Melissa Rycroft is disputing published reports that she quit the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad in 2007 because of cruel treatment from “mean girls.”
“I left because at the time I was in a relationship [with now husband, Tye Strickland],” she tells me.
“I was working full time and I didn’t really have any time to devote to my social life. So I was kind of ready to kickstart that.”
“When you have a full time job and you are working 8 to 5 and then you practice from 6:00 to 10:00 every night, you don’t have time to do anything else. I was 25 and I was ready to see what else I could do with the couple of extra hours I had in my day. That was ultimately why I left.”
And now…she’s back!
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TV’s hardest working reality star returns to CMT’s DALLAS COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS: MAKING THE TEAM as a guest judge and mentor when its ninth season kicks off next month.
“I kind of want to be the friendly face that they see, because for anybody who has seen the show, they know that [DCC director Kelli McGonagill Finglass] and [choreographer Judy Trammell] and everybody involved can be very intimidating.”
“It’s scary going through that process not knowing if anybody is on your side. So I thought it would be a good time to come in and kind of be the one face that was on their side.”
Rycroft — a mother to Ava, 3, and Beckett, 4 months — shot to fame in 2010 when she was selected as winner of THE BACHELOR.
She later co-hosted season one of BACHELOR PAD, appeared with her husband on the short lived reality series MELISSA AND TYE and was the season 15 champion of DANCING WITH THE STARS.
Melissa told me more about her return to the DCC family and why she can’t seem to get away from reality television when we caught up recently.
What is it like going back now, all these years later, and seeing this new crop of girls going through the tryout process?
I can’t really describe it in any way other than to say it is interesting. Now nine years later, I am in my 30s. I am watching these girls who are terrified day in and day out and learning the routines and trying to get the look down and everything that goes along with being a cheerleader. And I can relate on that. I am looking at these girls thinking, “You guys are 20. You have no idea what is ahead of you.” Their whole lives, everything is ahead of them. So it is kind of cool to go back now and watch them do what I did.
Do you get to mentor them and offer advice?
I do and that is part of the reason I came back. I was originally asked just to judge the tryouts. I said “yes” because at the time I had a two week old baby and couldn’t travel anywhere. And after that they said, “Would you want to be a part of tryouts this year in the form of a mentor where you can literally pick out any of the girls that you like that you think have potential or that you want to make the team?” So in my mind I was like, “I would love to do it!” I really hope that I am helping these girls that I picked out to mentor. So far there have been about four of them. The ones that I picked are the girls that remind me of myself back in the day.
What advice would you give to a younger you?
I wish I had had more confidence at that time in my life. That is kind of the big thing that I tell them right now. “It’s not just about the team and being confident when you are dancing.” You can tell the girls who are not confident by the way they dance and perform. But it goes out into your life. Are you confident with where you are in your life right now? With your job. With any relationships? Own who you are. Be happy with who you are. Don’t change for the team. Just find who you are. These girls are so young and it is a hard message to get out to 20 year-olds because they are still finding themselves. But having come out on the other side I just think that it is really important to kind of guide these girls.
How did the Cowboys Cheerleader grooming process prepare you for THE BACHELOR and other successes in your life?
I am not sure if it prepared me for THE BACHELOR. I was kind of thrown in to that. I went from my everyday life to having cameras all around and I had never done anything like that before. But I definitely think it helped more for things like DANCING WITH THE STARS and being able to perform a routine when you are scared to death. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of COWBOYS. There is a lot of etiquette training and learning how to do interviews properly. So in that aspect, it definitely taught me how to become more poised and be more well rounded and confident.
Do you think there is any misconception about these girls?
Yeah, absolutely. Any time you are looking at the outside of something, you make your own perceptions about it. I remember when I made cheerleader, my parents were bragging to some of their friends and one of them remarked, ‘You know they all do drugs in the locker room before the game?’ And I was like, ‘Are they kidding me? That is what they think happens?’ And you hear people talk about eating disorders and plastic surgery. Just stuff like that. It is hard to know what is true when you don’t really know what goes on on the inside.
You have done a ton of reality TV. Where do you see your career going?
That is a really good question. And it has changed over the years. Obviously, the more settled I get and the more kids I end up having, it definitely changes a little bit. I went into this as green as could be and what fell in my lap is the whole corresponding and entertainment world. GOOD MORNING AMERICA was actually my first job and I still have it now. Along the way I would get offered really big jobs and The and I would sit and talk about it, but we just couldn’t move the whole family for it. I had to find that balance because for us living in Dallas it would mean relocating the entire family to L.A. So far, I have had to turn some stuff down. There just hasn’t been anything that we have said, “There is no way to turn this down. It is a game changer.” And so, until that time ever comes, you just kind of take what you can that comes at you. If it makes sense for me to do a little job like this then it makes sense to do it. I think with the reality [shows] it is easier just to keep the little ones coming and that is probably why I have done so much of it. It is not invasive. We don’t have to move. It works around my schedule. And right now it just fits. But never say never and we will see what happens.
Do you sit around in your spare time and think of ideas for new reality shows?
No. I haven’t gone down that path yet because I don’t have much time to sit and think anymore. Between the toddler and the newborn, when I am home it is just all about diapers and cleaning up. Perhaps when I get some time that I can focus on just me 100 percent I will be able to see where that takes me. Life is kind of revolving around my family.
Do you see more kids coming?
I think so. You say things sometimes and it comes back to to bite you. But I don’t think we are done. We don’t necessarily feel like we are done. We will see in a few years what is in the cards.
So this will be a balancing act for you for a while?
Yeah. I am in the unique situation that I don’t live where I work, which makes my work really hard. Obviously the last few months of my pregnancy I couldn’t travel, so I couldn’t work. Now I have a newborn and it is really hard for me to travel. If it isn’t something I can do in a day or two, I have to turn it down. It is about finding that balance. I did it the first time around [with Ava?????] and we managed to come out unscathed. My the industry is very funny. Sometime you can be gone for a month and it is a month too long and you are gone.
DALLAS COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS: MAKING THE TEAM 9 premieres August 8 on CMT.
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