Firstly, I just want to say a huge huge thank you to Mr Plein and his team for having us, particularly Simon Costin who found us and got us involved, to the Harlem Globetrotters for being so much fun backstage, to the MUA team who had to paint 20 of us in about an hour, to the male models for being beautiful and a real joy to look at - I mean work with - to our bus driver Marzia for being fantastic and supportive, to the Best Western Concorde hotel for putting up with us, to Jessica Zoo for organising this all the way from America, to Nat who came with us 4 days post op who was an incredible help, to Amona for keeping us all safe and motivated AND to any Italians who were sat next to us at any point because we must have been very loud and annoying.
On the 4th of June, Jessica told us to pencil in the 17th-19th for a 'huge' gig. Followed by 'oh, and you need to have a passport'. If you want to know how to send a group of Cheerleaders wild, mention the possibility of a weekend abroad. We were all scouring the Internet for events happening that weekend across Europe and coming to the assumption it was to do with the Euros, we waited eagerly for more information. Finally, on the 8th of June, Jessica announced that we would be flown out to Milan to perform in the Philipp Plein Men's S/S17 Fashion Show with just 9 days to prepare.
We had two rehearsals in London where we put together the routine without really knowing what we had let ourselves in for. Our routine was simple and clean with the promise that our outfits and make up combined with amazing lighting design and floor mapping would enhance our performance and make us look fabulous. The Creative Director, Simon Costin, came to our rehearsals to meet us and to see how we were getting on. Meeting him made it all seem very real and he dropped in a few exciting details that made us all squeal, cheerleader-style.
We arrived at Gatwick for 5:15am, not the best time to have to arrive at an airport, but with all the excitement sleeping on the plane was not that easy. As we arrived into Milan Malpensa airport with sunglasses to cover the bags, we saw a lovely little Italian lady standing with a sign saying 'Philipp Plein' and she lead us out to our very swanky black 30 seater coach. With a 2pm call time to get to the venue, we thought we could get a few hours disco nap in... But check in wasn't until 2pm.. "We're in Italy, let’s just get coffee!". If you have never had Nettare di Gelato before then you have not lived, it will change your life!
Our bus pulled into security laden gates and we saw a huge warehouse-type building, we headed through the back entrance in our Zoo gear and were given an area to relax in. We were told we would have a fitting and then a rehearsal so the team could see costumes on the set with the lighting etc... 5 hours later we were taken down to a dressing room to try on our costumes. What did we do in those 5 hours you may ask? Some people slept on the concrete floor (oh, the glamour of showbiz), we took pictures for our Instagram (obviously), rehearsed as a team, there were tears and laughter, hunger and tiredness but the excitement wiped away all of that when we found out we would be sharing the stage with Busta Rhymes. So, no qualms to the Italians for making us wait around.
We finished a successful rehearsal, it was 9:30pm and the exhaustion/delirium had started to kick in (those who followed us on Snapchat will have seen this), the idea of a big freshly made bed at the hotel waiting for us was fabulous. The information that we had another rehearsal at 11:30pm spread across the room like wildfire. There MAY have been a few emotional breakdowns. 1/2 went to the hotel for a lie down and 1/2 stayed at the venue for the 2 hours. I wasn't sure if my body would actually survive with this little sleep. But by some miracle (or potentially it was pizza) we all survived and the second rehearsal, with Philipp Plein himself, was a success. Finally we returned to the hotel at 2:15am and a 2pm call the next day meant we could sleep in and recharge for the big day.
THE BIG DAY
We arrived at the venue, refreshed and absolutely BUZZING... While the adrenaline overload was ridiculous. We wondered round the venue, popping our head into dressing rooms and snapping lots of silly pictures. The make up and hair room was EXACTLY what I'd imagined it to be like. All of sudden, what seemed like hundreds of make-up artists began snapping pictures left right and centre with models swanning in from every direction. We spent the afternoon being covered head to toe in neon goo (which looked INCREDIBLE under the UV lighting). We had another great rehearsal and after some wolf-whistling from some handsome Dutchmen, we sprinted back laughing to get our make-up and hair finished.
The atmosphere backstage was like nothing else, a mixture of the gigantic Harlem Globetrotters, photographers and cameras all over the place, warrior-style Cheerleaders, international male models with UV trainers and insane outfits, important people with clipboards, technicians, big Italian-mafia-type-security men and Philipp Plein. He addressed us all with some motivational words and got us all absolutely buzzing. The show began and the adrenaline surged. Watch the show edit below, we are trying to get our hands onto the full cheer performance with all our stunts and cheerleading ripple madness.
After the show we ran back to our dressing room to remove all the UV paint. This was easier said than done. There was one small bathroom and three packets of baby wipes. Pandemonium broke out, there was UV paint EVERYWHERE and we needed to get ready for the party. The basketball court stage that we performed on swiftly turned into a dance floor, a DJ booth was set up and bars put in at each end. The party was mad, it was so busy but so much fun. The rest is history and what happened in Milan, STAYS IN MILAN. There were after after parties and our Facebook message group read like a script of 'The Hangover'.
The bus arrived for us at 9:30am and by some miracle we all made it. All 21 Cheerleaders survived and made it to the airport. We cried with laughter most of the way home, sharing our stories and experiences with each other.
What a weekend..!
by Amy Clement, ZF London Cheerleader