At thirty-eight years old, Ohio native Laura Vikmanis was separated, the mother of two school-aged girls, and at a turning point in her life. She had been married for sixteen years to a man who was verbally and physically abusive and for the first time she had a chance to do what she wanted. She remembered her love of dancing, which she had pursued in elementary school and high school, but given up during her tumultuous marriage.
Thirty-five pounds overweight and out of shape, having not tended to her health in decades, on a whim she signed up for a pole-dancing fitness class in Cincinnati and was surprised to learn that she loved it – though she had never done anything like that before. In the class, she met a former Cincinnati Bengal cheerleader, or Ben-Gal, who complimented her dancing and suggested that she try out for the team. Though initially certain that she was too old, a seed was planted in her mind. She kept dancing and got in shape. In the spring of 2008, on the cusp of her fortieth birthday, she auditioned – making it through three competitive rounds before ultimately being rejected on a local reality TV show.
Instead of giving up, she spent the next year running, lifting weights, and taking a hip-hop dance class with twelve-year-olds – all to maximize her chances of success. Along the way she got in peak form and fell in love with a handsome contractor ten years her junior.
In May 2009 she was accepted onto the Ben-Gals, becoming, at forty, the oldest cheerleader in the NFL. In her two seasons on the squad, Laura has inspired women and men of all ages to “get unstuck.” Her story of overcoming an abusive marriage and finding renewed confidence at mid-life is a testament to the power of second acts.
Her book will also provide an inside, up-close look at the fascinating world of NFL cheerleaders, who make less than a thousand dollars per season, cannot fraternize with players, and adhere to a training regimen as strict as a boxer’s. In spite of low self-esteem, Vikmanis discovered her own physical and emotional strength with the help of a supportive, eclectic group of female teammates. She was a victim who kicked her way to liberation.
“I believe that people of all ages,” says Vikmanis, “especially in their forties and beyond, will be inspired by my journey of overcoming domestic abuse and turning myself around. Adults who feel like they have lost themselves will be inspired to know that they can make positive changes in their lives at any age and go on to achieve their dreams, no matter how big or small .”