Cheerio!! It’s that time of the year when the NFL is headed to London for the International Game once again at Wembley!! Virgin Atlantic is the sponsor and last year I had the honor of being the RED HOT REPORTER they sent to cover the festivities!! Well, this year they are selecting 2 lucky peeps to enjoy the experience..and this time around they are looking for the biggest fans for the team’s that’ll be playing there this year. The St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots…
I’ve never done one of these “Top 10” lists before, but with the year winding down, I started thinking about all that I’ve done this year and decided to sum it all up! No doubt 2011 has been a VERY memorable one…filled with travel, cross-country moves, fun interviews and always surrounded by the love of family and friends. So, without further adieu…here goes:
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#9 – Back to my Pro Dance/Cheer Roots
I became a Regional Director/Consultant for Going Pro Entertainment. In my role with GPE, I coach women as they work toward their goals of auditioning and being selected as a Dancer and/or Cheerleader for a pro (sports) team! I coordinated and hosted 2 very successful all day dance conventions in Miami and the Bay Area, and I’m proud to say a handful of the women are now on pro and semi-pro teams living out their dreams…namely Rachel of the San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush! Another exciting event was the inaugural NFL Pro Cheer Alumni Reunion in Las Vegas. Watch this video for the highlights!
It was a quick flight to Cozumel to meet up and board the ship for a very special “at sea” performance by Taylor Swift! Not to mention I got to experience cruising on one of the biggest and newest vessels out there…very memorable!
One of my Miami gal pal’s heads up marketing for Equinox Gym’s in South Florida and she said there was an event going on with a celebrity that would be featured on The Ellen Show during a Zumba class, so could I attend!?!? I was like sure, no problem…well lo and behold…the celeb was none other than the Miami HEAT’s LeBron James!
On The Flipside continued to take on a life of its own in 2011, bridging my passion for sports and my “career” as a host, reporter, broadcaster. It’s an online TV Show I produce, host and edit in my spare time and I’d say 7 episodes is an accomplishment…we’re finishing the year with a 34 total episodes since its launch in 2009 and a handful of extra “specials” too. This year I had the opportunity to feature sports celebs like Santonio Holmes, Marshawn Lynch, Dwight Howard, Stephen Curry and Dwyane Wade, just to name a few.
I celebrated my birthday on both coasts this year, felt like I was on “tour.” Tariq made sure it was extra special, completely spoiling me…that paired with being able to see and share the occasion with so many of my friends made it so memorable! From Miami to LA and finally back home in the Bay, my 2011 birthday was a reminder of how blessed I am!!
One of my favorite things to do is travel, and while I’m usually not too much of an adventurous type, in 2011 I dared to be different. During my visit to Maui with my sister and Dad, we decided to embark on a downhill bike ride on the Haleakala Volcano! It was a 22-mile ride, that in the end I am so glad to say I did, but really there were times I was like what did I get myself into!?!? haha
Then on my Ocho Rios, Jamaica excursion, I had the unique opportunity to go horseback riding in the ocean…which was fun, but seeing the horses relieve themselves in the water while we were riding around in it…not so much! LOL
Well, what can I say, in 2011 I left Miami and the East Coast in May to return to my beloved Bay Area. I took a job as a TV Reporter at KRON and decided it was time to take that leap of faith! Needless to say, it didn’t last long…the gloom & doom, murder & mayhem nature of the news just wasn’t for me! I’ve been back living the (freelance) Miami life and 2012 is promising to deliver lots of new beginnings! I can’t hardly wait.
#2 – Virgin Atlantic’s RED HOT REPORTER in LONDON
In October of 2011 I had the opportunity and trip of a lifetime courtesy of Virgin Atlantic, after I was chosen as their Red Hot Reporter for the NFL International Series between the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium! Tariq was able to come long for the “ride” and together we were privy to VIP access for all the events, parties and fun festivities!! The entire journey from start to finish was a top notch, 5-star, first class experience that I will never forget…I’ve got my fingers crossed they’ll want more of my Red Hot Reporting next fall 2012 too!! 😉
#1 – TARIQ
Hands down THE highlight of my 2011 was finally finding my best friend and partner for life! The story of how Tariq and I came to be is something you could read in the pages of a romance novel, but certainly a long time coming…our paths have definitely crossed more than a few times over the years, but in 2011, they finally were in sync and the rest is history, with the BEST yet to come! 😀
Football Sunday arrived so quick, I was still reminding myself I was IN London! Since going to Wembley for the “main event” was the focus of the weekend, I couldn’t wait to get there…I’d heard so much about all the great sporting events that had been held there, as well as concerts and other events…it’s sort of a pseudo hobby of mine to visit different stadiums and arenas when I travel, so I can now add Wembley to the list!
Kickoff was set for 6pm, but the Virgin Atlantic crew headed out early to attend the NFL Tailgate festivities being held outside before they opened the doors…
It was quite a sight to see THOUSANDS of fans out early in an array of NFL jerseys, representing virtually every one of the 32 teams… I sort of wondered how the British fans were selecting their team garb, was it the colors, the team’s city, the player?? I even saw some fans who sort of mixed and matched team apparel..hehe That’s a first! Nonetheless, great to see them all in the spirit and having fun taking part in an All-American tradition!!
