When you think of beautiful rainforests in South America, it is Brazil’s Amazon region that normally comes to mind. However, Colombia is now a serious contender, seeing that it now has one of the largest tropical national parks in the world.
This is due to the fact that the Spanish-speaking country has recently extended the parameters of one of its cornerstone national parks – Serranía de Chiribiquete. This region is essentially a collection of table mountains in Colombia’s Amazon region.
Originally stretching to an already impressive 2.7 million hectares, the Chiribiquete National Park now spans a stunning 4.3 million hectares, nearly doubling in size. As a result of this new expansion, UNESCO has officially granted the national park World Heritage status.
The organization, which aims to improve international collaboration through a variety of means, praised the Colombian park for its incredible ancient rock paintings as well as its national features.
The WWF Colombia recently revealed that the national park is the exact point at which a number of ecosystems converge. These include the likes of the Andes, the Amazon, Orinoquía, and the Guayanés, to name a few.
Some creatures, such as the giant otter, the Amazonian tapir, and the jaguar all live in this part of the world and are all considered either as native to the region or under threat of extinction. As a result, Chiribiquete is something of a safe haven for these creatures.
However, the park is also an important site due to its cultural significance. Many ancient murals that can be dated back over 20,000 years have been found in these parts. It is no wonder that UNESCO has many reasons for granting it World Heritage status.
It seems that this new found status will help protect the park from deforestation, while also helping the people and creatures who live in this region to thrive for years to come.
Some of the most famous and successful actors, singers, and media personalities today were once pom pom yielding cheerleaders. Here’s a look at some of your favorite celebrities that cheered their way to stardom.
If you thought the My Humps singer is a knockout now, take a look at this photo of her on the spirit squad! Born Stacie Ann Ferguson, Fergie was a cheerleader and a straight-A student at Glen A. Wilson High School. After high school, Fergie studied dance, and in 2003, she replaced former Black Eyed Peas singer Kim Hill to create the album Elephunk which spawned the hit singles Where Is the Love? and Shut Up. Fergie’s cheerleading background has definitely helped with her flexibility while dancing on stage.
Long before she was known as the Material Girl, Madonna grew up in Detroit as the child of blue-collar Italian-American immigrants. While Madonna attended Rochester Adams High School, she was a not only a straight-A student but also a member of the cheerleading squad. Although she received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan, Madonna dropped out and moved to New York City in 1978. It was there that the young artist began to develop into a pop music icon.
Before becoming an actress, Diaz was one of the best cheerleaders at Long Beach Polytechnic High School. The blonde beauty got her start as a fashion model at age 16, working for the likes of Calvin Klein and Levi’s. In 1994, Diaz starred in The Mask, which launched her into the spotlight.
Long before her days of becoming a well known culinary star, Rachael Ray was a cheerleader at Lake George High School, in Lake George, New York. How cool is that? It’s not hard to see the striking resemblance to what she looks like today with her short brown hair and small button nose. Nowadays Ray is spending most of her time in the kitchen on her multiple shows on the Food Network. She even had her own line of kitchenware!
Ciara was the captain of Riverdale High School’s cheerleading squad and has wholeheartedly admitted to loving the dancing, energy, and excitement that came along with the sport. In an interview, the R&B singer revealed, “Unfortunately, I couldn’t be as involved as I wanted to be because it was a year when my music started to become even more important to me.” CiCi may have traded in her pom-poms, but focusing on her music definitely paid off big time in the end.
Kathie Lee Gifford
She may have been born in Paris, but Kathie Lee Gifford arrived in Bowie, Maryland at just four years old and by 14 she was a cheerleader. Gifford won Maryland’s Junior Miss Pageant in 1970, an event that moved her out of Bowie and on her way to superstardom. After high school graduation, Gifford studied drama and music at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She’s now best known for her 15-year run on the talk show Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee.
Ripa, who grew up in southern New Jersey, showed an affinity for performance at a young age, as she became a cheerleader at Eastern Regional High School. It wasn’t until her drama teacher, Jim Beckley, encouraged her to pursue acting that she finally recognized her true calling. After dropping out of college, Ripa moved to New York City to become an actress, and landed her first major role on the soap opera All My Children. Since then she has appeared as host of Live With Kelly and Ryan.
Once upon a time, before she became an award winning actress, Sandra Bullock was a cheerleader leading pep rallies at Washington-Lee High School. The Blind Side actress Sandra Bullock attended Washington-Lee High School nestled in Arlington Virginia. Bullock also performed in her school’s theater productions before graduating in the class of 1982.
