Before La’Darius Marshall was perfecting his flips and tumbling routines, the breakout star of Netflix’s Cheer was grappling with his past.
In a recent interview with The Cut, the 21-year-old athlete opened up about his experience as a survivor of sexual abuse and how Cheer was able to give him a platform to share his story.
Marshall — who recounts his childhood and the abuse in the docuseries — told the outlet that he “just knew” Cheer was where he could bring light to his story.
“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 said of revealing his truth.
“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,” he explained.
The athlete shared that cheerleading also provided him with a way to feel visible.
“When I’m performing, you’re going to see me. In that moment, the kid in me is like, ‘You’re going to see me whether you like it or not,’” he said to the outlet. “And I feel like that kid is finally gone. He definitely got what he wanted.”
But after opening up on camera about his past, Marshall said he fell into a “dark place,” worried about what people would think of him.
“I never wanted to be perceived as a victim,” he explained. “I don’t like the word … I know what I’ve been through, but look how far I made it.”
Moving forward, Marshall learned he doesn’t “have to have shields on.”
“I should just live,” he said to The Cut. “You’re gonna miss out on your blessings if you don’t allow people to come in.”
Cheer is available to stream now on Netflix.