'Cheer' 's Gabi Butler on Show's 'Very Exciting' Emmy Nods: 'Really Didn't Expect It to Take Off'

"I mean, of course, we're happy with how much everyone loved the show," says Gabi Butler

Gabi Butler
Gabi Butler. Photo: Gabi Butler/Instagram

As the Emmy Awards quickly approach, cheerleader Gabi Butler still can't believe the success and popularity of the Cheer, the Netflix sports docuseries in which she stars.

"When they first started filming, we had no idea that people outside of the cheer world would be interested," she tells PEOPLE while opening up about her role as a Murad ambassador and the company's new product, Clarifying Oil-Free Water Gel. "I have been on a few other docuseries before about cheerleading and they were popular within the cheer community, but never grew too large beyond that."

She continues, "Of course, we all hoped that it would be a great show, but we really didn’t expect it to take off the way that it did. Hearing that major stars were loving the show and tweeting about it was very surreal."

Cheer — which followed the cheerleading team at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, to their 14th National Cheerleaders Association National Championship title — debuted earlier this year on the streaming platform and quickly gained attention. It was later nominated for six Emmy Awards, including outstanding unstructured reality program. It has already won two: outstanding picture editing for an unstructured reality program and outstanding directing for a reality program.

Butler, 22, is one of the athletes featured in the series.

"It was very exciting," she tells PEOPLE of the Emmy nods. "I mean, of course, we're happy with how much everyone loved the show, but to be nominated for six Emmys was just amazing. I know some people wait their whole lives to be nominated for just one, so to get six was mind-blowing. We were super happy for the whole crew who really became like family for us."

Butler is also grateful that the show helped introduce fans to the world of college and all-star cheerleading, showing all the tumbling and stunts and hours of hard work and training. She tells PEOPLE, "They think cheerleading is 'rah-rah' with pom poms, but we are super athletic and basically put on a show like Cirque du Soleil."

The Navarro team is like "family," and she's spending a lot of time with them as she finishes one more season at the college. "And those that have moved on we keep in touch over the phone and on social media," Butler notes.

All that time on the mat and in the gym can stress out skin, so Butler says she's developed a routine with Murad and treats her breakouts with the Murad Clarifying Oil-Free Water Gel.

"When you’re an athlete, I think you understand that true wellness isn’t just skin-deep," the cheerleader explains. "The health of your skin is obviously very important, but it’s really just an expression of your overall health and wellness. When you’re taking care of yourself, it shows on your skin. That’s why I’ve always been a fan of Murad. They have a more holistic view of what wellness really is, and I think that shows in how effective their products are."

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