The daughter of a hospital manager and psychiatric nurse Halle Berry did it all at Bedford High School in Cleveland, where she was a cheerleader, honors student, editor of the school newspaper, and was even prom queen. Berry made her television debut in 1989 and two years later broke out on the big screen in Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever. In 2001, the talented actress became the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Monsters Ball.
For Mexican-American actress Eva Longoria, cheerleading wasn’t only an extracurricular activity she enjoyed but also one that directly parlayed into a successful Hollywood career. Longoria was a cheerleader at Roy Miller High School, in Corpus Christi, Texas, and continued to cheer during her college years at Texas A&M-Kingsville. In 1998, Longoria won the Miss Corpus Christi pageant during which she was discovered by a theatrical agent in Los Angeles. Longoria is known best for her role as Gabrielle Solic in the ABC series Desperate Housewives.
Denise Richards went through many phases as she grew up in Illinois as an athletic tomboy. That was before she became a cheerleader for El Camino High School after moving to Oceanside California with her family. After graduating, Richards spent the majority of the 1990s taking on roles in productions such as Saved By The Bell, and Married With Children until she met former husband, Charlie Sheen. Given her cheer background, she may have been the one who taught him to spell W-I-N-N-I-N-G.
The daughter of a former Wall Street trader, Lohan grew up on Long Island in New York, where she cheerlead for both Cold Spring Harbor High School and Sanford H. Calhoun high school, before opting for homeschooling. Lohan began her career as a child model for brands like Abercrombie, Calvin Klein, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, and Jell-O. In 1998 Lohan landed her first successful movie role in The Parent Trap, followed by Freaky Friday in 2003.
Although Munn was raised primarily in Japan, where her stepfather was stationed in the Air Force, her roots run deep in Oklahoma. It should come as no surprise that cheerleading is a part of the actress’ background. When her mother and stepfather split, Munn moved back to Oklahoma City where she began cheering for Putnam City North High School. After graduating with a degree in journalism, Munn moved to Los Angeles and began working in show business ultimately landing the lead in Iron Man.
Who would have known that Streep was the type to rock a cheerleader uniform? Someone very sneaky managed to get ahold of Streep’s high school yearbook in 2012 and shared the photographic evidence of her cheer days with the world. Apparently, before she was one of the world’s greatest living actresses, Streep was a varsity cheerleader at Bernards High School in New Jersey. We bet she was one of the fiercest gals on the squad.
The controversial comedian is almost unrecognizable as a 17-year-old in this astonishing photo from her high school yearbook. Griffin attended Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park, Illinois. The outspoken redhead – who has made no secret of her numerous procedures – has come a long way from her days as a fresh-faced member of her school spirit squad. Here we can see popular Kathy standing on her teammate’s hands as they pose in what appears to be an impeccable formation.
This photo is living proof that Alicia Silverstone was and always will be an all-American beauty. With her luscious long blonde locks, baby blue eyes, and ruby red lips, Alicia looks even more patriotic in her red white and blue uniform. Born to British parents in San Francisco, the Clueless actress honed her performance chops at San Mateo High School, by cheering on her fellow Bearcats. She probably never guessed that her cheerleading experience would lead to a career in Hollywood.
When speaking about women who can do it all, Blake Lively is a name that often comes up. With an actor father and talent scout mother, Lively seemed destined for the limelight. However, she was initially not interested in performing at all. After years of acting conditioning, when Lively made it to Burbank High School she needed to find time not only for homework and cheerleading but also to film her scenes for the movie The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
Believe it or not, Zellweger wasn’t always a cool and confident actress. During her time at Katy High School in Katy, Texas, Zellweger was a part of the cheerleading squad where she flipped, dipped, and did the occasional hand spring. These talents have stuck with Zellweger because apparently, she’s still got the moves! The Bridget Jones’s Diary actress stopped by the Jimmy Fallon Show to show off her cheerleading moves, as well as her incredibly toned legs.
Before she started making America laugh on shows like Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation, Poehler was energizing crowds at her high school’s football games. As a teen, Poehler moved from Newton to Burlington, Massachusetts where she was a pom-pom wielding cheerleader for Burlington High School from 1986 to 10 1989. After high school, she graduated from Boston College with a degree in communications and later Poehler moved to Chicago, where she continued to improve her comedic skills.
