These NBA Dancers Share The Dark Truths Of Their Job, Including Low Pay And Eating Disorders

Lauren, a dancer for the Milwaukee Bucks from 2013 to 2014, shared with Yahoo Lifestyle how her year as a NBA dancer affected her negativly on every level. 

“My coach would make me sit in there before games and think about if I was doing everything to be able to lose weight, you know, basically like a child in time-out.”

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Lauren shared how exactly she faced being bullied by her coach according to interviews with her lawyers. 

The Bucks informed Yahoo Lifestyle how they take each allegation “very seriously” but “have found no evidence to support these claims.”

This is not the first time Lauren has spoken out against the mistreatment. In 2015, she brought a class-action lawsuit against the Milwaukee Bucks regarding how the dancers were paid as much as $3-4 an hour after being expected to cover beauty routines like spray tans and manicures. 

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That same  year, the Bucks had brought in $87 million in revenue, and “strongly denied” the claims. 

Ultimately, the Bucks ended up settling and paying out a total of $250,000 in lost wages to 40 dancers

Lauren had shared with the press at the time how weight restrictions caused her to be dehydrated and starving just to fit into the uniform. 

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And to pay the bills, Lauren would waitress at Ruby Tuesday. 

This comes as a shock to many as what happened behind closed doors clashed greatly with the seemless public image the NBA created when it came to their beautiful dancers. 

But Lauren’s story – much like the lawsuits filed by NFL cheerleaders as of late – point that something so grand and gorgeous is actually not at all what it seems – including claims of unfair paygender discrimination and sexual harassment.

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And while it is unknown what the effect the lawsuits will be on the NFL, it represents a huge cultural change happening. 

With 15 women who have danced for the NBA, Yahoo Lifestyle conducted interviews from those who worked for the NBA from 1997 to 2018. 

Most of the women had to regularly participate in weigh-ins, body-fast assessments or both. Of the women interviewed, nine of them talked about “weight probation” or “weight warning,” which is what happened when dancers looked to be a few pounds over their “goal weight.” And as you can imagine, this led to unhealthy and disturbing methods to stay skinny. 

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“We got weighed monthly; that’s what messed with me most,” shared one dancer for the Utah Jazz from 2009-12, Sydney Sorenson. “[So] the week of weigh-ins, I came up with all these methods to weigh in smaller, like not eat anything solid for a week. … One year they weighed us after Thanksgiving, and a girl had gained weight and couldn’t perform,” she recalls. “Point blank, I would say that I definitely had an eating disorder — especially the last year.” 

“My teammates would regularly take laxatives before performances just to be able to eat regularly and still fit into this image,” one anonymous dancer who danced for the L.A. Clippers from 2011 to 2012 shared with Yahoo Lifestyle. “I did it a few times because it was regular, which is really sad. But it seemed so normal.”

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But out of such dire circumstances, many women have reported that the warped image of how bodies should look at the NBA caused them to chose a career as either a trainer or a nutritionist to help stop the unhealthy body image trend. 

“One of my biggest goals is to empower women about their bodies,” says Chenelle Young. Young danced for the Utah Jazz from 2010 to 2013 and currently directs the NBA’s international team. 

“I don’t think everyone thinks a tiny, 90-pound girl is sexy. … So I don’t understand why [the NBA] thinks everyone needs to be that.”

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