Name: Alec John Matthew Birmingham
Hometown: Edgewood, Kentucky
Major: Double major in Biology and Health and Exercise Science
Astrological Sign: Aquarius
Relationship Status: Single
As one of the most optimistic guys you’ll ever meet, this week’s Campus Cutie is sure to “cheer” up your day. He’s ambitious AND super involved, meet Alec Birmingham.
HC (Her Campus): What are three words you would use to describe yourself and why?
AB (Alec Birmingham): Enthusiastic would be one; I try to love everything that I do and I do what I love. Also outgoing, which I imagine is related to the enthusiasm. I love to meet new people and new friends and try new things. And curious – I am often questioning the world and how it works and I plan to go into research to figure out those things and solve some of the world’s problems.
HC: What are some things you are involved with on campus?
AB: I’m actually a cheerleader for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Aside from that I am a member of the Wake Forest Catholic Community and the Random Acts of Kindness Club.
HC: What’s it like being a male cheerleader here at Wake?
AB: There are a lot of stereotypes. A lot of people don’t consider us real athletes but we really are. We put in as much as all the other athletes do. We either practice, workout, or attend some kind of cheerleading event all seven days of the week for the entire year until the basketball season is over. We commit just as much work as everyone else but we get stereotyped as pseudo-athletes, or the homosexual group.
HC: Do you think there is any truth behind the stereotypes or are they all just generalizations?
AB: No, they’re generalizations for sure. They’re only a few homosexuals in our group and we’re all so close-knit that we just get past it; it’s no problem at all. We’re just like a big family. And we really do, like I said, commit so much work. I was a gymnast before this – second best in the nation, so it’s not like I came out of nothing or joined with no experience. I put a lot of work into getting this far.
HC: What made you switch from gymnastics to cheerleading?
AB: Well, academics, for the most part. I ended up needing to commit so much time to gymnastics when I was in high school that I just couldn’t keep up with academics. I had to make the decision of either being a professional gymnast or an academic, and I had to be an academic. I dropped gymnastics my junior year of high school just to make time for school because I was spending 15 or more hours in the gym every single week. I just couldn’t keep up with it all. But going from 15 hours per week to nothing and dropping it all at once meant I had too much down time, and so I decided to pick up cheerleading because it was a smaller commitment, but still a commitment. It was a good way to spend my time senior year of high school and into college.
HC: Did you ever feel pressure to quit cheerleading and pick up something like soccer instead because you were a guy?
AB: That was my opinion at first. I was more hesitant to join the team than I ever was to quit it. I was asked – kind of recruited – to join the team my freshman year, but I didn’t really feel it was even an option because I had those stereotypes in my own mind about cheerleading too. So once I got passed those and joined the cheerleading team, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made here so far at Wake. I’ve just become really involved and really integrated into a great family that I love to be a part of.
HC: What’s your favorite part about the sport and what’s the biggest challenge?
AB: The biggest challenge is the time commitment, with a double major. It’s tough being a D-1 athlete and a double major preparing for grad school. Like I said, we are committed to cheerleading second to academics only, and it is every single day of the week so it’s hard to balance it all. I’ll be here all summer just to compensate for it. But it’s manageable. I just have to put a lot of effort into balancing cheerleading [with everything else]. But I love everything else about the sport. It’s a great way for me to use the skills that I learned in eight years of gymnastics, and to meet new people, hang out with great people, and keep myself in physically good condition as well, because that’s important to me.
HC: So I also noticed you just recently shaved your head. What’s the story behind that?
AB: Well, it was a philanthropy event hosted by Kappa Sig in support of childhood cancer awareness. We rose over $17,000 for the cause and had so many people on campus shave their heads by Dean Shore who actually joined in the cause as well. We basically traded our hair for the funding and were happy to donate it to [the children] because they deserve it.
HC: Did you decide to shave your head for anyone in particular?
AB: No, I did it for the general cause. I’ve known several cases of cancer while I was growing up but currently don’t know any. I just did it for the general cause because, like I said, they are children in need, and I can do without my hair in order to raise them money.
