La'Darius Marshall struggled after filming Netflix's Cheer. The reality show, which took viewers inside the world of competitive cheerleading at Navarro College in Texas, was an instant hit, but making it left the 21-year-old athlete feeling exposed.
In his interviews throughout the docuseries, Marshall reveals that he was sexually abused by an older boy when he was a child. While speaking to The Cut, Marshall says that the experience of opening up for the cameras made him stop eating and drinking, caused him to lose weight and left him in a "dark place."
"I never wanted to be perceived as a victim. I don’t like the word… I know what I’ve been through, but look how far I made it," he says. "... I don’t have to have shields on -- I just should live… You’re gonna miss out on your blessings if you don’t allow people to come in."
Battling his "inner demons" by openly discussing them made Marshall realize that emotions aren't a bad thing.
"They tell you it is socially unacceptable to talk about it and you’re being a wuss if you do, and I just don’t see how that culture is even close to being healthy," he says. "That’s like me going through my entire life and not telling my story."
While working through those demons, Marshall took solace from an unlikely source -- Nicki Minaj.
"Watching [Nicki] go through a lot of stuff in life and still make it and still smile and still keep going… taught me how to do that," he says. "Because there was a time where I literally thought I was not going to make it. I thought I was already done. But I always had Nicki Minaj."
He also had cheerleading, an activity during which Marshall always came alive.
"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.' And I feel like that kid is finally gone," he explains. "He definitely got what he wanted. He definitely feels free."
"I’m just taking it day by day and accepting that this is yet again another one of God’s plans for me," he says. "I love Navarro with all of my heart and cherish every moment we had together."
Marshall's a realist about the end of this part of his story, telling The Cut, "I’m already 21. To me, that’s old, and it’s time to give it up... And my body? I can feel it coming."
As for what's next for him, Marshall says he wants "to be something different" since he gets "burned out really easily." He mentions possibilities from going into radiology to becoming an actor.
"That’s something I have a big passion for that I’ve never gotten to do," he says of acting. "... I just want to do something fun."
For more Cheer, check out ET's exclusive interviews with some of Marshall's squad.