A day in the life of a Wingette at Wing Bowl 23

Patrick Bertoletti, champion of WIP Wing Bowl 23, and 2014 Wingette of the Year, Bella, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA on January 30, 2015. (Colin Kerrigan / Philly.com)

Not all Wingettes are strippers.

But that’s the common misconception about Wing Bowl. People assume the women surrounding the eaters, cheering them on and refilling their stock of wings, are all from local gentlemen’s clubs. But that’s not always the case, and we all know what happens when people assume.

Admittedly, the chosen attire the Wingettes sport at 5 a.m. in front a drunken crowd is not the norm, but last I checked, Wing Bowl is far from normal.

When you take a closer look, it’s crystal clear which women are representing the various strip clubs. They’re the ones advertising “Delilah’s” or “Show & Tel” on their tops, or in some cases their bottoms.  (Stripper or not, aren’t we taught to never judge a book by its cover?)

Bars like PBR at Xfinity Live!, Field House and McFadden’s also send groups of girls to support an eater.

Some are veteran Wingettes while others are from the search parties held at area bars.

The part that gets lost in all of this hype is what makes a good Wingette? I never really thought about until Friday when I shadowed last year’s Wingette of the Year, Bella.

"Wing Bowl is just a fun event. I know that there are plenty of negative things about it, but if people don't like it, then don't pay attention. I have fun just like the others do and it's a once-a-year thing. Being a Wingette is fun. I don't see myself as the typical Wingette," she said.

Question is: Who’s to say one Wingette is better than the next? If there’s one thing Bella taught me about Wingettes, it’s loyalty.

When I found her, she was dressed in a sleeveless black crop top and Batman pajama pants pacing around the hallways of the Wells Fargo Center as people lined their floats up.

As I followed Bella to the dressing rooms, we stopped nearly 10 times as she greeted and took selfies with WIP employees and other members of the Wing Bowl family. It wasn't just her good looks that drew people to her, it washer charisma. She’s definitely the Bella of the Bowl.

Bella’s friend Melissa was attending her first Wing Bowl. At 5 a.m., she was in dire need of a Red Bull she told me.

As the other Wingettes started filing out, the nerves started kicking in. Not necessarily for Bella and Melissa, but for me. Two Red Bulls deep by 6 a.m., I began to realize what I got myself into. It just dawned on me that I’d be coming out to Wing Bowl 23 as part of an entourages and this totally freaked me out.

Luckily, Bella handed me a custom made “#TeamBella” T-shirt to wear so it looked like I served some sort of purpose on the floor. I was clearly not a Wingette as I was clothed from head to toe.

We finally moved out to meet with our eater and his crew. One man was wearing a long, blonde curly wig with sunglasses, Taylor Swift-red lipstick, a cropped jersey, booty shorts and knee-high socks. Others were wearing a crazy metallic-silver suit, including eater and eventual winner Pat Bertoletti. He was more calm and collected than his friends.

Bella’s loyalty all starts with Bertoletti.

Initially, I thought their interaction was more intimate than it really was. When I saw how closely they intermingled, her hand on his arm and honestly, the longest eye contact I’d seen a man hold thus far that morning, I thought, “Oh, they’re dating.” Then I remembered Bella’s interview on WIP a few days before when Angelo Cataldi asked if she was single and she had confirmed she was.

You could tell Bella took her role as a Wingette quite genuinely. Sure, she dressed the part complete with makeup and a flawless hairstyle, but she kept close to Bertoletti as they exchanged words of wisdom.

That lasted until she saw WWE legend Mick Foley. A lifelong wrestling fan, she ran right up to him, smiling and posing for photos. She was afraid to be an ecstatic fangirl as he autographed her credentials.

I had one big issue with Bertoletti’s float: It had a Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and New York Giants theme.

Luckily, Bella, Melissa and I walked ahead of the float so we were out of any harm's way.

It was the longest four minutes of my life walking around the floor as beads whizzed by, but we survived.

Immediately Bella and Melissa were yanked from the stage and brought down to the back of the pit for the Wingette contest.

I followed them and more beads began viciously attacking us. But I’m no rookie when it comes to Wing Bowl, so I reluctantly turned my attention toward the crowd so I could duck from the flying objects.

Then things got interesting.

Some guys tried flirting with Wingettes from afar, and others decided they wanted to smoosh their bare chest against the glass wall. Neither sight was pleasant, but it was entertaining looking up at the antics in the crowd.

Bella didn't make it to the top three Wingettes and that's when I lost her in the crowd.

By now the second round was underway and things were getting wild. Mick Foley was ejected for cheating, and Bertoletti was right in it with reigning champ Schuyler.

As I looked up at the big screen there was Bella right next to Bertoletti. She had just lost her contest but bolted right back up to the stage. That’s a loyal Wingette.

"I just made sure that he stayed in the zone. It was tough not being by his side for the first two rounds since I was in the Wingette portion, but I made sure I sprinted on stage to make it there to give him his last pep talk before the final round," Bella said.

It was a four-wing difference as Bertoletti took everyone by surprise by eating 444 wings to Schuyler’s 440. Bella didn’t leave his side during photos and interviews, and it seemed that the wing-eating contest was more important to her.

As the commotion came to an end, Bella debated whether she’d be back again.

She mentioned that someone asked how she would have spent the winning money, and he was surprised by her response.

“I said, ‘Well I’m a nursing student, so I’d be paying for that.’ ”

Whether she makes another return, Bella certainly set the bar high for future Wingettes. It’s one thing to look the part, but to truly act the part of a loyal Wingette is another.

"I may come back next year since Pat will be defending his title."

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