Once inside, we made a beeline to the Virgin Atlantic Suite at “Pitch West,” where I was greeted/escorted by the gorgeous Virgin Atlantic Cabin Crew…
…into a stunning suite!! VERY “SWANKY!!”
Next, I ventured down to the field level to hang out on the sidelines before the game while the teams warmed up. FYI – I used the “Queen’s Lift” to make my way down!! 🙂
While down on the field for pregame, I ran into Tony Siragusa doing his thing for NFL on FOX… And — I bumped into my buddy Major Wright who is a Safety for the Bears.
When it came time for the game’s opening ceremony, it was very comparable to what you’d see in any NFL Stadium on a Sunday. They had the pregame performance by the cheerleaders, the anthems, the pyro, etc…
There’s just something about hearing the US National Anthem in another country…makes me proud to be an American! And, I think they did a little ‘extra’ for this game too, with a performance by the Goo Goo Dolls! 😉
T and I even got to visit with some of his friends from Chicago who made a spur of the moment decision to fly out for the game! Talk about loyal fans…
Eventually, we ‘retired’ to the Virgin Suite to take in the beautiful view!!
We also got an unobstructed overhead look at the shirtless guy running laps on the field…LOL Sort of random, but even more amusing was how he easily ran up and down the field, stopping to “high 5” one of the Bucs and eluding a few security before they could tackle him! WOW!
The NFL International Series game experience in Wembley was nothing short of awesome…definitely something I will never forget!
Sadly, the next day was time to travel back across the pond -I did try to extend my trip, but flights were tight, so I’ll just have to go back another time! However…BONUS!! We experienced the Virgin Atlantic VIP treatment once again when we got to Heathrow to check in for the flight home.
First was a separate VIP entrance for check in and security…
Then a MEGA 12,000 square foot Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, where we could chill out prior to boarding!
Talk about “swanky” this place was super plush with lounge seating, a restaurant, spa and salon as well as fully-stocked bar! See for yourself….
Usually I’m not trying to have a LOOOONG time at the airport before my flight, but I could hang out in this clubhouse all day! Too bad I didn’t have more time, as I would’ve indulged in ALL the services!! haha
Thank you Virgin Atlantic for hosting us on this absolutely FABULOUS, one of a kind, trip of the year!! My experience as #RedHotReporter was nothing short of AMAZING and I can’t wait to do it again! 🙂
I woke up well-rested for my 2nd day in London as Virgin Atlantic’s Red Hot Reporter. We started with brunch at an Italian Restaurant near our hotel – St. Martins Lane is in a “happening” spot, literally steps to several cafe’s, restaurants, shops and points of interest! Then, the first activity on the agenda was a trip to Trafalgar Square where the NFL was holding its “Fan Rally.”
T is from Chicago, so he suited up in his BEARS gear…and I did too for the occasion! 😉
The place was packed with British and American fans. Thousands of people flooded the square, and it was really cool to see the NFL getting so much LOVE in London! And even though it was technically Tampa Bay’s “home game” in London, there were clearly more BEARS fans in the crowd. BTW, did you know the Bucs owner also owns Manchester United, hence a great UK tie-in for them! **NOTE: I kept thinking if the RAIDERS ever get to play in London, I KNOW the RAIDER NATION would be out in full force and England would be covered in Silver and Black!
We caught this moment of the Chicago Bears making a brief appearance at the event…
One of the main attractions were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders…they can’t get enough of the NFL Cheerleaders in London! And — since the BEARS are one of the few NFL teams who do not have Pro Cheerleaders, the spotlight was squarely on ladies from Tampa Bay! I had the opportunity to interview a few of the ladies before they got on stage to perform, that will pop up On The Flipside soon!
At the same time I bumped into the cheerleaders, I also got the chance to meet NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He was very cool and took a few moments to chat with me about being the Red Hot Reporter and what I was doing for Virgin to share my NFL London experience with my peeps on social media..he was into it! 😉
The rally was a cool experience, I met many NFL Legends, including members of the 85 Bears, as well as fans who trekked from the U.S. and other parts of Europe to experience the festivities.
Uhm, did I mention I was interviewed for NFL Network?? I have no idea if this has aired or what they are going to do with the footage, but I’m sure someone will let me know if they catch my interview!!
After the rally, the excitement did not stop as we did a quick wardrobe change and set off for the NFL London Bash!
It was a swanky “invite only” event with some “celeb” sightings…
Jerome Bettis (Above) & Cuba Gooding Jr. (Below)
I haven’t talked too much about the cuisine in London, and they are NOT known for it, but one kind of “interesting” dish they had at the party was a beef meatballs with tomato sauce over mashed potatoes dish…not bad! :/ hehe
The highlight of the evening was a performance by London native, now international superstar Estelle!
All in all, a FUN night, overall GREAT day..and the best is yet to come!! At this point, the credentials are stacking up and I needed to get a good night’s rest for the big game at Wembley Stadium.
DAY 3 of my Red Hot Reporter RECAP is coming up tomorrow!!
