From the opening mat counts of Netflix hit series Cheer, it was obvious the steely, focused Morgan Simianer would emerge as a thick-skinned twist on America’s sweetheart. The first images of the premiere episode are of Simianer — all 96 pounds and two feet of swinging ponytail — flipping through the air and landing with a slapping thud into a cradle of her teammates arms. Her first utterance is an understated “ouch” as she massages her own ribs. “Let’s just do it,” she says after breaking for only a few moments, preparing to hurtle toward the ceiling again knowing the only way down is a painful clash of skin and bone.
Navarro College’s championship team has an oxymoronic sort of appeal: They’re a cheerleading hegemon comprised of misfits. Simianer has one of the most quietly tragic stories among the main cast, left by her parents to raise herself in a trailer in Wyoming. Eventually, when her grandparents learned of the situation, Simianer moved to live with them on their Wyoming farm. She struggles with feelings of worthlessness and abandonment and low self-belief that follow her onto the mat.
Over the six episode series, though, Simianer proves herself to head coach Monica Aldama, whom Simianer calls a “second mom.” And despite graduating from Navarro last spring, she appears to be back for a third year and a chance at a third championship.
Besides flying around the world with her minor league baseball player boyfriend, Brad Markey — the two have posted photos on Instagram from Turkey, Greece, and New Year’s Eve in New York City — Simianer has been doing the Cheer press tour with cast member Jerry Harris, including appearances on the Dallas radio show Kidd Kraddick and the NBC morning news, according to Aldama. It seems that both inside and out of the insular world of competitive cheerleading, Simianer's name carries new cache. Last week she was among the featured cheerleaders at a Rebel-sponsored meet and greet in Indianapolis. There’s a video of her asking a crying boy — overwhelmed at meeting the Cheer cast — if she can give him a hug.
Despite the new attention, Simianer, who is also available on Cameo, still seems very much like the cheerleader we saw on TV. The young woman who can’t believe her good luck despite how much bad luck she’s already had. After bingeing the series herself — Simianer told a local ABC affiliate that she watched the series the night it came out from 2am to 8am — she took to Instagram to thank, well, everyone.
“I'm still in shock!!!!” she wrote. “Thank you for all the love and unconditional support. I couldn’t have made it this far without any of you. This experience has been amazing and I wouldn’t want change it for the world. Also I want to apologize for not being able to read everyone's messages, but just know that you all mean so much to me. I love y'all.”
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