A Honey Bee's Life (for the Charlotte Hornets)
Basketball fans come to watch the Hornets, but it’s awfully hard to miss the Honey Bees. With long, flowing hair and skimpy outfits, these dancers swarm the court and mingle with fans. Auditions to join their ranks are coming up.
Victoria Vesce auditioned last year to be a Honey Bee for the Hornets.
"I was very nervous, but excited at the same time, just to be in the arena. I just remember the adrenaline pumping, the nerves kicking in…but you just have to push those nerves back. And just remember, hey just be yourself," Vesce says.
She’s 22, from Eastern North Carolina and a senior at NC State, finishing up her classes online. She’d danced as a kid, and was an ice girl on the rink for the Carolina Hurricanes. She currently holds the title of Miss North Carolina Galaxy. But she’d never been on the basketball court as a dancer until last year.
Looks are pretty important, but there are other things coach Brandii McCoy considers when picking Honey Bees.
"If she has dance experience, great. If she has modeling experience, fantastic. If she has strong physical fitness, fantastic. If she’s strong in one of those areas but maybe not as strong but willing to get better in those other areas, then that’s the kind of girl I want," says McCoy.
The first round of public auditions drew 300 people last year. Women who audition have to wear a teal and purple outfit they pick out themselves that shows their midriff.
About 40 women make it to a second round called Bee Week, to compete for the 21 spots on the team. The dancers go through interviews, learn choreography, model, and show off their special talents, like playing acoustic guitar or belly dancing. It’s kind of like being a beauty pageant queen who can dance.
"We have to know like, as an ambassador for our team that they can speak to media, that they can speak to our fans. That they can go rock a swimsuit show at one of our partners. We need to know that they can be in an evening gown. We have a huge gala that the Hornets put on, and the girls get custom fit purple gala dresses and walk around, you know, looking amazing," says McCoy.
The Honey Bees offer classes before the auditions to give advice on how to look, what to wear and expect. My request to attend the “beauty and business” class was denied. But they did suggest I wear my hair down and put on lipstick before auditions.
Honey Bees dance at over 40 games a year and rehearse more than ten hours a week. Their routines often have themes, like flappers, and Barbie.
When the basketball players are busy, it’s the Honey Bees who are the face of the team.
McCoy wouldn’t say how much they’re paid, only that it’s more than minimum wage. Most dancers are full-time students or have other jobs.
Coach B, (as the dancers call her) uses social media as another stage to up the Honey Bees glamour and fan base.
"I love to take the pictures and I love to post them for the fans to see. And I know that if mom or dad didn’t make it to the game that night, they get to know what their daughter’s doing," she says.
People often recognize Victoria Vesce as a Honey Bee when she goes out on her own, so she always feels like she has to be ‘on.'
"You have to think, as soon as you walk out the door, people are watching you. And you have to make sure hair, makeup, everything’s ready. You’re going out, saying 'I’m gonna be the best that I can be,'" says Vesce.
Vesce is trying out again for next year’s season. Even if you’re already a Honey Bee, you have to audition each year.