Camryn Gaines
Category: 2022 College Winner

Camryn Gaines

Since the beginning of the sport we know today as “cheerleading,” an, essentially, implied image of how a cheerleader looks has been there. Who fits that image? I, myself, became a cheerleader about 12 years ago. Shortly after starting, I noticed the lack of others that looked like me (Black representation). One of my favorite pastimes when I first began my cheer career was watching videos of older girls and women cheering, and I would always wonder why it was so hard to find videos of Black cheerleaders. One day, as I was scrolling through YouTube, I saw a young, African American lady doing jumps, stunts, and routines that immediately caught my eye. The young lady’s name is Kiara Nowlin.

Kiara Nowlin is an African American gymnast from Texas. She is recognized as a World All-Star Cheerleader and power tumbler with three cheerleading world championships and numerous gold medals under her belt.

Imagine a 7 year old girl watching someone, who looked like her, do things that, at the time, she only dreamed of doing. That was me upon my discovery of Kiara. What ultimately led to Kiara being my biggest inspiration was watching her do things at 7 that the average cheerleader would not do until they were 15. Instantly, the passion and drive started because I wanted to be just like her. I would find myself pausing videos of her so I could attempt what she had just done, and, if I couldn’t get it, I would watch it over, pause it, and try again. My parents were in awe at the skills I would pick up and retain all from watching Kiara on a computer screen. I would try to flip how she flipped, stunt how she stunted, and be as advanced as she was in everything related to the sport of cheer. What started out as an extracurricular activity would soon become my life all thanks to Kiara, herself. Twelve years have passed since I first came across her, and she is still just as much of an inspiration to me now as she was then.

I will forever owe my passion and love for cheer to Kiara Nowlin. For that, she will always be my inspiration.