For Esther, the New York Jets Flight Crew’s Gameday Girl for Sunday’s Jets-San Francisco game, the matchup will have somewhat of a weird vibe.
Prior to joining the Flight Crew last season, she used to be a dancer for the 49ers.
Born and raised in London, Esther moved to San Jose, Calif., in 1996 and cheered with the 49ers for three seasons and with the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers for one before transitioning to the Northeast.
“I came to New York two years ago. I didn't know anybody,” she said. “Two to three months later, I’m like, ‘Let me just audition for the Flight Crew and see what happens.’ Now I have an awesome group of friends, which is great.”
Dancing with her first professional team in 2004 and now a member of her third different pro sports organization, Esther has a unique presence on the Flight Crew.
“In terms of what I bring to the team, I come with a lot of experience and a lot of diverse experience because I’ve danced for both the NFL and NBA,” she said. “It’s obviously three very competitive markets just in dance. Then it’s also three very different styles of teams.”
Esther also carries with her nine years of dance experience with a professional hip-hop squad called “Culture Shock,” which she joined in the eighth grade when living in California.
“Hip-hop is a lot different than cheerleading, and it’s a lot different than ballet and jazz,” she said. “But it opens your eyes to a whole different style, more of a modern style of dance that helps you execute some of the moves and dance a little different.”
Esther said she had no idea what she was getting herself into when she first auditioned for a professional team. For a long time, she believed her career path would guide her to being a backup dancer for a musical performer such as R&B artist Brandy.
“It’s always been a dream for me to be dancing,” she said. “It’s always been a dream for me to be performing. And it’s always been a passion of mine to be on some type of team.”
While being a member of any professional dance team requires dedication and commitment, Esther also has enjoyed being able to inspire others. She told a story of how she impacted a camper when she worked the Junior Flight Crew Camp during her first season. The program is for girls 7-14 years old and takes place each summer, culminating with the Junior participants having the opportunity to perform on the field with the Flight Crew Cheerleaders.
Esther recalled the monumental moment this way:
“One of the young girls actually sought out and somehow found my director in the stadium to give her a woven bracelet that she’d made specifically for me. She goes, ‘You’ve got to give this to Esther. She said something to really, really inspire me and I’m never going to forget her. You have to give it to her.’ I may never see that young girl again, but something I told her inspired her to where she will never forget it.
“You never forget your favorite teacher, you never forget your favorite coach, and things like that. I will be that to her for the rest of her life. I’ll probably never see her again, but to know I get to be that for somebody, that’s amazing.”
The journey has been a special one for Esther and she credits her mother for pushing her to always keep striving to move forward. Who knows where the future will take her? But we certainly know one thing: She's capitalized on every opportunity that’s been tossed her way.