I realize it’s probably not “professional” to leave an interview with hopes of one day calling the subject your new Los Angeles BFF, but perhaps I’m not as professional as I once thought because I desperately want to refer to Bonnie-Jill Laflin as my new LA Bestie.
Yes, she’s that cool. The International sportscaster is down to earth, has a heart of gold, and according to most of the men I’ve met, she’s not bad to look at either. She’s what some would call the whole package.
At the age of 17, while still in high school, Laflin got her start as a Golden State Warriors cheerleader. “You’re supposed to be 18,” Laflin says, “but thanks to my mom, your typical pageant mom, she finagled my birth certificate (or something like that), so I was able to cheer in the NBA in high school.”
“I wanted to cheer at UT [University of Texas] and they were going to offer me a scholarship but since I had already cheered “professionally” you’re not allowed to cheer in college because you’ve already been paid, That’s one thing I wish I would have done was cheered at UT. They have such a great university – it’s ridiculous,” she says of the Longhorns.
Though she never donned the burnt orange cheer uniform, Laflin’s professional course is anything but lacking. She also spent two years on the sidelines of 49ers games, back when Jerry Rice and Steve Young were there (yes, she got a Super Bowl ring too). From there she moved on to probably the most notable cheerleading organization in the country – the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, where she even snagged the cover of the annual swimsuit calendar.
Though she was young, she knew she wanted to do more than watch from the sidelines. With determination to make sports a part of her life, she used whatever opportunities she could to meet people and build relationships. (You’d be amazed at some of the big sports names she considers actual friends…that makes my BFF offer a little weak, but I digress.)
“I just knew [cheerleading] was a way for me to get in these organizations and inside the sports world and capitalize on it. Right out of college I was able to get a job with ESPN (then Cold Pizza, now First Take), where I was a correspondent.”
Laflin, mostly known for being the first and only female scout in the NBA, is one of the most uniquely salt-of-the-earth women you’ll ever meet. Luckily it doesn’t deter her from going after the prize. “I’ve always been a go-getter, the more and more people tell me I can’t do it, the more and more I like to prove them wrong. Anytime you’re a female in a man’s world, you always have to prove people wrong,” she explains. “You’re always under a microscope, you’re always scrutinized and if you’re attractive, oh, forget about it!
“I think (attractiveness) hinders more than it helps.” She explains, “If they think you’re attractive, they automatically think we probably can’t speak, then all of a sudden you show you’re articulate and educated and you can put sentences together, and they think WOW. When I was a scout, I would see a lot of the guys who had been scouting since the dinosaur ages and all of a sudden they see me and all they’re hearing is ‘She was in Maxim‘ or ‘She used to cheer.’ If I wasn’t attractive, I don’t think they would have cared – sometimes it can hurt you, but it’s always pushed me to give more.”
Laflin admits many are still under the guise that her looks and her looks alone got her all these roles and have kept her in front of avid sports fans this whole time. “I think that happens a lot, but once people actually watch my shows, listen to my radio shows or get to know me, they start to realize “this girl actually knows more than me.” Perception is everything,” she says and something she’s battled since day one.
When asked about any career regrets, she laughs for a minute. “People always say, ‘Oh when you were in Texas you worked as a Hooters girl,’ but I think it makes you who you are. Have I made certain choices I might not have made in my thirties? I think we all do, but there’s nothing that’s been life changing I would take back. I have a lot of layers to who I am and I’m not just going to be one-dimensional because that’s what mainstream and corporate America want you to be. I feel like I’m going to be who I am,” she says with confidence.
As besties often do, we get on the subject of dating and men, and we go off record to bash men for a few minutes as well as Twitter trolls. “I could never date someone who didn’t know sports,” she says. “I know that sounds odd to certain people, because there’s more to life. I’m a total guys’ girl – I’m always the only girl. In certain situations, guys sometimes forget I’m a chick. A lot of my friends kinda forget I’m a girl because nothing offends me – they can curse, talk about the girls they’ve slept with. I’ve been around guys so much sometimes I feel like I relate better to them.”
When it comes to labeling Bonnie-Jill’s current job title, she laughs again. “I’m hard to label I guess. I live and breathe sports. I’ve always got the scouting mind – like college bowl games–I want to see how well these guys could do in the NFL. Everyone’s way into UFC, but I’m not. I’m old school – I love boxing.”
In no particular order, the wide-eyed brunette also loves horse races (she’s been to the Kentucky Derby 11 straight years and loves betting on the ponies), big sunglasses, men who open doors, big goals and bigger dreams, baseball (particularly the San Francisco Giants), her career, rescue dogs (check out her nonprofit Hounds and Heroes), fantasy sports, soldiers and heroes of all kinds, Johnny Cash (she even named her cat after him), skiing, and vegetables (she’s a vegetarian).
For now, Laflin says she’s incredibly happy and comfortable where she is in life and is in a full-court press pushing her career even farther than she once dreamed. Next on her list: to be a minority owner of the Giants.
Be sure to follow my LA BFF on Twitter. (But word to the wise before you click follow. “If you don’t like sports, animals, or the military, you probably shouldn’t follow me on social media,” Laflin says bluntly.)
Jayme Lamm is a freelance sports and travel writer based in Houston and is currently in a full-court press writing her hugely opinionated sports column, The Blonde Side. Follow her travels for sporting events and check her out on Twitter.
Jayme recently interviewed boxer-turned-actor Victor Ortiz of Expendables 3.