'Cheer Live' Star James Thomas — Living His Truth with Plenty of Back-Flips

by Steve Duffy

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday July 16, 2022
Originally published on June 29, 2022

James Thomas
James Thomas  (Source:Instagram)

What happens when the best cheerleading talent is brought together for a single show? "Cheer Live 2022," a new arena show that is touring the country that brings together fan favorites from the most successful cheer programs in the country. The show was developed by 14-time national champion coach and best-selling author, Monica Aldama and Andy Cosferent, and directed by Pam Chu ("Dancing With The Stars," New Kids On The Block, "RuPaul's Drag Race").

"One of the most successful athletic coaches in the country, Monica Aldama became an overnight sensation after starring in the Emmy Award-winning Netflix docuseries 'Cheer,' which chronicles her tremendous leadership in building one of the country's most successful cheerleading programs from the ground up," reads the show's website.

James Thomas
James Thomas  

Featuring stars from 15-time national champion Navarro College, coached by Aldama, and Trinity Valley Community College, the rival cheerleading squad introduced in Season Two.

"Traveling across the country from now until July 17, close to two dozen of Navarro andTrinity Valley'smost talented cheerleaders are coming together to create a show filled with never-before-seen stunts, pyramids, and dance performances," wrote E! Online.

Featured in the cast is star James Thomas, who began cheerleading at Natalie's Cheer & Tumble in his hometown of New Castle, PA in 2015. He has since cheered at Navarro College, where he was a 2019 College National Champion and a 2022 Grand College National Champion, and is now cheering for Texas Tech University. As a coach, he is a three-time NCA All-Star Champion. While James is passionate about all things cheer, his favorite parts of a routine are the jumps and the dances.

EDGE spoke to James about how being a cheerleader has shaped his life and why you won't find him cheering on a NFL squad.

James Thomas
James Thomas  

EDGE: Tell us a little about yourself

James Thomas: My name is James Thomas. I am from New Castle, Pennsylvania and I've been cheerleading for about 10 years. I attend Texas Tech University. My hobbies include dancing and cheering.

EDGE: "Cheer Live" was created by Monica Aldama, one of the most successful athletic coaches in the country. What is it like being part of her world?

James Thomas: Honestly, it feels like, I'm being led by the best leader in the world. I look up to Monica so much. It's insane how much I look up to her. I absorb every moment I am with her. Her energy and her guidance are amazing. I'm very grateful to be living in her world.

James Thomas
James Thomas  

EDGE: How did you get involved in "Cheer Live"?

James Thomas: I have two older brothers, who were both football and basketball stars, in high school. I would always attend their games, but I was more fascinated with the cheerleaders than what my brothers were doing. I think I was in the 4th grade when I started to teach myself how to backflips. Since then, I've been obsessed with cheer.

EDGE: What is the hardest thing about cheerleading?

James Thomas: The hardest thing is the mental game. It can play with you. Some days there are these mental blocks where you don't think you have the skills or strength to do it and it scares you because you don't want to hurt yourself and more importantly one of your team members You have to read your body and keep your mind free of all doubt. That is the biggest challenge we face as cheerleaders.

James Thomas
James Thomas  

EDGE: How has cheerleading shaped your life?

James Thomas: It saved my life in the best way possible. As a child, I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. Even as I got near high school graduation still had no idea, but I did know I loved to cheer and tumble. After I graduated, I attended Navarro College. I thought I wanted to be a businessman. Then I found cheerleading and it helped me get everything I ever wanted after I actually figured it out. I tell people all the time to find what they love doing and it will be everything.

EDGE: What you do in the show seems pretty dangerous. Why isn't cheerleading considered a sport?

James Thomas: When people think of cheerleading, they think of the sideline cheerleaders at a high school football game. What they do see is the high-intensity competition that it is and can be. There are many big 10 and 12 schools that have 2-year programs that have won national titles for cheer. For what we do, it should be a sport. I think we deserve it. We are more than pom-poms!

EDGE: What makes being a male cheerleader a big deal?

James Thomas: I feel like being a male teenager is something special, because it's like you have a superpower over other males. They're asking you how do you do that? How do you flip? I don't understand how you do that. That looks so cool. I felt like we just kind of one-up them when it comes to strength and agility. As a queer person, I think it also tests their sense of what masculinity looks like.

James Thomas
James Thomas  

EDGE: Justine Lindsay, a black trans woman, will make her cheerleading debut with the Carolina Panthers this season. How amazing is that?

James Thomas: I hadn't heard that news. That is truly amazing. At the end of the day, we all just want to be accepted for who we are. It really shouldn't be a big deal anymore. We are who we are. Never apologize and live your truth. I do.

EDGE: Is the NFL next for you?

James Thomas: No, only because the NFL cheer is different than what I do. They are more dance. We each cheer differently although both are very skilled. Plus, the NFL is seasonal, and at least with my cheerleading I can do it all year long.

EDGE: What is the best part about touring?

James Thomas: Seeing and being with all my friends. Normally, we are all on different teams, so it's great to be all on the same team for once. Being able to share this experience and create a family is amazing. The fans are amazing too! The excitement they bring to the show really gets up revved up.

the CHEER Live website and to purchase tickets to see Cheer Live 2022 on July 7th at Boston's Leader Bank Pavilion, follow this link.