Lorenzo Gilbert becomes first openly gay, male Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Lorenzo Gilbert (center) becomes the first openly gay, male cheerleader in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history April 6. (Photo by Kyle Zedaker)

TAMPA | The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced their 2019 cheerleading squad April 6, making Lorenzo Gilbert the first openly gay, male cheerleader in the NFL team’s 44-year history.

Over 100 athletes auditioned for the squad, a week-long process that began with open preliminaries at Tampa’s AdventHealth Training Center March 30. Applicants learned routines, participated in conditioning drills and faced workshops and interviews before 49 finalists advanced to the final audition showcase the following week. A total of 32 hopefuls, including Gilbert, were appointed to the squad.

“I couldn’t be more proud of these athletes and the culture of inclusion and diversity that we have here at the Buccaneers,” owner and president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation and Glazer Family Foundation Darcie Glazer Kassewitz said in a statement. “I can’t wait for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleading squad to take the field.”

“It’s overwhelming,” Gilbert says. “I’m excited to be the first … I feel like it may help other guys who are interested to go for their dreams, but more importantly just dare to be different.”

Gilbert—who has utilized his extensive dance background as an entertainer for Royal Caribbean, Walt Disney World and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay—says he auditioned after a casual conversation with friends.

“A few of my coworkers were cheerleaders the previous season,” he recalls. “We were talking about auditions and I jokingly said I was going to do it this year. Their response was ‘Oh my god, you should. We would love to have a boy.’”

As preliminaries grew closer, the prospect made Gilbert uneasy. “I wasn’t sure how the public would receive it,” he says. “I didn’t have much knowledge about male cheerleaders in the NFL. I did a little research, got with the girls to prepare, showed up on audition day and the rest is history.”

The Miami native and Tampa resident has also utilized his dance background for competitive pageantry. As Isaiah Sanchez Hilton, the 32-year-old entertainer has won Mr. Wessland, Mr. St Pete Pride and Mr. Duval Newcomer, been named a top five finalist for Mr. Continental two years in row and recently secured a first alternate placement in Mr. Black Universe.

“This is my first time cheering,” Gilbert explains. “The pageant arena actually helped prepare me for a lot of the process; I’m used to being on a stage and being a focal point, so it was a little easier to get some of the nervousness out of me for audition day.”

“It was not an easy task, just like with anything,” he adds. “There were a lot of sleepless nights leading up to the audition process. I was preparing, studying Bucs history and watching videos of male cheerleaders. From my appearance to my manners, just everything, I had to make sure I was completely polished as if I was competing in a pageant.”

Gilbert says his recent success is the story of an individual in an unfamiliar arena; someone who believed in himself and received encouragement from others to chase a dream. “That’s the message I plan on portraying all year,” he says. “At the end of the day you can’t second guess or doubt yourself. You have to go for what you truly want—the journey itself is more important than the prize.”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will celebrate the newest additions to the Bucs family at Raymond James Stadium during their Official 2019 Draft Party on April 25, featuring appearances by players, alumni and cheerleaders. For more information and to register for your free tickets, visit Buccaneers.com/DraftParty.

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