For the last few years, I’ve been working in the TV industry on a variety of unscripted shows that have aired on The History Channel, MTV, MTV2, Food Network, NatGeo, E!, WGN, and more recently a new show for Oxygen that is currently airing every Tuesday at 10 p.m. EST. “Pretty. Strong.” centers around the Chicago Bliss football team, the two-time reigning champions of the Legends Football League (formerly known as the Lingerie Football Team.) When I was first approached to work on the show as a Story Associate Producer, I assumed what most do when they hear about or see the team for the first time- “Oh no this is going to be like The Real Housewives but even worse because they play football in bikinis.” But I’ll be perfectly honest, I am shocked by how much I like this show and genuinely like these women. They are teammates first and that is so refreshing to see on a TV show about a group of women usually pitted against one another. I’ve never met more fit, athletic, or serious football players who are impressive both on and off the field. The team consists of a dentist, a pharmaceutical sales rep, athletic trainers, a teacher, and a singer. And while there are definitely fights and conflicts like all teams do, they are centered around the team and ultimately they have each others’ backs.
My favorite part about this show is that these are real relationships. They aren’t a bunch of women they put together to create drama. They were all teammates before, during and after. They deal with real problems like juggling their careers and relationships with their unconventional passion for playing football. The girls come from lower to middle class backgrounds- some even trying to get out of the south side of Chicago and find their confidence and strength through their athletic abilities. For four months, I attended their practices, games and got peeks into various parts of their lives in Chicago. Normally as story producers, you’re there to create/ turn their issues and problems into a linear story that is told through 8-12 episodes. This wasn’t really the case for this show. We jumped in the middle of already evolving life events- Yahshi’s mom is battling cancer; Telly is trying to find a consistent job that gets her out of the south side of Chicago, Jamie is on the verge of losing her position, battling a medical condition and being a single mom; Alli is a practicing dentist while continuing school to be a prothodonist; Nani is finding her place on the team as the best athlete but least liked; Heather is taking the big step of moving in with her boyfriend- and I haven’t even gotten to boy drama yet. This series is a snapshot into real lives of working women in Chicago who just happen to have a really intense hobby of playing professional football on top of everything else.
Without giving too much away in the series, you’ll want to follow it until the end and see how the relationships and situations evolve and see if they become three-peat champions of the league! I promise if you look past their uniforms, you’ll be very impressed with their athleticism, passion for the game, and how hard these girls hit each other with very little padding! Even my Division 1 athlete husband was impressed. I have to say my favorite person on the team is Coach Hac. He’s a coach straight of “Rudy” or “Remember The Titans”. He’s a father figure to these girls and cares about their wellbeing on and off the field, but he likes to win and won’t tolerate anyone- on the team or off- threatening his next win. He is fierce in the best way possible and couldn’t have been more genuine.
I really enjoyed working on this show- more than I thought I would. I thought it would catty and familiar, but it was actually refreshingly different and had inspiring elements. The show highlights the themes of overcoming your background, being strong and independent, gaining confidence and celebrating your athletic body as a woman, following your passion wherever that may take you, and finding strong female friendships that turn into sisterhoods- I’d love to see more of this in reality TV.