Source: The New Paper
Wardrobe malfunctions are highly embarrassing in the glitzy world of showbiz, but for stunning Lingerie Football League (LFL) superstar Stephanie Manou, they are part and parcel of the exciting pitch action she thrives on.
Be it panty-pulling or bra top-yanking, it's just another day on the grind. "Of course it has happened to me too, it's the nature of the LFL," said the 26-year-old Canadian brunette with a hearty laugh, in a phone interview with The New Paper from her home in downtown Vancouver.
"All of us players take precautions before every game, we wear undergarments beneath our attire. "There was once when I was tackled by a rival player who pulled down my bottom... Thankfully, I was wearing a thong! Nothing was exposed, but I'm sure the audience got more than what they paid for." Manou is one of the fastest rising stars in the LFL, an all-female football league in the US and Canada.
It features 16 teams competing in seven-on-seven, full-contact American football. As the name suggests, players are decked out in skimpy sports bras, garters and mini shorts.Lingerie Football League premieres on Jan 20 and airs every Sunday on KIX (StarHub Ch 518) and KIX HD (SingTel mio TV Ch 309).
Since it premiered in 2009, the LFL has been touted as the fastest growing sports league in the US by NBC Sports, and has drawn record television ratings for its US national broadcaster, MTV Networks.
It's also the first women's sport in history to be awarded a video game. After just one season last year with her team, BC Angels, Manou was nominated for the Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year, proof of her limitless potential in the sport.But with her rise to prominence came dissenting voices.
Ever since its inception, critics have constantly slammed the LFL for "sexploitation" and objectifying women.
Manou, who is 1.72m and weighs around 61kg, is not blind to the skimpy outfits she and her team-mates don, but she hopes to gradually change negative perceptions some have of the league."I'm confident of my figure and I have no problem with my body... I'm not ashamed of any part of it," she said firmly.
"The reason why I joined the LFL in March last year was that it was really unique - it's 50 per cent about sports and fitness, and 50 per cent about flaunting our femininity."I used to dance when I was younger and I love the entertainment and uniform-wearing aspects of LFL. It combines all the things I like."
Prior to her LFL stint, Manou - who played rugby during her college days - was a cheerleader for the British Columbia Lions in the Canadian Football League.She urges anyone who has preconceived notions about the league to "catch at least one game". "I believe one game is enough to change your opinion of the sport.
You'd realise that it's less about lingerie and more about athleticism," said Manou, who is also a registered kinesiologist and fitness model and personal trainer.
"LFL is evolving and I want to be part of the evolution, to inspire more women to be part of our growing community." Lest you think mainstream American football professionals treat the LFL girls with disdain and amusement, Manou stressed that she has received nothing but "encouragement" and "positive responses" from her fully-clothed counterparts."Canada has a women's football league and I happen to know some of the players," she said. "They are very supportive and respectful of our decision to be part of LFL." And so are the guys.
Although she isn't personally chummy with any of the US National Football League stars, she has received tweets from a few male players after joining Twitter.
Said Manou: "Usually, it'll be messages of 'good luck' (before a game) or 'get well soon' (in the event she's injured)."
While injuries are commonplace in the sport, brawls are not.But once in a blue moon, they do take place."There have been a few fights during our games," shared Manou.
"In the heat of the moment, the players get physical and as a result, some have to be removed from the pitch."
Manou said that she might be guilty of "accidental tackles", but she has "never once swung a punch at anybody".
"There are players who like to get in your face, but I'm not the sort."She is currently attached to a personal fitness trainer who, in her own words, is "very proud" of her achievements.
Like most LFL babes, Manou gets her share of attention from male fans, but don't bet on her boyfriend getting all jealous and insecure."
He takes it as a compliment," she said, chuckling. "They can ogle all they want, but at the end of the day, he's the one who takes me home!"
Images 1 to 3 show Stephanie Manou, while the rest show the other athletes from the Lingerie Football League.