Last summer, Nicole Bowns, a then-new D.C.-area resident, connected with a group that wanted to revive a dormant local cheerleading group and Cheer D.C. was reborn.
Now in its second season with about 50 involved, the nonprofit has become the seventh member of the Pride Cheerleading Association. The group plans to support SMYAL in its upcoming season and debuted at Capital Pride last year. Members will perform Sept. 9 at the D.C. United Pride Night Out.
Bowns had been involved in a similar group in her native Seattle and was hoping to find something like it here.
“Instead of cheering for sports organizations, we were cheering for our greater community, primarily the Seattle-based LGBT community,” Bowns, 25, says. “The ability to be able to give back to my community through my favorite activity ignited a whole new sense of involvement and passion in me.”
Bowns works by day at her “dream job” as a behavior analyst supporting educators who work with children with autism. She and partner Nayely Yepez live in Alexandria, Va., with their dog, Diego.
Bowns enjoys yoga, hiking, kayaking, camping and, of course, cheerleading in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I have been out since my senior year of college. I was really nervous to tell my grandma when Nayely and I started dating, but she said she loved me and was proud of me. It was a really touching moment.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
I love Ellen DeGeneres. She’s changed hearts with her loving demeanor, honesty and humor.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Keep in mind I am still new to the area and exploring the best places, but my friends and I from Cheer D.C. have been known to have a pretty fabulous time when we get to go to Town Danceboutique.
Describe your dream wedding.
I am planning it now! My fiancée and I are getting married on a beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in April 2018, with our closest friends and family as witnesses. It is more than I could ever have dreamed of.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Building public education to provide the best possible outcomes for all youth, no matter their race, income, country of origin or gender expression/sexuality.
What historical outcome would you change?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. having been able to continue to share his message of love, while living a long, meaningful life.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Dreaming of growing up to be Baby Spice.
On what do you insist?
The phrase my mom told me every day when I left for school: “Smile, work hard and be kind.”
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
My Facebook page consists of primarily two things: Pictures of my dog sleeping and re-posting about Cheer D.C.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Cheer Queer” — a nickname I was given in high-school because I was called “gay for cheerleading” and it’s pretty darn fitting now.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Keep living my life. I like it just as it is and wouldn’t change anything.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
That there is a greater purpose than my life as it is now, but I don’t know what that is.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Really listen to those who you are leading and continue to lead with your heart.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
To go retrieve my dog who probably somehow got himself separated and stuck across those coals from me.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
It annoys me when I am told that I don’t “look like” a lesbian. We are people, not stereotypes from movies.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
Surprisingly, I still have never seen “But, I’m a Cheerleader.” Can I count the entire “L-Word” series as a movie instead?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Rules about how long I can wear my white pants. On the flip side, remembering to say “please,” “thank you” and to hold the door for others should never become overrated.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I most covet my diplomas and the certification that allows me to practice my career.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
How to wash my own clothes before I moved out of my parents’ house.
Why not? It’s beautiful. You have access to monuments, museums, with wine country and mountains not far away. There is a demographic of people that are extremely diverse and for the most part, pretty open-minded. Although I miss the “other Washington” where I’m from, I’m pretty thrilled to get to be here with my immediate family and my Cheer D.C. family.