The first season of Netflix's Cheer not only revealed how competitive and intense the sport of college cheerleading is, but introduced us to a group of inspiring young athletes who have now gone on to become household names. If you have a Netflix subscription (or still use your parents'), then you are probably very familiar with Gabi Butler, La'Darius Marshall, Morgan Simianer, and their backstories that led them to being all-star cheerleaders.
Cheer Season 2 introduced the world to another cheerleading sensation, Maddy Brum, who joined the Navarro cheer team in 2019 and quickly moved herself to the center of the pack. Maddy's impressive skills on the mat are not the only thing that made her a central figure of the Netflix docuseries' second season. It was also her vulnerability on camera and her determination to overcome personal circumstances to be the best at a sport that she loves so much.
Brum is currently hard at work in her third year at Navarro and preparing for Nationals in Daytona where she hopes to finally secure a championship ring. She made time in her busy schedule to talk to TV Guide about Cheer Season 2, why she hopes people are inspired by her story, and what she has to say to people who think Navarro doesn't have what it takes anymore.
Your first season on this team was when the first season of Cheer was coming out. What was it like to be there when the madness of all of that was really kicking off?
Maddy Brum: Oh, it was amazing for them. We were all so excited for them. They work really hard at what they do, and their passion for the sport and everything. [They] definitely should be getting recognized for the talent and the hard work they put into this sport. It's not easy and I'm happy that they portrayed it so well in showing all the hard work that we've put in, especially with like my friends and stuff like that. So it was really cool seeing their success.
There are two athletic seasons in this season of the show, and there's a big difference between the Maddy we see at the beginning of the season and the Maddy who goes to Daytona. Tell me about that COVID break and how it helped you get ready for that second season.
Brum: It was absolutely crazy, even watching myself on the show, just like the way I look compared from the first half of the season to the second half. When COVID hit I was heartbroken because I went home for spring break and I was planning on coming back a week later. The day that I was supposed to fly home, everything shut down in my hometown. We didn't know anything about the virus. We didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. My mom was like, "I just don't feel comfortable shipping my daughter off across the country, not knowing what I'm sending her into." So she [said], "Let's just give it a week and we'll go with it." I took a nap that day and I woke up and Daytona was canceled. I was absolutely heartbroken. I was literally sitting in my bedroom, I was so mad at my mom but I have no reason to be mad at her…I wanted to go down and now I can't even say bye to my people. So I definitely was at a very deep low during that time. It was definitely heartbreaking, but I think going into this new year made me want it that much more, and that made me so much more excited to be back at the school and being able to practice, whether I had to wear a mask or not. I wanted to be the best and just push ourselves to be amazing because we all got it taken away from us, not even just us, every single cheerleading team in the country. So when it comes to little things like that, it really just drives us to be better because you don't know when your last time is going to be and you don't know when your last opportunity to do cheerleading is going to be. I think the pandemic really opened our eyes to that, and it made us just want to work that much harder.
You shared so much about your backstory and your family. What made you feel comfortable enough and okay with allowing that much of yourself to be on camera?
Brum: The thing is when they first started filming, I didn't realize the extreme of how much I was going to be filmed. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It was definitely something exciting. They wanted me to tell my story and I was going to tell my story. My story isn't necessarily "Poor me," for me. I wanted it to be more of "You can't be defined from what you go through. It's how much work you put into something." It doesn't matter about your past or anything like that. It matters in the present and what you can make out of the future. That was my goal in revealing my story because you can inspire a lot of people just by your drive and your athleticism and work ethic. That was more of me showing who I am and why I am the way I am. That is why I am so competitive. That is why I always want to be the best. That was my goal going into the whole series. If they really wanted me to show my true self, I was going to show them my true self.
I want to focus on the first half of the 2020-21 season for a moment. How difficult was it to be on that team with all of the controversy surrounding Navarro and Monica being away for Dancing with the Stars? What was it like trying to put the team together under those circumstances plus a global pandemic?
Brum: My biggest thing in life is don't stress about the things you can't control. I love Monica and that [was] an amazing opportunity for her. We didn't want to take that away from her because at the end of the day we are rooting for her and she deserves this. She deserves that spotlight she was getting. When she came back, we all knew that she was going to come back and be our coach and make us the best thing that we could be. We know that even though she was all the way in LA, she was still rooting for us no matter what.
Kailee still did an amazing job at being a great coach and all of those things. I believe that going through his whole season and everything like that — it was already crazy with the pandemic and everything going on so everything already just wasn't normal. We were taking it and adjusting and saying, "It is what it is. This is what we have to do to be amazing and we're gonna run with it." I think that looking at it from that perspective is a way more positive way of seeing it rather than trying to take it down and always see the negative.
In the Daytona episodes, there's an implication that there might have been people rooting against you guys. Did you feel that while you were there and what was it like to see it play out in the documentary?
Brum: I'm the kind of person that doesn't pay attention to the people who aren't rooting for me. At the end of the day, those people are what make you better, the ones who don't want you to succeed. You want to succeed that much more [because of them]. When I was in Daytona, I feel like my main focus was, "My family is here to watch me do cheerleading. The people who are rooting for me are standing right there in front of me while I'm on stage and those people are the people that I care about. I'm doing this for them and I'm doing this for myself. I'm doing this for the other 40 people on my team." … If we sit here and we focus on the people who don't want us to succeed and we're like, "Why don't they love us? Why don't they want us to win?" Then it's just tearing ourselves down. If you don't want me to do great, watch me. That's the mindset that we were trying to have going into it.
The show focused a lot on La'Darius and Monica making up at Daytona but we didn't get to see the team's reaction to him being there. How did the team feel about him being there after the rift earlier in the season?
Brum: We were thankful that he came to support us, but it wasn't really anything that we were concerned about. We were more focused on Daytona.
Throughout the season you refer to yourself as a die-hard Navarro girl and you had that attitude long before Cheer Season 1 came out. What is it about Navarro that makes you go so hard for this team?
Brum: I have people who were on my team my first year who I know are going to be in my wedding one day, who I know are going to stick by me for the rest of my life. If I'm all the way back home in Massachusetts, if I'm going through a tough time, they will be the first person I call and will answer on the first ring. The connections with these people and the love that we have for the sport are all shared so much at this program because we all worked so hard to be the best at where we came from. Then we all come here and we all still have that drive to be the best. That builds a connection with your teammates. It helps you realize, "Oh gosh, you are just like me and you love this sport as much as I do. You want to be great just as much as I do." That helps build friendships and it helps build that bond of a team. If I didn't come to Navarro, I wouldn't have that. I watched a lot from the outside before I came here. I saw all of those friendships and I saw how close they were. One person could be from Colorado and another person could be from Texas, but they're still best friends. I thought that was just so cool to me that you can meet people from everywhere, but you can still share so many similar things together.
What do you want to say to people who may think that Navarro's time as top dogs has ended?
Brum: You don't know my program and we're going to make it work. Win or lose, I will always love Navarro cheer and we're working 10 times harder than you think we are.
Cheer Season 2 is now streaming.