Day 1 to London, I traveled to Washington-Dulles to meet up with my PR rep who was traveling with me (and T) to the UK. So, we set off early from Florida, before arriving at Dulles and we headed straight for the infamous Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse!
We had about a 4-5 hour layover, but let me tell you, the time flew by hanging out inside the very chic Clubhouse while waiting for the flight…the best part, the food! 🙂 Uh, I sampled just about everything on the menu…Chicken Corn Chowder, Shrimp Cocktail, Italian Sausage Pasta, Berries and Cream dessert and a Lemon one as well… 0_O
Soon enough, our “ride” arrived…
Once on flight we relaxed and even had a drink at “the bar!”
It was a quick flight into London, and we hit the ground running, coming off of a red-eye flight from IAD to LHR! Now, for many people, a “red eye” isn’t the most ideal, but actually, flying on Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy was super comfortable and upon arrival at Heathrow, I was able to utilize their (VIP) Revivals Lounge, which is where I was able to shower and freshen up with all the amenities of a luxe hotel!
Our first stop of the day was Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice at the Pennyhill Park Hotel (and Spa) and after practice I had the opportunity to interview a few of the players.
I have fresh footage that I will be editing On The Flipside, but for now here’s the clip of me and the most veteran Buc, Ronde Barber, talking about the experience of being in London to play American Football!!
After hanging out with the Bucs, we headed over to “The Oval” aka the Surrey County Cricket Club where the Chicago Bears would be practicing. This venue is considered the Yankee Stadium of cricket, and as luck would have it, a few cricket players were on hand to demo the game, so a few of the Bears tried it out before their practice!
Below a picture of Chicago Bears – Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Brian Urlacher and Matt Forte taking in the sights.
Lance Briggs takes a swing at cricket…
I also snapped a photo with Coach Lovie Smith
And — I talked one on one with Charles Tillman! Here’s a snippet, more to come OTF.
After we wrapped at Bears practice we checked into the St. Martins Lane Hotel in central London! I can’t tell you how exciting it was to take a “breather,” as the 2 days of travel and attending events, actually felt like one LONG day, running on pure adrenaline, fighting the time change, etc..! BUT — did I mention the in-room cupcakes!?!? 🙂
We had a free evening Friday, so T and I met up with my friend Christian (an Australian living in London), he took up to the Skylon restaurant for dinner overlooking the Thames, then we did a quick walking tour to see Big Ben and Parliament as well as Westminster Abbey and the London Eye, etc…
Tomorrow I will post my Day 2 RECAP…and stay tuned for NEW footage which will be On The Flipside soon!!
I WON!!! I’m the #RedHotReporter for Virgin Atlantic for the NFL International Series… The game is going down Oct. 23 in London (yes, England) at Wembley Stadium when the BUCS take on da BEARS!!! Cheerio!!
PICK ME! I want to be @VirginAtlantic‘s #RedHotReporter for the NFL International Series in London!! First off, I am a FAN, I grew up on football and even had the honor of gracing the NFL sidelines as a pro cheerleader for 2 NFL teams, taking my “fan status” to another level. I know all about the game, the experience and I’m still an unofficial “ambassador” for the NFL, being recognized as an alumni of the elite group of women who have cheered as team representatives and ultimate fans from the NFL sidelines! Alright…going into the archives for the throwback pics…RAIDERS and CARDINALS!
Outside of my “dance and cheer” background, I have been working as a TV reporter since I graduated from college, so that’s what I do, ask questions, observe and tell stories/share info with the masses!
I have also taken my love for reporting and sports one step further by creating and hosting On The Flipside …a Sports Lifestyle show featuring Pro Sports/Athletes and entertainment away from the game, and it’s another way for me to connect with the fans and share the “flipside” of sports they may not normally see! http://ontheflipsidetv.com I could do a London episode!! 🙂
Between my twitter(s), FB pages, blogs, channels, etc…I have several thousand followers, I’ve accumulated hundreds of thousands of video views… and I’ve built all this up by my own grassroots efforts! I AM Virgin Atlantic’s #REDHOTREPORTER!! NFL Football is part of my life – to date (aside from being part of the game day experience as an NFL cheerleader), I’ve attended numerous games across the country and have journeyed to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii too, in addition to reporting on games/fans as a TV reporter! This opportunity would be an absolute dream for me to be in London and share the experience with everyone as the Official #RedHotReporter!!! If there’s anything I do well, it’s talking (a lot), tweeting and giving out the 411!
And — let’s not forget this little “sports fan” experience I took part in for ESPN! Click play below!
One more thing Virgin – I fly you coast to coast ALL THE TIME! Check my elevate account…AND I took the inaugural flight from FLL -SFO … SOOOO, why not? PICK ME!!!
P.S. MY PASSPORT IS READY TO GO!!!!
***Friends – PLEASE TWEET THE LINK to my entry http://aubreyaquino.com/2011/10/redhotreporter/ to @VirginAtlantic for @aubreyanne to be the #RedHotReporter AND COMMENT ON THIS POST BELOW!! Let them know why I’m the absolute PERFECT #RedHotReporter