UVU Cheerleaders “Shake It Off” at AMAs


OREM, Utah — On November 24, 2019, the American Music Awards (AMAs) named Taylor Swift as the artist of the decade. During her highly anticipated medley number, Brett Kessler and Morgan Michaelis, two UVU cheerleaders, joined her onstage for the performance of a lifetime.

While casting backup performers for the “Shake It Off” segment of the medley, Swift’s casting director was looking to fill a very specific role. Male cheerleaders. Kessler and Michaelis were scouted while working at the United Spirit Association camps and then again when they competed with UVU at the National Cheerleaders Association Summer Camp. They had both the look and skill set needed and were cast as two of the three male cheerleaders in the number.

“When I first got the phone call, I didn’t know if it was real,” said Kessler. “This is one of those opportunities that doesn’t happen to random people like me. ”


UVU Cheerleaders Brett Kessler and Morgan Michaelis at the American Music Awards .                                                                Photos provided by Brett Kessler and Morgan Michaelis

Kessler and Michaelis eagerly accepted the offer and were flown to Los Angeles where they spent five days learning and rehearsing the choreography. They put in five hours of rehearsal each day, but only had three full run-throughs with Swift before taking the stage the night of the AMAs.

“Being at the AMAs was super exciting,” said Michaelis. “Back stage we got to meet singers like Shawn Mendes, Post Malone, and Thomas Rhett, but the best part was performing and seeing over 10,000 people cheering us on.”

The star performer of the evening was Swift, who, along with being named artist of the decade, also won artist of the year, was awarded five new awards, and usurped Michael Jackson as the artist with the most total AMA wins. Despite her successes that evening, she made sure that her performers understood how much she appreciated them.

“Taylor Swift is super, super sweet and personal,” said Kessler. “Being back stage, we saw that most other artists were strictly business and didn’t have much of a connection with their performers, but Taylor was very sincere and generous. She went out of her way and wanted an individual picture with each and every one of her performers.”

Photos with Taylor Swift, performing at the AMAs, meeting celebrities — Kessler and Michaelis both credit UVU for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Michaelis came to UVU with a background in country dancing, not cheer, but through practicing with the team, his talent for doing country dancing lifts became a talent for cheer stunting.

“I give credit to the UVU cheer team, because I never would have had this opportunity if it hadn’t been for what they taught me,” said Michaelis.

Kessler has been tumbling for over seven years, but just started cheering when he joined the UVU team in January 2019.

“We went from being on a normal college cheer team to performing onstage behind the biggest artist in the world and to a live audience filled with the biggest artists in the world,” said Kessler. “The casting director was looking for specialized skills, and I have those because I practice cheering every day with the UVU team.”

You can watch the performance featuring the two UVU cheerleaders here on Taylor Swift's official YouTube channel.

UVU student Morgan Michaelis with Taylor Swift at the American Music Awards

UVU Cheerleaders Brett Kessler and Morgan Michaelis at the American Music Awards

UVU Cheerleaders Brett Kessler and Morgan Michaelis at the American Music Awards