When Flexibility is a State of Mind (it also helps if you can do a backbend)

by Angelica Macias

This year, like previous years, the world wide recognized streaming service, Netflix, released and continues to release a library filled with its own content. Yet, now with the Coronavirus pandemic and the “stay home, work safe” orders from many county officials, Netflix, along with other streaming services, have become our main form of entertainment. Therefore, I would like to recommend two particular shows, Cheer and Next in Fashion, that are not only inspiring, but they also emphasize an idea of perfection. Cheer features a small town cheerleading team’s road to a huge success, while Next in Fashion is a competition where only one fashion designer will become the fashion industry’s next distinguished designer. Even though these shows differ in their composition and subject matter, both stress the idea of reaching a form of perfection through the far-reaching concept of flexibility. Whether mental or physical, flexibility is the capacity to evolve and morph one’s talents into the unseen and unexpected. 

Cheer is a docuseries detailing some of the challenging lives behind the now 14- time NCA  (National Cheerleading Association) champion, the Navarro College cheerleading team, located in Corsicana, TX. This successful team is directed by the notable Monica Aldama, who, ever since the year 2000, has been the coach responsible for all the triumphs of this team. As the coach of the team, Monica follows her strict and strenuous game plan in order to strengthen the talents of each team member. Because of the demanding training process that Monica implements on her students’ training routine, she is seen as a perfectionist. Yet, Monica’s perfectionist personality has a flexibility that allows her to divide into two sides of her, which not only carry on throughout the show, but carry on later into her student’s identity. Monica helps her students become a better version of themselves, not only by preparing them for the competition, but also by preparing them for their adult life. The two sides that reside in Monica’s personality and ultimately transfer onto her students in a positive manner are both competitive and caring. The competitive nature of Monica is a side of her that only means business. This aforementioned aspect of Monica is one that is unafraid to take risks, but is also a hard-hearted person. This stone-cold attitude comes into play whenever Monica and her assistant coach make the difficult decision of choosing twenty out of the forty students who will “make mat.”  In other words, they have to choose the students who will be in the actual 2019 NCA championship performance. During this process, Monica reiterates that her decisions are going to “break some hearts”, stating that at the end of the day everything means business. She lets her team know that her decisions will not be guided by her emotions. She is not afraid of leaving behind whoever she believes is not at their best. For example, when Ladarius Marshall, an exceptional cheerleader, decides to slack off in his performance and is in constant disagreement with some teammates, Monica takes the decision to replace him. It is not until Ladarius demonstrates discipline in his cheerleading routines that he is placed back into the performance. In other words, nothing will get in the way of her ambition of winning the 2019 NCA championship and she expects this same frame of mind from her team. She wants her students to showcase ambition and determination in every aspect of their lives.

 Moreover, Monica’s second characteristic that forms part of her perfectionist personality is her motherly love towards her team. Not only does she help each of the forty members become better cheerleaders, but she makes it her responsibility to monitor them on a more personal level; from monitoring their academics to monitoring their social media accounts. It is not that she has a need to have full control of each of her team member’s lives, but it is a measure taken to ensure that each student is properly representing both the Navarro College cheerleading team and herself. In fact, three members of the Navarro College cheerleading team standout not only for their exceptional talents, but for their ability to display a concept of flexibility that extends far beyond their physical capabilities. This type of flexibility deals with a person’s mindset that paves the way for a stronger performance and an enduring stamina. 

Gabi Butler, Morgan Semianar, and Jerry Harris are a personification of Monica’s mindset. These three cheerleaders are each able to reach Monica’s sense of perfection through their flexibility. Early in the series, Monica mentions how she wants to take the skill set of each person and mold it into what she wants; something that makes it to mat; something she can call perfect. She implies the need for her students to be malleable; and, Gabi, Morgan and Jerry’s attitudes are a perfect example of the flexibility that Monica is searching for. Yet, this flexibility not only exists in their physical body, but also in their mindset. Essentially, Gabi, Morgan, and Jerry must have an open mindset. This type of mentality requires a person to leave their comfort zone and explore a new terrain of possibilities. In other words, a person with an open mindset must have a determined goal, but must be flexible enough to overcome obstacles that lead them to their goal.

The first one to demonstrate this attitude is Gabi Butler, a girl who seemingly appears to be the perfect cheerleader in magazines but in reality has to deal with much more than just posing in front of a camera. As the show progresses, audiences are given insight into Gabi’s life and learn all about her busy schedule, trying to juggle between her academics, her cheerleading class, traveling, and her family’s business. Throughout the whole process, Gabi demonstrates great determination. First and foremost, Gabi explains the steps she had to take to become one of the best cheerleaders. The most important step she took was her determination to defy the odds; the odds that physical flexibility is a talent that can be learned. In other words, she opens her mind to new possibilities, giving her the opportunity to prove how flexibility is not an innate talent, but a talent that can be learned through continuous practice. Throughout Gabi’s childhood, her parents would encourage her to create YouTube videos, in which she would teach different flexibility exercises. Not only did this allow her to gain popularity on social media, but also allowed her to fortify her cheerleading skills. 

