Familiar Connecticut faces in Patriots’ cheerleaders calendar


If you open the 2023, New England Patriots cheerleaders calendar, you might recognize a couple of the faces inside.

Eliza Kanner, who grew up in Hamden, and Tiana Dyson, who grew up in New Haven, were part of the squad that traveled to Aruba in September.

Additionally, if you follow the Miss Connecticut program of the Miss American Organization, Kanner and Dyson will also look familiar. Kanner, 27, was Miss Connecticut in 2017. Dyson, 25, was Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen in 2013.

For both Kanner, who works at a nonprofit in Boston, and Dyson, who works as a nursing assistant, the trip to make the new calendar a reality was a first.

And it was a good opportunity, the two said, for the members of the squad – rookies and veterans — to come together as a team.

“It was an incredible opportunity to… share this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Kanner. “We attended each other’s photo shoots, had promotional appearances throughout the resort, and of course, got to enjoy all the host resort had to offer.”

Eliza Kanner of the New England Patriots’ cheerleaders.

“At the end of the day, we are a family, and this trip allows us to get closer with not only the rookies, but the vets as well,” said Dyson.  “We got to bond and create memories in different ways than we would back home in New England.”

The calendar was mix of jam-packed activities such as shoots and appearances, and moments to kick back and chill, the pair said.

“There were about six shoots per day for the calendar, and we also had video and photo shoots for the resort,” said Kanner.

“We had set schedules where we had to be certain places at certain times, but we still had time to explore the resort and relax,” said Dyson.

“When it was everyone’s time in front of the camera for their photoshoots, everyone was so supportive,” said Dyson. “We all took behind the scenes for each other, cheered each other on, and some of us even cried.”

“We all also had photoshoot buddies who helped us out all day which was really helpful,” said Dyson. “Our photoshoot buddies really made sure we had everything we needed and didn’t forget anything, which was incredibly helpful.”

“My photoshoot (which made the cover) was an experience and moment I will truly never forget,” said Dyson. “It was photographed on the beach walking in the water, and we were using the sun for that natural lighting and glow,” said Dyson. “I just remember it going by so quickly, before I knew it, it was over.”

Tiana Dyson of the New England Patriots’ cheerleaders.

As a veteran of the Miss America Organization, Kanner said having her photo taken for the calendar was a breeze.

“My year as Miss Connecticut assisted in my comfort level in front of the camera,” said Kanner.

As Miss Connecticut, Kanner explained, “I had numerous opportunities to work with a number of photographers and learned how to bring my personality to any given shoot.”

“Being in front of a camera is nothing new to me,” said Dyson. “I would say that my experience as a titleholder helped me in front of the camera in terms of just feeling comfortable and confident because I had to do multiple shoots through my reign.”

When the time came to shoot the Patriots’ cheerleaders’ calendar, Kanner said, “Our incredibly talented photographer… Megan Batson, did a wonderful job helping each of us get comfortable within minutes of our shoots… You can see our personalities in each of our final images.”

But, Dyson said, there were some differences between shooting the calendar and posing as a Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen.

“I think one learning curve I had was when shooting for Miss America, you’re inside and not really worried about lighting. Once it’s set, it’s set,” said Dyson.

But, she said, “Being outside on a beach was definitely a different experience with the use of the sun and being in the water instead of in front of a backdrop.

When the cheerleaders shot the calendar, Kanner said they didn’t make it secret to the residents and guests of Aruba.

“Something unique about the Patriots cheerleaders’ calendar trip is that we publicize it to our fans and a number of them joined us in Aruba,” said the former Miss Connecticut. “All of the shoots were in public spaces on the resort and beach, and many of the fans attended the shoots.”

“It was like having a personal cheerleading squad,” said Kanner.

Eliza Kanner is seen on the pages of the New England Patriots’ cheerleaders 2023 calendar.

“There was always an audience, whether it be our teammates or others,” said Dyson.

Of the locations for the calendar, Kanner said, “I had the best time shooting on the beach. After spending hours with our incredible makeup and hair team, I only spent a couple minutes ‘on shore’ during my shoot and then went right into the water. I had a sunset photo shoot and throughout the shoot the sun created different looks, so we got to play around with the lighting and overall vibe.”

In terms of wardrobe for their photographs, Dyson said, “Everyone wore something different. Some of us had on dresses, shorts, and different variations of swimsuits. I think what I liked most about everyone’s outfits were that they were so different yet cohesive.”

There were some similarities attending the calendar shoot trip with attending the week associated with the Miss Connecticut competition. But there were also key differences, said Dyson and Kenner.

“You are in a new environment with other people sharing the same goal, and have many opportunities for bonding and shared experiences,” said Kanner, noting the similarities.

But, Dyson said, “It was definitely less stressful… This calendar trip wasn’t a competition. It was a time to create the calendars together…. (It) was a way for our team to celebrate the season to come, to celebrate each other and to really work together.”

And what did Kanner and Dyson think of the finished product?

“I just remember screaming ‘Oh My God!'” said Dyson “To see everything come together the way it did and see our coach and manager Alexandria Walker’s vision come to life was truly jaw dropping.”

Tiana Dyson, left, on the cover of the 2023 New England Patriots’ cheerleaders calendar.

Kanner said, “For years, I watched the New England Patriots cheerleaders depart on their calendar trips, and shared in their excitement as their final images were released.”

The Hamden native continued, “When our calendar was released, it was a moment of appreciation and gratitude. I auditioned for three years prior to making the squad, and the release of our calendar was a moment for me to reflect on how much I have learned and my overall growth throughout the process to get to where I am now.”

Kanner added, “The woman smiling back in my photo is someone I’m so proud of.”

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