HC: What’s it like having no hair at the moment?
AB: I’m still getting used to it, honestly, but it’s not that bad. I can feel the wind on my scalp – something I haven’t felt for, like, a good decade. The only thing I’ve got to worry about is sunburn. I actually got sunburned the other day, but I’m as pale as it is (laughs). I like it a lot though. It’s growing back a lot faster than I thought it would.
HC: With your senior year coming up, do you know what you want to do once you graduate?
AB: I was actually looking into graduate schools today. I would like to go to Stanford, Notre Dame, or M.I.T. and perform research in some kind of biomedical science.
HC: What are some other things you like to do in your free time just for fun?
AB: I like to spend time outside on beautiful days like this, whether I’m just reading, hanging out with friends, or playing volleyball. I love to play sports outside. I hacky sack with my friends. I also like to practice my gymnastic skills so I can keep up with them, especially during our off season. Sometimes you’ll see me tumbling on the quad. I just spend a lot of time outside, whether it’s climbing trees or playing sports.
HC: How would you describe your dream girl?
AB: I love a good Christian girl. I’m Catholic and that means a lot to me. I’m waiting until marriage so I’m looking for a girl who’s doing the same. That’s extremely important to me. Personality-wise, I am looking for a girl similar to me – outgoing and adventurous, just enthusiastic and loving life, and having that show in her daily outlook. Physical traits come second to that, because beauty’s on the inside for me more than it is on the outside.
HC: What’s your biggest turn-off in a girl?
AB: Like I said, I’m not too quick to judge because I like to get to know people for who they are and more than what they look like. I guess, because I’m so physical-activity oriented, I would say that girls who are out-of-shape turn me off, or girls who don’t upkeep their personal hygiene. I don’t have any terribly specific turn-offs though.
HC: If you could take your dream girl anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
AB: I would love to go to Alaska. It’s just such an outdoorsy place and a great place for sightseeing – it’s got such a great landscape. There are mountains, and glaciers, and just so many things I would love to see for myself. I think it would be a very romantic and adventurous outdoor experience where we would get to know each other even better. I am also an Eagle Scout, and I realized through adventuring with my other scouts that you get to know each other a lot more when you’re out in the wilderness, depending upon each other and just down to your basics. That’s when your personality really shines through.
HC: Alright, now for some random, ridiculous questions. If you were a dessert item, what would you be and why?
AB: (Laughs) I’ve never thought about this before. (Thinks for a while). I think I would be mint-chocolate-chip ice cream because it has that cool and refreshing aspect while not being too heavy but still rich and satisfying.
HC: Do you have any guilty pleasures?
AB: I try to avoid them I guess…Like, what would you consider a guilty pleasure?
HC: Like a T.V. show. For me I like watching Pretty Little Liars.
AB: Ohhh, that is a guilty pleasure isn’t it (laughs). Mmm…let’s see. I love curling up with a blanket at the end of the day and watching a movie or something like that.
HC: (Laughs) I don’t even know if I’d call that a guilty pleasure.
AB: Yeah, it’s just something everyone loves. It’s something I just love to do.
HC: Do you have any pet peeves?
AB: I try not to let things agitate me too much I guess, but I don’t like it when people mispronounce words. It gets on my nerves (laughs). But I try to be a pretty easygoing guy and not focus too much on other people’s faults because I know I have many of my own.
HC: If you were a part of the circus, what would you be and why?
AB: I would be an acrobat for sure. I’m a showboat in several ways I suppose. Coming from a gymnastics background, I spent a lot of time just flipping around in the air and swinging from things. I’m always climbing things and doing something adventurous. I think an acrobat is what I would be – swinging above everyone else and just having a good time.
HC: Are there any words you like to live by?
AB: I actually ran into a quote today that really struck me. It was so simple. It just said, “Never have I ever felt so alive.” It just hit me because that’s how I live every moment of every day. I just appreciate the very fact that I am alive and that God has given me such a beautiful day to live. Even if it is just another crummy day, it’s another day alive. I try to appreciate the little things like that and enjoy life for what it is.
*Article by Raquel Broehm