Though everyone is bingeing and discussing the chaotic nature of Netflix's Tiger King right now, only a few months ago it was Cheer that was the talk of the interwebs. On that docuseries viewers are introduced to the Navarro College cheer squad who are training for Nationals in Daytona. As becomes clear quite early on in in the series though, these aren't just athletes hoping to continue an ongoing legacy of winning at the school, but complex individuals with their own personal stories to tell. Among those is La'Darius Marshall who just landed his first magazine cover.
"Rah-Rah, Bit*hes La’Darius Marshall is the real breakout star of Cheer!" The Cut wrote of the 21-year-old on Instagram. Ok, put some respect on Jerry's name, we can stan them both! "He has that perfect reality-TV mix of raw, unimpeachable talent and an appreciation for mild (though typically justifiable) drama." And it's true.
When Cheer starts, Marshall comes off as a divisive character. His talent is on view to all but a bristly personality causes division in the squad — I've never felt so represented onscreen. But as things continue, viewers are introduced to his backstory of how he was the victim of bullying and sexual assault as a child. It's a heartbreaking story that complicates the narrative before showing a different side of the athlete as caring, reconciling with his teammates. But being that forthcoming with the camera wasn't without hesitation.
“You have to battle yourself and battle your inner demons … because they tell you it is socially unacceptable to talk about it and you’re being a wuss if you do,” Marshall told The Cut. “And I just don’t see how that culture is even close to being healthy. That’s like me going through my entire life and not telling my story.” Marshall said he stopped eating and drinking after filming ended. He fell into a "dark place" thinking that people would victimize him after having heard his story.
“I never wanted to be perceived as a victim,” he said. “I don’t like the word … I know what I’ve been through, but look how far I made it.”
Since the series though, things have changed. In addition to appearing on late night shows and more, Marshall has reconnected with some of his family. Sadly for him, and the rest of Navarro, Nationals in Daytona has been cancelled and with it, his last chance to cheer competitively.
Still, it's not likely this is the last time we'll see the talent.
For the cover shoot Marshall was shot by Erik Tanner.