All bod and no brain?
Not so fast, there, bud.
Monday’s announcement that Sea Gal Stephanie Hemphill will be the new executive director of Lacey’s Chamber of Commerce came as a shock to some who labor under persistent stereotypes about cheerleaders — even the professional women who cheer teams in the NFL.
You know the drill: While the Seattle Seahawks’ dance team has more than enough sexual wattage to light up football fans across the country, they could not be otherwise brilliant.
Hemphill is too refined to call that notion BS, but when she heard it repeated Wednesday, she did make a sound that might have been called a snort.
“I’m on a team of 33 women who are all very smart and intelligent,” she said. “Any one of them would disprove that stereotype.”
Hemphill, a Thurston County native, praised the intellectual qualities of her fellow Sea Gals on Wednesday, shortly after helping Gov. Jay Inslee hoist the Seahawks’ 12th man flag at the Capitol campus flag circle.
In his remarks to about 250 noisy Seahawks fans gathered in the rain on the steps of the Legislative Building, Inslee gave a special shout-out to Hemphill, who he said, “has been doing some great work in a leadership position.”
“I happen to be here today because of my new job,” Hemphill said later, “but I’m not an exception. To be a Sea Gal, you really have to have a good head on your shoulders. The last thing you want to do is to send somebody out in the community who doesn’t represent the team in the best way.”
The résumés of the women on the Sea Gals roster help make her case.
Like Hemphill, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Washington, most of the Sea Gals on this year’s team either have advanced degrees or are working toward them. (Their ages range from 18 into the mid-30s, so some are still in school.)
In Playboy-style videos on its website, the Seahawks reveal just about all there is to be revealed about the women physically, but the organization will not provide the women’s last names.
“For security reasons,” said Armando Mejia, who is in charge of fan development and international outreach for the Seahawks.
Therefore, we learn that Alicia attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and is now a first lieutenant.
Kelly is a businesswoman who owns her own dance studios.
Mhkeeba is an attorney in the contracts department of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Pia is a wealth management associate.
Carli is a teacher.
Being a Sea Gal involves far more than just getting out on the field and shaking your bootie, Hemphill said.
“We grew up taking dance classes,” she said. “This is our sport. This is what we love.”
In addition to their professional day jobs and televised show time on game days, Hemphill said, the Sea Gals typically have two five-hour nighttime practice sessions a week in which they perfect their split-second timing and dance repertoire.
Their playbook is nearly as complex as those of the players. The dancers must be able to recognize 40 pieces of music by the first eight beats and be in position dancing by that time – a task made more difficult by the fact that four squads of Sea Gals around the stadiums must synchronize their movements precisely.
“It’s challenging,” Hemphill said, “and we’re good at what we do.”
As for her new job as executive director of the Lacy Chamber, Hemphill said, “I’m real excited to get started and have my hands in the county that way.
“I’m a little bit nervous,” she said, “but I’m excited about it, too.”