“Cheer” ― which debuted this month to rave reviews ― follows an elite cheerleading squad at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, as they prepare for the National Cheerleaders Association’s national championships.
In addition to the stunning performances, however, the six-part docuseries takes an intimate look at the squad members’ lives, showcasing their personal struggles with body image, sexuality and discrimination.
Speaking on “Ellen” Thursday, Gabi Butler said she was “really grateful” for the opportunity the series had provided. Still, she acknowledged that her parents had received a bit of backlash over the perception that they were pushing their daughter to be overly competitive.
“It was a really big eye-opener for all of us,” she said. “My parents were like, ‘Wow, maybe we do need to be more independent and let her make her own decisions for herself.’ And I really do think that it was great for me because I really started to love myself more and being like, ‘I need to be more positive for myself.’”
Teammate La’Darius Marshall echoed those sentiments. The cheerleader, who is gay, spoke at length in the series about being sexually abused as a child, as well as the homophobic bullying he experienced.
“After the show, I felt so much better because I got away from all my chains,” he said. “I felt like I was being held down, and I felt like I was finally free ― that I could fly.”
Later in the interview, the entire Navarro College squad took the stage for a spirited, high-energy performance of the routine that won the team its 14th National Cheerleaders Association National Championship title.
While there’s no word yet on whether “Cheer” will see a second season, Coach Monica Aldama used her “Ellen” appearance to reaffirm her commitment to the job she loves.
“I’ve done this for 25 years, and ... even though I thought it was a temporary job, I just can’t see myself giving it up,” she said. “I’m just so passionate about these kids, and I love doing it.”