The Netflix series Cheer follows the competitive cheerleaders at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, as they prepare for the final competition.
Over the course of six episodes, viewers join the team members as they face injuries, sacrifices, personal setbacks and triumphs, while sharing stories of their upbringing and how they fell in love with competitive cheerleading.
Monica Aldama is the coach that leads Navarro College’s elite competitive cheer team as they train for the 2019 National Championships in Daytona, Fla., as the team practices for the two-minute-and-15-second performance that could win them the championship title.
Cheer gives viewers a glimpse into the lives of five of Navarro’s cheerleaders: Morgan Simianer, Jerry Harris, La’Darius Marshall, Gabi Butler and Lexi Brumback.
Global News spoke with Morgan and asked her about how her life has changed since Cheer was released, her relationship with Monica, and much more.
Global News: What was going through your head when you first found out that the cheer season was going to be recorded for a Netflix series? Did you feel a lot of pressure?
Morgan: Yeah! There was a little bit more pressure added because we felt like since this was going to be documented, that we had to make sure that we’re doing the best of our abilities because we wanted to portray cheerleading in a way that the world was going to be excited about it. We were very nervous at first about the cameras being at practices and how the whole thing was going to work. But in the end, we’re just really happy with how it turned out.
In the first episode, you referred to yourself as a turtle when you’re performing and you called yourself the worst performer. Do you still feel that way after watching the show?
After watching the show I thought it was very funny (laughing) because they record about a long time ago. I’ve grown a lot during my time at Navarro and I have more confidence in myself than when I first came here.
Did you watch the whole season of Cheer?
Yes! I binge-watched it as soon as it dropped on Netflix.
Were there any moments in the series that you found hard to watch?
I wouldn’t say hard but hearing stories from my teammates obviously brought up a lot of emotions. The Daytona scene had my heart rate up through the roof, but besides that, I really enjoyed watching it.
Was it scary to open up about your personal life?
Yes, at first it was very scary because I felt like people were just going to hear it and think it was like a sob story or wherever they wanted to think of it. But now I’m very glad that I shared my story because I’ve been able to help impact the lives of other people. A lot of people have been able to relate to my life on so many different levels and it just means a lot. People out there know they’re not alone and that other people are going through similar situations.
I think it made you seem more human to the viewers, too, by sharing your story because you really opened up. Are you happy with how the show portrayed you?
They did such an incredible job with everything in the show. I thought it was really unique how they used footage from people in the crowd’s phones for the Daytona scenes and stuff like that to build up the moments since they couldn’t film. I thought that that was very cool. But the way they edited everything and the way they portrayed everything, it really shows the real true aspect of what we do here in at Navarro.
How has your life changed since the series was released?
It has changed a lot (laughing). I’ve been going from interview to interview, to talking on the phone with different people for all these opportunities and then start getting ready for Daytona season right now because that’s in April. I’m crazy busy, all over the place. But I wouldn’t change it for the world because this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that has opened that up a lot of doors for me and it’s incredible that I get to experience that.
How would you describe your relationship with Monica?
She’s my mentor and I look up to her a lot. I know she’s my coach, but she’s also one of my best friends. I can talk to her about anything and I just really look up to her as a person.
Why do you think a lot of people related to your relationship with Monica?
I think it’s because even though people might not have that mother aspect in their lives, they can relate to it because there’s probably a person like a counsellor at school or a friend’s mom — or I know just other people in the world that aren’t necessarily blood-related to them — but have helped them otherwise. I think that people have connected to that a little bit.
What was it like when you met Monica for the very first time?
I was very intimidated. I was so scared because I knew who she was and she had no idea who I was. But I just showed up at Navarro for a clinic and said, “Hi, I’m Morgan.” Monica asked where I was from and I told her, Wyoming, and she said, “OK, so you came a long way to be here, right?” But I was so intimated at first and after I got to know her a little bit more and practising with the team, our relationship started from there. I think we’re basically inseparable now.
You visited the emergency room because of your ribs and you went against the doctor’s orders and continued to compete. What advice would you give other people who end up in similar situations to yours?
Everyone’s body is different. Some people can handle pain and some people can’t. But I know what my limitations are and what I physically can and cannot handle. So for me, it was a little bit different because I was like, OK, Daytona’s here, I know I can get through this without further hurting myself. And I knew my teammates would be there for me to help me move and get me to where I needed to be. I trusted myself in the way that I knew I could continue to be cheering safely, even though it was against the doctor’s orders because they understood all the stuff that we actually do (laughing). I kind of trusted my own instincts on it and just knew my limitations when it came to it.
What’s your beauty routine on a competition day compared to a regular day?
Compared to a regular day, I do not wear makeup (laughing). But a competition day, I have a full face of makeup, my hair is done, it’s the whole beauty pageant look. But basically for a competition I wake up, drink a cup of coffee, eat a little bit of breakfast and then do my hair and makeup and then get ready to go.
Who would you say stands out the most to you when you watch Cheer?
Jerry, for sure! I mean, obviously, he is basically America’s sweetheart. Everyone loves him so much. He always has such high energy and he’s such a positive person. His smile is literally so contagious. When he walks into a room, he lights it up. But he’s just a very genuine person and the way that the show portrayed him, he is everything that was on this show, but so much more.
What’s your favourite thing about cheerleading?
I’d say it’s probably the relationships I make with my teammates and other people and all the memories that I get to make along the way.
What’s next for you in 2020?
At this point in time, I know that I want to finish school. That’s my main priority so I’ll be going to college somewhere, whether that’s going to university or doing school online.
(This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Cheer is streaming now on Netflix.
(Watch the trailer in the video above.)