In cheerleader speak, Monica Aldama has made mat. The coach of the Navarro College cheer team in Corsicana and star of Netflix hit series Cheer will compete on Season 29 of Dancing with the Stars, beginning September 14.
Aldama, 50, has coached fearless flyers, powerful tumblers, and superb stunters to 14 national championships. A former cheerleader herself, she has built one of the world's best cheerleading programs at the two-year college just 50 miles from Dallas-Fort Worth.
Because the national cheerleading championships were canceled this spring, Aldama did not get to add to her trophy collection. But now she can take home the Dancing with the Stars mirror ball trophy.
Let’s break down five reasons why she'll win.
1. She doesn’t lose. Aldama's coached teams to 14 titles, and she has not yet tasted sweet victory this year. With her personal motto, “You keep going until you get it right, and then you keep going until you can't get it wrong," how can she not slay the foxtrot and tear up the tango?
Will she resist her coach's instinct to construct her own routines, record hours of practices on her iPad, and stealthily scout the competition to make her tricks harder? Let’s hope not.
Bottom line — she's been here before. Dancing with the Stars is about a journey to win. The entire Cheer docuseries was about a journey to win.
Someone tie a bow in her hair because she's going full out.
Competitors keeping her on her toes: Vernon Davis, former NFL Super Bowl winner; and Kaitlyn Bristowe, Bachelor/Bachelorette star, who admits she's already scouting the competition.
2. She's got the humble disposition of a sneak-attack winner. When introduced on Good Morning America as a DWTS competitor, Aldama said, "I have never done dance in my life. I've always done cheerleading. And I've learned very quickly that it's completely different, and it's a whole different technique, so I have a long journey ahead of me."
Right answer. Good foreshadowing.
It's a variation on the same things said by pretty much every DWTS competitor with extensive training in "completely different" athletic or dance movement. Watch them unlearn their old moves, then grow and stretch into killer dancers.
By the end, these former gymnasts (Laurie Hernandez, Shawn Johnson); figure skaters (Meryl Davis, Kristi Yamaguchi); and girl band/boy band pop stars (Drew Lachey, Nicole Scherzinger) conquer this "completely different technique" and hoist the mirror ball trophy.
Competitor keeping her on her toes: Figure skater Johnny Weir. He'll be learning a "whole different technique" while out-costuming everyone else. At least they're both used to high heels.
3. She’s a fearless warrior. Stunting is in Aldama's DNA. Pyramid is her passion. Flying requires no cape for cheerleaders.
We expect her mid-dance lifts to soar higher than anyone else's, but woe to the partner who lets her fall. Falls get punished by 50 push-ups on her teams. They also get hashtags. In a famous scene from Cheer, when Mackenzie "Sherbs" Sherburn landed on the ground out of a basket toss, #whodroppedsherbs trended on social media.
Consider yourself warned, #MonicasPartner.
Then again, maybe we'll never know if she slips. This is the coach who didn't let a mid-routine injury at nationals destroy her team's chances of winning. She went to Plan B before Plan A hobbled offstage. Business mode. Warrior mode.
Her game face is her superpower.
Competitors keeping her on her toes: Jeannie Mai. The talk-show host is out for dance floor redemption after losing a dance-off against Tiffany Haddish in Las Vegas at Jennifer Lopez's birthday party. "That's why I'm here," she said on GMA.
4. She has nothing to prove. The season is a battle of Netflix series stars: Aldama from Cheer vs. Carole Baskin from Tiger King vs. Chrishell Stause from Selling Sunset.
Aldama has the clearest advantage because she has the clearest head. Her series ended with joy, not weird murder mystery or Hollywood heartache.
While Cheer uplifted and inspired, Tiger King was, as one animal advocate put it, "an inaccurate travesty." Big cats activist Baskin — who may or may not have killed her ex-husband and fed him to a tiger — told GMA she wants to set the record straight after being villainized on the show. Something to prove!
Poor Stause had it all, raking in big bucks selling Los Angeles-area mega mansions on two-and-a-half seasons of Selling Sunset. Then her husband, This is Us star Justin Hartley, sprung a surprise divorce, and by the end of season three, viewers were crying in their mimosas. She's awesome, now, Justin, really. Something to prove!
Competitors keeping her on her toes: Carole Baskin and Chrishell Stause. Fans always love a great comeback story.
Side note: Now that Harry and Meghan have signed a Netflix production deal, can we start campaigning for #TeamMeghanDWTS?
5. She's got the biggest cheering section. The world's most famous cheerleading coach no doubt has the world's loudest DWTS cheering squad, including show fans Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Reese Witherspoon, Gabrielle Union, and Chrissy Teigen.
Cheering loudest will be Jerry Harris, her Navarro cheerleader whose positive "mat talks" have gone viral. He was the first to congratulate her on GMA, and surely he'll show up on the sidelines for more socially-distanced pep talks throughout the season, right?
The other "cheer-lebrities" on Aldama's squad have millions of Instagram followers, so this popularity contest is over, #MonicaWins.
Competitor keeping her on her toes: Charles Oakley, the retired NBA star whose cheering section could be led by former Chicago Bulls teammate Michael Jordan.