Diane Sawyer revealed that as a teenager she often felt overshadowed by her older sister. It wasn’t until she became a cheerleader for Seneca High School in Louisville, Kentucky that Sawyer began to break out of that loner stage. Cheerleading was just the first taste of fame for Sawyer as she spent three years on tour promoting the Coca-Cola Pavilion at the World’s Fair, and in 1978, she appeared on televisions throughout the country after joining ABC News, where she still remains today.
Just when we thought fried chicken was the best thing to come out of Kentucky, there’s The Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence, who grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, had a very busy extracurricular schedule. During J-Law’s high school years she played softball, basketball, field hockey, and was also a member of the cheer team during her high school years. Since graduating and moving up in the ranks of Hollywood, Lawrence has starred in big name films including Silver Linings Playbook, and X-Men: First Class.
Miley was so cute back in the day, who would have guessed that years later she would be swinging back and forth partially clothed on a giant wrecking ball? Anyways, back to cute baby cheerleader Miley. When the Hannah Montana actress was seven years old, she became a cheerleader for the Tennessee Premier soccer team in her small hometown of Franklin. One might say that performing is in Miley Cyrus’ blood as she was born to country singer Billy Ray Cyrus.
For Dakota Fanning, acting came long before cheering. Acting roles came pouring in left and right when she was a child, and the young star blossomed into a frequent guest on television shows like ER, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Practice, Spin City, Ally McBeal and The Ellen Show. With her acting career solidly built, Fanning began to focus on her education and other social aspects of school. She was on the varsity cheerleading squad at Campbell Hall School and was also named the homecoming queen.
Gabrielle Union was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but at the age of eight moved with her family to Pleasanton, California, where she was raised. During high school, Union was a cheerleader and took those skills to the silver screen playing Torrence’s rival cheerleader, Isis, in the 2000 smash hit film Bring It On. Sports are a big deal in the Union family, and Gabrielle once said,”In my family, if you couldn’t talk Cornhusker football, then you don’t get to have an opinion.”
Given the role of Emma Pillsbury she plays on Glee, constantly going to battle with cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, it’s ironic that Jayma Mays was a cheerleader herself in high school. With her ringlet curls, big bright smile, and perfectly pressed uniform, it looks like Mays made one heck of a cheerleader. It also seems as if she got on very well with the rest of the girls on her squad judging from her playful pose with the girl on her left.
Before graduating from the University of Virginia and beginning her successful career in journalism in 1979, Couric attended various public high schools in Arlington, Virgina where she was a spirited cheerleader. The journalist and television host is now famous for being the Global Anchor of Yahoo! News and 60 minutes. We would never have guessed that Katie Couric would look so adorable as a cheerleader, but the famous journalist sure had some moves back in the day.
While this photo doesn’t scream cheer captain like the pictures of other celebrities on this list, believe us that Jones was a contributing member of the spirit squad during her grade school days. Although Rashida Jones was a cheerleader, she has admitted to being one of those ‘well-rounded students,’ having also participated in math club and the National Honor Society. She was a pom-pom shaking student with a nerdy side, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of balance.
From adorable cheerleader to power attorney, it’s easy to see how this Southern belle acquired her enviable self-esteem. Before Parks landed a spot on the riveting reality show Real House Wives Of Atlanta, and before she was throwing it down in the court room, she was a simple country girl with a drive for more. While attending Clarke Central High School located in Athens, Georgia, Phaedra passed the time by cheering on her school’s squad. After graduation in 1990, she went on to pursue a career in law.
Going back in time a little bit, here’s yet another celebrity who was a cheerleader before becoming a superstar on the silver screen. The Swedish-American actress, singer, and dancer was a cheerleader at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois. We don’t know about you, but judging from this photo we see that Margaret had star potential way back in the day. Just look at that glimmer in her eye as well as that animated power stance.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
Cheerleading isn’t all fun and games, and for some girls, the competitive sport can get dangerous, but not in the way you think. Before Jersey Shore, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was a high school cheerleader in Marlboro, N.Y., Polizzi said, “Cheerleading was my life in high school, but it wasn’t always easy for me. I started to be anorexic. There were freshmen, who were 70 pounds and I was, like, my spot as a flier is going to get taken away. So I ended up starving myself.’
