'Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team': Kelli Finglass Teases What to Expect From 16th Season (Exclusive)

With the NFL season underway, this means Dallas Cowboys fans get to see more of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. This also means the CMT series Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team returns for the 16th season, and it's the biggest season based on the number of women competing to be part of the most iconic cheerleading squad in the world. PopCulture.com recently caught with Kelli Finglass, the director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and she teased what to expect from the new season, which premieres Friday at 9 p.m. ET. 

"Fans are going to see us emotionally experiencing becoming a team again, that fellowship part of it," Finglass told PopCulture. "Our cheerleaders last year, we were in separate locker rooms and we were always having to keep them so far away and masked and just away from each other, it almost felt unnatural. This year we are celebrating being back together. We are celebrating being on the turf, and it's some tearful moments, to be honest with you, when that happens."

For the new season, Finglass, team head choreographer and former Cowboys cheerleader Judy Trammell looked at over 600 audition tapes. It ended with them bringing 26 returning veterans and 25 rookies to AT&T Stadium, the home of the Cowboys, for training camp. 

"We had ladies from 45 states try out this year, and those journeys and the backstories and even some of the adversity that some have overcome to be here are heartwarming and heartwrenching. It's an emotional season," Finglass revealed. "Then we had a couple of little unexpected departures, we have big makeovers, we have some lessons in grace and maturity, so it's funny. It's a special season. It's special because nothing was easy and nothing is taken for granted."

Because the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have built a brand over the years, making the squad is not easy. Along with performing on Sundays, the cheerleaders do their share of promotional events throughout the year.  And that leads to the question of what does Finglass look for in a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader?

"The first rounds of auditions are now online submissions, so you see them aesthetically; are they beautiful to 14 different sets of eyeballs and judges?" Finglass said. "And then the dance technique has to be there because our choreography is elevated now, it's fast-moving, they have to be really smart dancers because in a football game, you don't know what music's going to be played. It's all conditional, depending upon if you're on offense or defense or touchdown or extra point, that's what dictates the music being played."

And despite being the director of the team for 30 years, cuts are never easy for Finglass. "The first cut's the hardest and the last cut's equally the hardest, but I really just have to trust in my process, my professional judges from broadcast, from the dance world, from the fashion industry, all of those, and make the most comprehensive decision that I can sleep with at night," she said. "It's hard. It is. But the celebration part for the 36 ladies that make the team is just an amazing magic carpet."