In case you haven’t noticed, cheerleaders are taking over the world. Since Netflix dropped Cheer, a docuseries about Navarro College’s nationally ranked team, the internet has been shocked to discover that the sport is much more than peppy sideline chants and glittery bows. This is the biggest collective paradigm shift since the discovery that the blue-and-black dress was actually white and gold, but it’s old news to anyone even vaguely familiar with the cheerleading world.
If you cheered recently enough to have worn Nike Pro shorts to practice (sorry to the Soffee generation), you definitely already knew who Gabi Butler was before Cheer. Like, anyone under pressure to “improve their elements” before a competition has def stumbled upon her YouTube channel at least once.
Aaanyway, I caught up with Gabi during the Cheer cast’s whirlwind press tour to see what life is like now that she’s officially transitioning from cheer-lebrity to real-world famous. (And if you think I’m exaggerating...she’s gained more than 800,000 Instagram followers since the show premiered.)
As a former cheerleader, the series made me super nostalgic. But it was also really difficult to watch, especially when people were injured or flyers were dropped. What was it like to watch yourself?
It definitely taught us some things about ourselves that we didn’t even know. Not that we didn’t know a lot about each other, but it definitely was an eye-opener for all of us, like, to see things we think we can fix about ourselves or be better at. It was very, very cool to watch.
And it’s definitely weird, you know, just being able to chill in your room and put Netflix on and, Oh, there I am! You know? It’s suuuper weird, but it’s really cool.
Do you think the popularity of the show will impact your time at Daytona this year?
It definitely adds pressure, but it’s not something that we’re not used to, because I feel like we already have pressure on us. We did already have ESPN recording our routine and we had, like, thousands of people watching us. So the pressure was kind of already there. I don’t think it should be really anything different. Nothing we can’t handle.
Is there anything people didn’t see that you wish could have been included on the show?
I wish they would have shown more of how much my family loves each other. I think that they kind of misinterpreted the idea of my parents being a little overwhelming. Which...they can be. Absolutely, they can be a little overwhelming sometimes. But at the end of the day, my parents would do absolutely anything for me. They would take a bullet for me without hesitation. No family is really perfect. Every family has their own little issues and things, ups and downs. But I mean, we love really, really hard. And I think that the show has made us actually get closer. We’re, like, laughing, actually, about all the comments and stuff.
What has it been like to show people what the sport is actually like?
Honestly, it’s amazing. It’s amazing that people who had no idea about cheerleading are like, “Oh my gosh, this has completely changed our perspective of it.” We went to dinner with Ben Platt, and he was telling us, “You know I never truly realized what cheerleading was about, and this series really opened my eyes. You guys work so hard, and you’re total badasses.”
That was honestly one of the best feelings, having someone like Ben Platt telling us, “I totally respect what you guys do.” It’s amazing. It’s not only from him, it’s coming from everyone. This series is the turnaround for cheer. And I think we definitely did a lot for the sport.
So many people had no idea how dangerous it can be.
Well, when cheerleading first started, it wasn’t a very well respected sport because obviously back then, cheerleading was super different. It was more like pom poms and cheers. Then they build pyramids, and it was like one structure and everyone was like, "Oh my god, that's so cool!" But nowadays, cheerleading has evolved so, so much. We put ourselves at a high risk because it is a dangerous sport. And we work super, super hard.
I definitely hope that the series gave people the actual reality of how cheerleading truly is. I honestly hope they make it an Olympic sport. I think it's very, very hard. You're doing a lot of acrobats, flips, tossing in the air, and spinning and controlling your body and all that stuff.
What does the future of your cheer career look like?
I’ve thought about my future, obviously, because I mean, there have been so many things that have been thrown my way. And I'm like, oh my gosh, I don't really know what to do. There are so many opportunities, but can I see myself being involved with cheerleading in the future? Yes, I can, because it's something that I've been in for a really long time. I think I could be really good at it if I was ever to be a coach, or something. I just kind of go with the way life takes me, and I go with the flow of things. Who knows what I'll be doing!
What are your goals outside of cheer?
I mean, some things I absolutely love: I love animals. I love kids. So maybe doing something with one of the two, or both. I've also loved the movie industry because I'm a movie junkie. I don't watch TV. I've watched like, every single movie that's on Netflix, because I'm like, super, super into that. But I don't really know. I'm trying to just see what comes my way, and obviously I want to be really, really in love with what I do.
Oh, and I've thought about doing Cirque du Soleil. I mean, it's hard, but I've trained a lot.
What's the biggest thing you've learned from this experience so far?
Honestly, it's to not be too hard on yourself, and just realize that everybody goes through their own journey and obstacles. You're not alone when you're going through rough times, and you're not alone when you're going through good times. I mean, everybody's gonna have their own little obstacle of ups and downs, and things thrown at them. But no matter what, you've got to stay positive and just realize that you're human. You're not going to always be able to please everyone.
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