It’s no surprise that Paula Abdul started off in cheerleading. She was a cheerleader and an honors student at Van Nuys High School in Los Angeles, California and after graduating went on to become a Laker Girl. Once there, she was nominated as the head choreographer for the squad. While she looks very cute in that Lakers uniform, Abdul traded in her pom-poms for a seat at the judge’s table as she became one of three judges of American Idol.
Life really does imitate art especially for actress and former cheerleader Mandy Moore. The Princess Diaries star used to be a Pop Warner cheerleader which probably explains why she was able to master her role as the pom pom waving Lana Thomas in The Princess Diaries. Moore proved she had talent at a young age as she debuted her smash single, “Candy,” at just 15! Moore also starred in A Walk to Remember, and currently stars in TV show This Is Us.
With her impeccable performance as Torrance Shipman in the cheerleading comedy Bring It On, it’s no surprise that Kirsten Dunst was a cheerleader herself until 2000, which happened to be the same year the movie was released. Born in New Jersey, Dunst was signed to Ford Modeling Agency at 3-years-old and appeared in over 100 TV commercials. All the while, the blue-eyed beauty found time to be a cheerleader for Laurel Hall School and later Notre Dame High School.
Before she was an actress, Kristie Alley cheered on her school’s athletes in Wichita Southeast High School in Kansas. After dropping out of Kansas State University, the actress moved to Los Angeles to pursue Scientology and try and make it big in Hollywood. A few years later, she replaced actress Shelley Long on the cast of Cheers, gaining four Emmy nominations and one win for her role as Rebecca Howe. She has since played in many films and television series.
Chrissy Teigen seems to break the internet every time she posts a picture. She shared the cutest photo of herself as a high school cheerleader to Instagram. Before her modeling days, she was a football cheerleader. Surrounded by her teammates, Teigen dimply smile and sleek dark hair as she posed in her Snohomish High School’s adorable red and white cheerleading uniform.
Paul Rudd simply does not age – he has made a name for himself in Hollywood as the ever-so-lovable stud. Way before he was one of the industry’s favorite actors, Rudd was a cheerleader, or “yell leader” when he was a high school student in Overland Park, Kansas. He was also elected Student Body President – which doesn’t come as much of a surprise to us, considering his smile is contagious. Fun fact, up until around 70 years ago, cheerleading was a predominantly male sport!
She found fame thanks to her killer dance moves in the 2006 film Step Up, so it makes total sense that she used to be a dancer. But before she started in Hollywood, Jenna Dewan was an ordinary high school cheerleader in Texas. Jenna first got her big break in the entertainment industry, working as a back-up dancer for music icon Janet Jackson in 2001. The dancer turned actress shared a cute throwback photo on Instagram of her cheerleader days alongside the caption: ‘#tbt to Texas high school cheerleader days.’
Before she starred in Orange Is the New Black, Danielle Brooks was a cheerleader. She did eventually quit because of how she felt in the skirt. In an emotional letter that the actress shared online, she wrote: “You really quit cheerleading because of how you felt you looked when you were wearing a skirt? OK! Never ever quit anything again because you’re scared of what others might think of you — unless you become an exotic dancer, the only exception. But even then, only quit because you want to.”
Unlike other ladies on this list, back when she was in high school Melissa Rycroft was on the drill squad. She was such a talented dancer already that she made it as first lieutenant. Later, she became a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys, and made her debut TV appearances on CMT’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team. She also appeared on The Bachelor and, afterward, Dancing with the Stars. Most recently, she was a host on CMT’s Redneck Island.
Stacy Keibler used her good looks and smarts to get where she is today. Utilizing her athleticism, she got a job as a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader. Then, she used that as a springboard to enter professional wrestling as part of WCW from 1999 to 2001. That year, she moved to WWE, where she was a regular presence for five years. Keibler still makes occasional appearances but started concentrating on publishing a fitness editor at Stuff magazine in 2005, for which she also modeled. She’s appeared in several films and regularly appears as a TV hostess.
Samuel L. Jackson
He might be the last person you’d expect to appear on this list, but the truth is that Samuel L. Jackson was on the cheer squad when he was a student at Morehouse College. Interestingly, he joined in order to meet women, as Morehouse is a men’s school. While at school to become a marine biologist, he joined a local acting troupe to get points in a class. This piqued his interest and he switched majors, eventually getting a Bachelor of Arts in Drama degree.
