stars, reality TV star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi tearfully revealed a dark time in her past. Preparations for a cheerleading-inspired dance routine brought back bad memories of a period as a squad member at New York’s Marlboro High School. She confessed, “Cheerleading was my life in high school, but it wasn’t always easy for me. I started to be anorexic.”
20. Sally Field
Two-time Academy Award-winner Sally Field is arguably best known for her roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Forrest Gump and the long-running ABC drama Brothers & Sisters. One of the most respected actresses in Hollywood, it’s somehow hard to imagine her as a teenage cheerleader. But that’s just what she was, at Van Nuys, California’s Birmingham High School.
19. Paul Rudd
Yes, Ant-Man himself was once a cheerleader in high school. Or, more accurately, he was a “yell leader” in Overland Park, Kansas. To be fair, it makes sense when you think about it, because who else in Hollywood is more purely likeable than Paul Rudd? Nobody, that’s who. Rudd cheering for the team was surely a ticket to insane levels of school spirit.
18. Lucy Hale
Pretty Little Liars TV star Lucy Hale first rose to fame in 2003 as a teenager in American Juniors, a spinoff from American Idol that focused on younger contestants. Hale came fourth and then became part of a band formed in the wake of the show. That band broke up in 2005 and she turned her attention to acting. Somewhere in the midst of all this chaos, Hale found time to be a cheerleader in school. Busy girl.
R&B singer Ciara attended Riverdale High School in Georgia and was a member of the cheer squad. During a 2010 episode of MTV biography show When I Was 17, she revealed, “I loved cheerleading – dancing, the game, the excitement, the energy – just everything was fun about it to me.” In fact, she was so dedicated that she became cheer captain in her senior year. Not bad.
16. Mandy Moore
This adorable photo of Mandy Moore as a kid cheerleader was posted on Instagram by Moore herself on August 4, 2017. She captioned the pic, “Back in the good ol’ days, before I realized that I was wildly uncoordinated and that cheering wasn’t great for my vocal chords.” We’re willing to bet the modest Moore was actually an awesome cheerleader.
15. Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan was once one of the biggest teen stars in Hollywood, thanks to hit movies such as Freaky Friday and Mean Girls. As her career took off, she moved into home-schooling, but up until 11th grade she attended high school in the state of New York. She took part in some cheerleading while at school, and in 2008 wore a cheer uniform again as an adult in a guest appearance on TV series Ugly Betty.
14. Renee Zellweger
Renee Zellweger attended Katy High School in Texas, where she was a member of the cheerleading team. In 2016 she made a TV appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and decided to show the host some of her old moves. She ran through her entire seventh-grade routine and ended with a picture-perfect high kick. She then revealed, “If you do a good kick, it doesn’t matter how the cheer goes.”
13. Diane Sawyer
Legendary broadcast journalist Diane Sawyer cheered for Seneca High School in Louisville, Kentucky in the early ’60s. Perhaps cheering helped her come out of her shell, as she has revealed she felt as if she was being outshone by her older sister for much of her youth. In her senior year of high school, Sawyer won the annual America’s Junior Miss pageant, a huge transformation for the previously shy girl.
12. Kirsten Dunst
One of Kirsten Dunst’s most beloved film roles is her turn as cheerleader Torrance Shipman in Bring It On. Dunst was able to bring extensive real-life experience to the role, as she was actually a cheerleader at Notre Dame High School right up until the year 2000, when the movie was released in theaters. Now that’s what we call art imitating life.
11. Alexa Bliss
WWE superstar Alexa Bliss excelled at gymnastics and cheerleading as a teenager. She performed for Hilliard Davidson High School in Ohio and continued to cheer at the University of Akron, where she attained Division 1 status. She told website WWE.com, “The experience in those sports really helped me transition into the ring, where I’ve been able to implement those skills into high-flying maneuvers and wrestling fundamentals.”
10. Katie Couric
In her youth, future broadcast journalist and talk-show host Katie Couric was reportedly a tomboy who took part in neighborhood baseball games. But by the time she reached Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia she had taken up cheerleading. This particular shot is a perfect representation of the enthusiasm and athleticism Couric brought to her cheering.
9. Kelly Ripa
Kelly Ripa’s natural pep and perkiness came in handy as a cheerleader at Eastern Regional High School in New Jersey’s Voorhees Township. In fact, it was this innate aptitude for performing that convinced her drama teacher to push her toward acting. Ripa later said, “I owe so much of my career to Jim Boeckle. He thought I was a natural performer and so he gave me the lead in the next show.”
Actress and singer Ann-Margret Olsson was born in 1941 in Stockholm, Sweden. Her family moved to the U.S. in 1946 and she attended New Trier High School in Illinois, which is where she became a member of the cheer squad. Her star quality would see her eventually win five Golden Globes and be nominated for two Academy Awards, six Emmys and two Grammys.
7. Halle Berry
In a reveal we are sure will not surprise anyone in the least, the implausibly gorgeous Halle Berry was a cheerleader at Bedford High School in Ohio. Perhaps even less surprisingly, she was also prom queen and later went on to win Miss Teen All American and Miss Ohio USA. As this cheerleading photo proves, she was already displaying the athleticism that would serve her well in future movie roles such as John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.
6. Jennifer Lawrence
When J-Law attended the punk-themed Met Gala ceremony in 2013, she revealed something to the world that few would have expected from the notoriously down-to-earth star. In an interview with a reporter from Vogue magazine she confessed, “I never went through the punk phase. I guess tonight I’m supposed to say, ‘yes’ but no. I was a cheerleader.” Katniss Everdeen was a cheerleader? Now we’ve heard everything.
5. Jessica Simpson
Whilst cheering is a happy memory for the majority of the celebrities on this list, Jessica Simpson’s experience unfortunately came to a distasteful end. She revealed on TV’s Dr. Oz Show, “I would cheer at a game and the cheerleaders – I was the head cheerleader and I dropped out. I will never be a cheerleader again because these girls went over to the other team and told them, and everybody started chanting ‘lesbian’ and I ran out.”
4. Kirk Douglas
Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas lived until he was 103 years old, passing in February 2020. Over the course of his incredible life he starred in iconic films such as Spartacus, won an Academy Award and scored another three nominations. He even received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Amazingly, though, way back in his high school days in New York he was a member of the cheerleading team at Amsterdam High School.
3. Paul Abdul
Pop star, choreographer and reality TV judge Paula Abdul was once a professional cheerleader for the L.A. Lakers. In fact, she made the team in 1980 at the age of just 19 and within a year was in charge of putting together the squad’s routines. Clearly her time as a cheerleader at Van Nuys High School in Los Angeles had served her well.
2. Olivia Wilde
Of this picture and her time at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Olivia Wilde told Allure magazine, “I was on the step team. Stepping is a form of cheering.” She then added, “The funny thing about this picture, other than the fact that it’s hideous, is that my high school happens to also be the school that George W. Bush went to. And one of the most famous photographs of him was as head cheerleader in almost this exact same outfit.”
1. Rachael Ray
Rachael Ray was a cheerleader at Lake George High School in New York. She took her place at the top of the pyramid, which should come as no surprise given how insanely successful Ray has been in her TV career. She has achieved her empire through a lot of hard work, and we can’t help wondering if some of that work ethic was forged as a member of the school squad.