With her game day hair already set, Jalina Porter would make a morning pit stop in Chinatown to drop off her uniform and makeup, and then head straight to the Capitol for a full day of work. By nightfall she’d be back at the stadium to cheer for the Washington Wizards until almost 11 p.m.
She balanced being a Wizards cheerleader with working as a press and staff assistant for Rep. Jerry McNerney of California. Now she’s communications director for Louisiana Democratic Rep. Cedric L. Richmond.
Porter, 32, isn’t currently cheering.
She said she would consider performing again but wouldn’t want to join a team because of her new gig on the Hill and her busy graduate school schedule — both things she took on in August.
“I know it’s definitely still there. I just haven’t carved that out. But, Beyoncé and Janet, if you are reading this, I am just a phone call away,” she joked.
Porter left McNerney’s office in 2016 and worked at the Truman National Security Project, a national security and foreign policy membership organization, before heading to Richmond’s office. She cheered for the Wizards from 2013 to 2016.
“[Days] were long, but actually gave me the most adrenaline rush since they were the most dexterous and exciting,” she said.
Porter’s life has always incorporated dance.
“You get up, you breathe. You get up, you pray. You get up, you put your clothes on. I get up and do all of those things, and I also perform, too,” she said.
She first came to D.C. to attend Howard University. In 2008, she went to California for a one-year stint as a National Lacrosse League cheerleader while she waited to be accepted to the Peace Corps. She worked in Cambodia for two years.
“A lot of people did not take me seriously when I said this is what I wanted to do with my life,” Porter recalled. “I had a lot of people laugh in my face.”
She added, “It really solidified for me that I knew I wanted a path to service.”
Porter returned and worked in communications for Jamba Juice’s corporate office in California while she performed her first work-cheer balancing act — she was an Oakland Raiderette from 2012 to 2013.
“I think people, when they see you in a certain light — of course, if they see you in a more conservative light — it just never dawns on them that you have a creative background too. I’ve always been creative,” she said.
She then did a stint as a coach on MTV’s dance show, “Made.” When producers contacted her, “what got me is that they said, ‘You’ll be a role model to girls all over the world,’” she recalled.
But she always had the desire to return to Washington.
She came to D.C. to watch President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Porter said she realized, “again, there was the service part that was missing.”
That’s when she moved back to work on the Hill.
“That was always an interesting balance for me to be here, to be a Hill staffer by day — and by night, I was performing at the Verizon Center. It was the perfect balance for me because it fulfilled both my passions and life callings,” she said.
For staffers wanting to pursue different dreams at once, like Porter did, she said the key is that you can’t be afraid to go your own way.
“People are very quick to typecast, but that’s impossible with me, because I don’t fit in a box and never have,” she said. “I value and love that about myself.”