Jesse James Decker
Jesse James Decker has come a long way since she was a 15-year-old cheerleader, but this has always been to the side of her music passion. That year, she was rejected by Nashville labels after auditioning, yet it was her experiences there that helped her get better. Within a few years, Decker was writing and performing hit music and started gaining recognition. She’s since appeared in reality TV shows alongside her husband, former NFL wide receiver Eric Decker, and gotten involved in fashion design.
Long before she became famous for her role as Aria Montgomery in Pretty Little Liars, Lucy Hale was a cheerleader in school. She’s been involved in singing and acting since she was young, though, and appeared as a competitor in the singing competition TV show American Juniors. Hale made her big debut on the silver screen with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 in 2008 and hasn’t looked back since. Although she hasn’t found widespread success with music yet, she describes it as her “first love” and released an album in 2014, Road Between.
We all know him for his stellar performances in blockbuster films such as The Pink Panther and Father of the Bride. But what we didn’t know is that Steve Martin was also a member of his high school cheerleading squad in Garden Grove, California. The comedian also tried to write funny cheers for his squad to perform, but they weren’t too pleased with them, to say the least.
There is no denying that Sally Field has come a long way during her 50+ year career. Not only has she starred in hit movies such as Forrest Gump and Mrs. Doubtfire, but she also has two Academy Awards to her name! What many casual fans don’t realize though is that the talented actress, who also had big TV roles in shows such as The Flying Nun and Gidget, enjoyed performing as a cheerleader when she was younger. She performed at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, California.
It feels like Reese Witherspoon has been around forever and yet, until this very day, she looks like she has been the same age for the last 30 years! Not only has she appeared in hit movies such as Legally Blonde, but Witherspoon has even won an Academy Award for her role in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. The talented actress posted this photo on social media of the good old days when she performed as a cheerleader at her school.
Here we have Nene Leakes before the fame and the fortune of starring in the popular E! reality series Real House Wives Of Atlanta. It now all makes sense to us why Leakes is so spunky and spirited on the show. From a young age the TV personality was clearly into rousing people up and putting on a good show, and it all started in grade school. She also looks like a natural with her casual pose showcasing her pom-poms.
Married to an NFL free agent, it seems all but destined that Simpson was a cheerleader during her years at Richardson North Junior High School in Texas. Even after Simpson dropped out of high school at age 15 to pursue her singing career, the blonde is still remembered by Cowboys fans as Tony Romo’s former biggest cheerleader. Simpson dropped out of J.J. Pearce High School after she impressed then-Columbia Records exec Tommy Mottola, who signed her for a record deal immediately.
Even at age 30, model-turned-actress Brooklyn Decker could probably still pass for a high school cheerleader. In 2005, Decker attended and cheered for Butler High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. Not only was Decker a member of the spirit squad but she was also her school’s senior class president. We wonder if she’s responsible for planning her 10-year reunion? If so, we’re sure all of her classmates will be green with envy after one look at the successful actress and supermodel.
When fame got too much for the second youngest of the Kardashian Klan, she slipped into her uniform and escaped through competitive dance, better known as cheerleading. Throughout her high schools days, Kendall was a cheerleader, but we’re not talking about just any kind of cheerleader. To be even more specific Kendall was on the varsity squad for Sierra Canyon School. Girls on the varsity team were specially outfitted in a snazzy blue and white uniform complete with matching metallic pom poms as seen below.
Before he became a world renowned actor, Kirk Douglas actually rose to high school fame when he joined his cheerleading squad. He perfected his skills at his local high school, Amsterdam High School, in Amsterdam, New York. But that’s not all…
For the Transformers actress cheerleading did not necessarily translate into high school popularity, as Fox was born in Tennessee into a strict Pentecostal family. When the actress’ family moved to Florida, Fox attended Morningside Academy in Port St. Lucie, where she was a member of the cheerleading squad, but was also bullied. After moving to California, Fox made her acting debut in 2001 and three years later starred alongside Lindsay Lohan as a cheerleader in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.
While Olivia Wilde attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, she was on the step team. According to the Love The Coopers actress, stepping is another form of cheering. Wilde even commented on this photo saying, “This was a great squad. The funny thing about this picture is that my high school happens to also be the school that George W. Bush went to. And one of the most famous photographs of him was as head cheerleader in almost this exact same outfit.”
It’s clear Michael Douglas loves to follow in his father’s footsteps. Just like his pop, Douglas became a famous actor. But before that, he joined his cheerleading squad, too, at Choate Preparatory School. Needless to say, the Douglas men are talented in many unexpected ways.