Morgan Semianar is another extraordinary cheerleader. Morgan’s story deals with isolation transforming into integration. In the beginning of the show, Morgan describes herself with the words isolated, closed emotionally and “not good enough for people ”. These negative thoughts and feelings that dwell in Morgan’s mind are the product of a difficult childhood she and her brother endured. Nonetheless, after Morgan and her brother are taken under the custody of their paternal grandparents, Morgan finds an opportunity to enhance her cheerleading skills by joining the Navarro College cheerleading team and by being under the guidance of Monica. After meeting Monica and her team, Morgan is finally able to find a family and is able to step out of her comfort zone and take the necessary risks to lead the team to a win. For example, after two people of the team suffer serious injuries, Monica makes the prompt decision to place Morgan at the center of the pyramid; however, this means that Morgan will have to quickly learn a new arduous routine. Yet, even after being asked to take the most crucial role of the routine, Morgan, without a doubt, accepts Monica’s decision.

Jerry’s story is a representation of triumph. Jerry’s flexible personality is what ultimately gets him into the stunter position he wants. Despite his tough childhood and his present troubles, he still manages to not only bring a smile to his face, but to also bring upon a smile to all of his teammates; he is a teammate who is always there to cheer for others. Therefore, because of Jerry’s malleability with his own emotions, his attitude towards these challenges becomes a prime example of determination. Despite not qualifying for mat the previous year, he keeps his hopes high, an open mind to the possibility that he can be chosen for mat and he continues to work harder in order to earn his rightful position in the performance as a stunter. In order to accomplish this, Jerry has to learn about his physical and performance weaknesses in order to become a better version of himself. These three people, because of their mental flexibility, regardless of life’s circumstances and pressures, and under the guidance of Monica, are able to achieve much more than they could have ever imagined.

In much the same way, the contestants from the Netflix Series Next in Fashion are able to showcase their talents in the face of pressure. Next in Fashion is a show conducted by two main judges, Alexa Chung and Tan France. These two judges, along with Elizabeth Stewart and some guest designers, have to make the difficult decision of choosing one out of eighteen contestants as the winner. Throughout the show, Alexa and Tan emphasize that in order for one of those designers to become “next in fashion,” they must create something beyond the commercialized looks; they must create masterpieces. Therefore, in order for Alexa and Tan to discover this talented fashion designer they submit all contestants to ten different challenges that test the flexibility of their talented minds. Out of the many talented and perfectionist personalities, Minju Kim becomes the winner of this arduous competition. Minju is granted $ 250,000 and an opportunity to debut her collection on Net-A-Porter’s website, where distinct fashion designers sell their merchandise. From beginning to end of the reality show, Minju Kim proves her ability to morph her fashion ideas into something different from mainstream fashion industry. Minju takes every critique not as an excuse to stop her but as a reason to try and continue to push her ideas further. After being in danger of elimination during one of the challenges, Minju decides to work harder and take the criticism of making her clothes more appealing very seriously. For the next challenge, in which each designer had to create a unique active wear design, Minju decides to create a design unlike her previous ones. This time instead of making the clothes loose, a bit oversized, and baggy, she aims for the opposite. Her design is a design perfect for a comic book heroine; and with this new design and attitude towards the competition, Minju demonstrates growth. However, this is not the only characteristic of Minju that separates her from her fellow contestants. It is the subtlety and flexibility of her perfectionist attitude that really allows Minju’s talent to radiate stronger than the other talented designers. Minju’s perfectionist attitude is strong enough to allow her to persevere, but not strong enough to impede her progression and growth as a designer. Likewise, the exceptional designers Marco and Ashton are able to grow in their artistry as designers. From the initial challenge, Ashton and Marco make their artistic style known, dressing their models in a rebel style using all black fabric. However, after being criticized for making their designs seem more like costumes rather than actual clothes, they decide to step out of their comfort zone and use color in their designs. As the competition continues, these two brilliant designers are able to make it to the finals; however, they are unable to mold their artistic style into what would become next in fashion. Every single person in the competition is a perfectionist indeed, paying attention to detail and never drawing away from the initial plan, but many allow their perfectionist characteristics to get in the way of their talent, making their ideas appear more mundane rather than extraordinary. On the other hand, Minju can be described as a humble perfectionist; recognizing her own weaknesses and errors and converting those weaknesses into usable qualities; taking every critique more as an advice and applying it onto her work. Therefore, just like Minju, a perfectionist attitude should not prevent one from accomplishing his or her goals, but instead should be a tool that allows one’s talents to evolve one detail at a time.

Cheer and Next in Fashion both present stories dealing with the evolution of talents, going from adamant to flexible, giving space to reach a form of perfection. Whether cheerleading, fashion designing or simply living, we must learn to have mental flexibility in order to overcome the challenges which guide us to our main goal. 

Angelica Macias is a CNMA student that spends most of her time lost in her thoughts thinking and envisioning new ideas which rarely come to life. During her free time she enjoys drawing, listening to music and most importantly spending time with her family.

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