And what to expect from Season 2, out on January 12, 2022.
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Morgan Cheer Interview

Just before the world locked down and a certain tiger-themed Netflix series had us all glued to our screens while making sourdough bread, the streaming service released another major binge-worthy hit that captivated audiences. Cheer premiered in January 2020, and while that pre-pandemic era may seem like a lifetime ago to viewers, imagine how it feels for the members of the Navarro College Bulldogs cheerleading team who were featured in the six-part series. (Related: I've Been Waiting 15 Years for TV to Do Cheerleading Justice—and Netflix Finally Did)

Many of the cast members, including 24-year-old Wyoming native Morgan Simianer, competed nationally with Navarro for the final time in the season one finale when (spoiler alert!) the team won the 2019 championship. While the team was preparing to compete again the following year, the pandemic forced organizers to cancel the 2020 NCA & NDA Collegiate National Championship, bringing Simianer's journey to an unceremonious close.

"Once COVID hit, that was the end of my cheer career, so I haven't cheered in almost two years, which is crazy," she tells Shape. "So, technically, I'm done with cheer, but I'm hoping that soon I'll be able to make another appearance to cheer again…"

While Simianer can't spill any details about how and when fans might see her back on the mat, she can say she's excited to watch Cheer's second season when it premieres on Netflix this week. "I haven't seen it yet, so I see it when the whole world sees it, which is nerve-wracking," she says. "I don't know exactly what's going to be in it, but I'm just grateful that they get to showcase memories from the past few years."

Simianer will be appearing in the second season, which began filming in January 2020 alongside new competitors and previous cast members Lexi Brumback, La'Darius Marshall, Gabi Butler, and Navarro coach Monica Aldama. (Jerry Harris, who was arrested last year for multiple federal sexual misconduct charges, including soliciting child pornography, will not appear in season two, but Netflix says the show will confront the allegations against him.)

While Simianer will be discovering what the season has in store along with the rest of us, she's ready to reflect on the journey that brought her here, how Cheer has turned her world upside down, and how she's coped with the pressures of sudden stardom.

Soaring Along with a Smash Hit

"It was just a crazy coincidence that they were filming Cheer the same year I was there, so first of all, that is absolutely insane. And the fact that I even made the Navarro team to begin with is really crazy. And then afterwards, once the show was released, everything just blew up. We thought it was going to be really big in the cheerleading world and it ended up reaching a much bigger audience than we ever anticipated. We thought it would just be cheerleaders and people in different countries who were watching it. So we were mind-blown. And then also like with COVID being around and everyone being at home, it helped the whole thing to blow up more." (Want more to binge? Try these other inspiring fitness documentaries on Netflix.)

Sharing Her Life Story

"It was actually really hard to come out with my story and bring light to it because not a lot of people knew about it. [In the first season, Simianer discussed how her grandparents took her in after her parents left her and her brother to live alone in a trailer as minors.] There were even several teammates who didn't know my story, so for them to learn about [my life] from watching the show was, I don't know, a little weird at first. But I feel very, very thankful for the opportunity because there are so many people that have gone through similar situations or have struggled in different ways, and for me to be able to help people feel like they're not alone and that they're not just going through this by themselves and making it relatable makes me feel like I'm helping other people — that's the biggest thing for me. I love helping others and putting a smile on other people's faces. That fills me up with so much joy to be able to help other people that are struggling with the same things. It wasn't easy and I still do struggle with it, but I just think it was good for me to be able to share that because I know there are a lot of other people that are struggling, too.

Managing Mental Health In a Pressure-Filled Sport (and World)

"Obviously, I care a lot about my mental health and it's very important to me. There are days where I'm struggling or days where I don't feel confident in myself or feel like I'm where I need to be and I get down on myself. But I really just take a step back from whatever situation I'm in, whether I'm stressing myself out about this or overthinking something else. I just take a step back, take a deep breath, and then do things that are important to me — such as skincare, taking a bath, reading a book, or going on a walk or something to clear my head. That helps a lot. And then also surrounding myself with friends and family and those I love, or spending time with my boyfriend makes it so my mental health is where it needs to be. It's hard having a lot of eyes on you at all times and on everything you do — it's a lot of pressure. But to be able to have the things to keep you sane is very, very important." (Related: Aly Raisman On What It's Like to Compete In a Sport That's All About Perfection)

Riding the Wave of Stardom

"I didn't really know how to do interviews and didn't really have time to prepare for anything. It was basically just like being thrown into a shark tank at first with social media and all of that. So it was very terrifying, but it was a group of us that went through it together, so I'm very thankful that I had my other teammates and Monica was able to walk us through that journey together — it wasn't just one person by themselves. It was very hard with the negative comments that people made — and still do. But you can't focus on the bad ones, you have to look at the positives and realize people are hiding behind screens. And if you post a picture that makes you happy, then that's all that matters. I'll post a picture and I'll swipe off of it and won't go back to it for a couple of days.

"I feel like sometimes social media is very toxic and I'd rather enjoy spending time with people one-on-one than being on my phone and watching 1,400 videos and just scrolling. And the negative things or comments or someone talking about someone on the internet just kind of puts a damper on things. I always try to look at the positive, so I just try to steer away from it as much as I possibly can. Obviously, it's part of what I do, but there has to be that healthy balance of knowing when it's too much time spent on social media. And [it's also important to] change who you follow, what you follow, and what you're going to be seeing every day — that can really change how social media can be for you." (Related: These Adult Charity Cheerleaders Are Bettering the World—While Throwing Crazy Stunts)

Ending Her Cheer Career In an Unexpected Way

"I thought I had a couple more months with my teammates and would be able to compete again and finish up the season. I figured after Daytona, that's when it would be done, so it happened a lot sooner than I anticipated. I was obviously devastated and heartbroken, but then I realized the bigger picture of what was going on [with the pandemic]. I was so focused on school and practices and Daytona, and all the craziness from the show coming out and interviews and all that. I was so caught up with everything that was going on, I didn't really process it all right then and there. I was upset, but I couldn't really understand the whole thing.

"Once I got back home in Wyoming and was quarantining and the whole world went into lockdown, I took time to myself to understand the situation and realized I didn't end Navarro on a bad note. The previous year we had won, I was able to have all these opportunities with my teammates and Monica, made all these unforgettable memories, and had the time of my life. I graduated from Navarro fulfilling every single role I felt I needed to fulfill, whether that was a leadership role or as a friend or teammate or athlete. And I couldn't really do much about the situation — I couldn't change the fact that COVID hit when it did. So I just accepted it and realized that there were so many good things that came from Navarro that I shouldn't be sad about it. And I should just relive the moments in my head and all the positive memories and thoughts — everything." (Related: How 'Cheer' Coach Monica Aldama Is Dealing with Quarantine)

Finding Fitness In a Post-Athletics Life

"When I was cheering at Navarro, we would practice every single day — sometimes twice a day — for multiple hours. So it was a lot. But after I stopped cheering, first of all, I gave myself a break, because I deserved it. I gave myself some time off to take care of my body and give it the rest it needed. I couldn't really do anything during quarantine anyways, so I gave myself a break. I've slowly been getting into working out again because I've just been kind of chilling and not as active as I used to be. My boyfriend and I will work out together and my friend is a personal trainer so she makes us workout plans and ab routines to stay in shape, but nothing too crazy because working out isn't my favorite thing to do — it just so happened that cheerleading involved a lot of working out, so it was like something I loved to do." (FYI: Navarro Cheer Members Swear By These Sweat-Wicking Sports Bras)