America's Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders episode 1 recap — drinking the Gatorade

Madeline on the Dallas Cowboys football field in America's Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
Madeline, America's Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders episode 1 (Image credit: Netflix)

America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders is a new docuseries that's new on Netflix this June that takes viewers behind the scenes of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. It’s not the first time that the squad has been the focus of a television series, but this is one of the most comprehensive looks at the journey from the application process to making it to the DCC training camp to eventually making it to the squad. Here’s your America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders episode 1 recap. 

In "Auditions Part 1," we meet the executive team behind the DCC, some of the veterans and the women hoping to make it to training camp. Interestingly, the veterans must try out each year and compete for a spot on the roster against the incoming class of rookies, making for a very intense tryout. 

One of the women sits in a room full of DCC photos and gear; above her is a heart made of ballet slippers, suggesting many years of dance lessons. She’s clearly a DCC veteran based on the pictures of herself on the field in Cowboys Cheer uniform. She’s asked why she wants so badly to be part of the team. "I love it," she replies. 

"Our job is to make it look easy" 

There’s a montage of DCC vets and hopefuls (whose names haven’t been revealed yet) talking about how being a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader is a lifelong dream. No matter how hard it gets, their job is to make everything look easy. There’s no crying on the cheer squad. It’s one of the hardest times of their lives, but it’s also the best time of their lives. "Once you start sipping that Gatorade, you do not want to come out."

Of the hundreds of applicants, only 36 will make the team. We head to Frisco, Texas, and the home of the DCC. We meet Kelli Finglass, DCC Director and DCC Class of 1988, and Judy Trammell, Head Choreographer and DCC Class of 1983. (One thing to note, almost everyone involved with the squad is an alum.) They’re watching videos of the applicants who have advanced to the finalist round. They watch every single application video. From there, about 70 women will be invited to try out in person along with the veteran candidates.

Judy and Kelli pick apart every detail of every application video. From hair to makeup, to personalities and everything in between, there’s nothing that escapes their eyes. They even note women who may miss the mark in their applications but have potential to be good for the squad. They want the "wow" factor.

The veterans

Kelsey, a 5th year DCC veteran, in America's Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

Kelsey, America's Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (Image credit: Netflix)

DCC veterans meet for rehearsals two weeks before the live auditions. Since they’re judged against the rookies — and each other — there is a lot of tension in the room because these women performed together for a year and have strong bonds.

Kelsey, a five-year veteran, talks about the team’s community and how you can’t find anything like it anywhere else. A group of veterans talk about how they have more stress than rookies because they’ve made it before and they don’t want to lose it. 

A week before live auditions, 4th-year vet Victoria is in the dance studio with her mother, Tina, DCC Class of 1989. As it happens, Victoria is the woman who has an entire bedroom dedicated to DCC. She grew up with DCC thanks to her mother, who is her biggest supporter, and making the team was Victoria’s dream as a child. Tina says that every DCC member with a daughter buys a costume for their child. Victoria feels enormous pressure to make the team.


Charlotte Jones, daughter of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is one of the owners of the team and also serves as the Chief Brand Officer. She hired Kelli in 1990, calling it one of her best decisions ever. When the Jones family took over the team, the Cowboys’ finances were a mess. Kelli suggested that they use the DCC to make money, introducing the idea of calendars and reality shows. Soon the DCC became financially independent, and they haven’t looked back since. 

While the DCC is hugely profitable, the cheerleaders themselves make very little money by comparison. Archive interviews reveal the team made $15 per game. Tina made $35 per game, and she notes that back then, women saw it as a privilege to perform whereas women today see it as a job. Kat, DCC Class of 2022, says she’s making the equivalent of a full-time Chik-Fil-A worker. Charlotte notes that cheerleaders don’t come to the DCC for money, rather they come for other things — like sisterhood and passion — that are worth more than money. 

The rise of the DCC comes from a viral moment in 1975 when the cameraman panned to one of the cheerleaders and she winked at him. Suddenly, the whole game broadcast was overshadowed by talk of the cheerleader winking, and the rest is history. That moment catapulted the DCC into the spotlight, and exposure from two Super Bowl wins by the Cowboys turned the DCC into "America’s Sweethearts."

Kelsey reveals how she has to prep her meals for the week because she's not just a DCC veteran, she's a full-time nurse. She works all day and then goes straight to DCC practice at night, making for very long, 18-hour days. It's grueling, but it's worth it, she says.

Kelli Finglass watches auditions in America's Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

(Image credit: Netflix)


A day before live auditions, Rookie Candidate Reece talks about how she made it through the online audition process. She credits the Miss America competition for getting her to this point, having helped her get through some body image issues in school. But she ultimately credits her relationship with Jesus for her success. 

When the first day of auditions arrives, Kelli and Judy have their hair and makeup done so that they look immaculate. Wearing makeup and looking "put-together," Judy says, is important. 

In the waiting room, the women get ready for their auditions. There are about 70 women at the auditions and that number will be whittled down to 45 by a panel of judges that includes local Dallas personalities from DCC hair salons, local news stations and even DCC costume suppliers. The women will be performing a solo dance for the first part of their audition, and the second part is an on-field performance of a DCC number. 

While the women go through their routines, the judges turn a very critical eye toward every aspect of it, from how the women are put together, whether veterans have lost their edge, rookies who "pop" and diamonds in the rough. They’ve all been doing this long enough to know what makes someone DCC material. They’re more critical of veterans, given that they’ve been through the process. 

When it’s Victoria’s turn, we see that she initially didn’t make the team after her 2018 audition. A tearful Victoria was let go by Kelli and Judy, women she’s known all her life, and was told that she needed another year to get to DCC levels. Now she’s competing for her spot on the roster, and the judges wonder if she has the same energy and shine that she had before.

During the on-field portion of the audition, the judges sit in the stands at the Ford Center and watch small groups of women perform the famed DCC kickline. They watch on the big screen, since that’s how the women will be seen by fans. Each woman introduces herself, and Kelli talks about how hard it is to cut veterans. 

After everyone auditions, the judges deliberate about who should move forward. They’re even more critical than before as they look at photos of each candidate and compare notes. They return to the practice field to reveal the news to the anxious women, who are now in the stands waiting to be called down to the field. 

When 45 names have been called, there are tears of joy and sadness. The women on the field are moving on while the ones still in the stands are going home. For those who make it through, their time at DCC training camp has begun. 

All seven episodes of America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are available to stream now on Netflix

Sarabeth Pollock
Editorial Content Producer


Sarabeth joined the What to Watch team in May 2022. An avid TV and movie fan, her perennial favorites are The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, true crime documentaries on Netflix and anything from Passionflix. You’ve Got Mail, Ocean's Eleven and Signs are movies that she can watch all day long. She's also a huge baseball fan, and hockey is a new favorite.  

When she's not working, Sarabeth hosts the My Nights Are Booked Podcast and a blog dedicated to books and interviews with authors and actors. She also published her first novel, Once Upon an Interview, in 2022.