JSU Graduate Student to Perform in Super Bowl Halftime Show
by Brett Buckner
As a fitness instructor at the Jax State Recreation and Fitness Center, Jaci Jo Mayo is used to bringing out the best in others. On Sunday, she will have the opportunity to put her talents to use on America's biggest stage as a back-up dancer at Super Bowl LVIII's halftime show.
“My job is to hype up the performers – to dance, and act like a fan,” said Mayo, who will be performing on stage alongside Usher and other celebrities yet to be announced.
“The experience is unreal. I remember the first time walking into the dome. I was just in shock and imagining what game day would be like."Landing this dream gig, she said, took a lot of research, including sending out “tons of emails to directors.” She then had to submit an audition video, a lot of personal information, and a 30-second freestyle to her favorite Usher song, “DJ Got Us Falling in Love Again.”
“After a while,” Mayo said, “they told me I got selected from people all over the US to do this.”
The 23-year-old from Gallant, Ala., is pursuing a master's degree in English at JSU. In addition to teaching fitness classes at the Rec Center, she also works for the Honors Program and is involved at the Wesley Foundation. She recently participated in the Miss JSU pageant, where she delighted the audience with a hip hop dance to a medley of 1990s pop hits.
Despite her busy schedule, Mayo has spent the past two weeks in Las Vegas rehearsing for the halftime show. Nothing could prepare her for walking into Allegiant Stadium for the first time.
“The experience is unreal,” she said. “I remember the first time walking into the dome. I was just in shock and imagining what game day would be like."
Mayo will be performing throughout the halftime show, but it's unlikely you will see her and her fellow dancers on TV.
“We are the ones performing for everyone at the game,” she said, “So the chance of seeing me and all the other incredible acts on camera will be slim.”
The halftime performers will also not be able to attend the game.
“There are so many of us, and with seats going for thousands of dollars, they were not about to let us take those up,” she said. “We are strictly there to perform at halftime.”
Even so, Mayo has enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience. She has made friends and contacts from throughout the US, including studio owners and dance judges. She has also met celebrities but won't be able to share the details until after the show.
“I had to sign an NDA, meaning I could not post or discuss anything, even what time we practice or about our costumes for the show,” she said. “I did get to meet all the big musicians in the show, including Usher's dog.”
But for all the glamour and excitement, Mayo said this has also been a real job.
“Travel expenses were not covered, but this is a paid gig,” she said. “We get paid by the hour and, with practice being 7-11 hours a day, it adds up to cover costs.”
Campus will get a chance to see Mayo perform at Zeta Tau Alpha’s upcoming Big Moment on Campus talent show on March 12, 6 p.m., at Leone Cole Auditorium. She plans to continue dancing as a hobby or semi-professionally, while pursuing a career as an English instructor after graduating next December.
“My goal for now is to graduate and find a steady job at a university,” she said. “but continuing to backup dance would be a dream.”
About the Photos
About the photos, from top: Mayo arrives at the airport in Vegas. Later, she celebrates her dream gig at the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign. Mayo is no stranger to the stage. Here, she competes in the evening gown portion of the Miss JSU pageant in January. For her talent at Miss JSU, Mayo performed her hip-hop routine for an enthusiastic audience. As a halftime performer at Super Bowl LVIII, Mayo has had the opportunity to make new friends from throughout the country. (courtesy photos)