Cowboys Cheerleader Victoria Kalina Details Depression, Eating Disorder on Netflix Docuseries: 'I've Never Been Open About It'

In an emotional moment on the show, the fourth year veteran squad member opens up about her struggles with mental health

<p>Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Getty</p> Victoria Kalina (center) in October 2023

Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Getty

Victoria Kalina (center) in October 2023

On the Netflix docuseries, America's Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, fourth year veteran squad member and breakout star Victoria Kalina opened up about her struggles with mental health and body image, revealing on camera that she's "never been open about it" before.

"My depression, like, it turns into this bad cycle," Kalina said halfway through the season. "And whenever I get into a bad depression, I turn to bad coping skills, which causes bad eating habits. And as a dancer, the hardest thing you can fight are eating disorders plus depression."

She added, "And I go through the cycle when that depression zone hits. It's a binge-purge cycle. It's a binge to get that feel-good, that empty feeling filled again. But then game time comes, so then you gotta get into those baby clothes, get into that baby uniform, and that cycle just keeps going."

The emotional moment on the the show was a long time coming for the performer, who detailed her complex relationship with the DCC franchise throughout the series — from being a daughter of a former cheerleader to being cut from the team, which was documented on the CMT series Making the Team, and taking time off for therapy to her decision about whether or not she wants to return for a fifth and final year on the squad.

<p>Netflix</p> 'America's Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders' on Netflix


'America's Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders' on Netflix

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer​​, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. 

When it comes to being cut during her first attempt at joining the squad, Kalina, who was 18 years old at the time, said, "Being in the stressful environment of training camp, kind of made it worse. Because I was at a young age, I didn't know how to handle it back then."

The moment that longtime DCC director Kelli Finglass told Kalina she was not moving forward was captured on Making the Team in 2018 and replayed on America's Sweethearts. Executive producer Greg Whiteley acknowledges to PEOPLE that getting cut "is one of the more painful moments of her life."

He says, "If Victoria wasn't so open in talking about it and discussing it, if it wasn't such an indelible moment in her story arc and sort of who she is, I'd probably be inclined not to include [the clip]. It's just so painful and difficult to watch."

Later on America's Sweethearts, Kalina said that finally "making the team was electrifying, it was like my dream coming true."

<p>Wesley Hitt/Getty</p> Victoria Kalin in December 2022

Wesley Hitt/Getty

Victoria Kalin in December 2022

Related: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Docuseries from Cheer Producers Coming to Netflix — Watch the Teaser!

But that dream was cut short during the COVID-19 pandemic. "After COVID year, after lockdown and everything, I didn't feel like my dancing was up to par, my body wasn't up to par, and I just felt very out of it," Kalina shared. "And so, I needed a little gap year. Without that year off, I did not feel I could be my best to represent DCC."

"When I decided to take my year off, I got into therapy," she continued, revealing that's where "I've learned that I'm a words-of-affirmation person. I've also learned that I do not like to feel my feelings. So I think that's why I cover that up, I cover up any emotions that I have. I think we all kind of have a tendency to put up a front and that's just not okay, because when you're not feeling good, you need to let people know."

<p>Wesley Hitt/Getty</p> Victoria Kalina in December 2022

Wesley Hitt/Getty

Victoria Kalina in December 2022

Related: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Share Their Style and Beauty Secrets!

Towards the end of season 1, Kalina finally confronted her future on the team, especially after numerous discussions with Finglass and choreographer Judy Trammell, both of whom implied that she would not be named a group leader if she made the squad for her fifth and final year. (Per the DCC rules, the women only cheer for five years total.)

"I think I would regret not doing a fifth year. There are some moments, where I don't know my footing, my place yet," Kalina initially said about wanting to return to the squad to complete her time with the franchise. She added, "I think I'm at peace not expecting anything or wanting anything outside to persuade my decision. I really want it to come from me."

Related: 10 Rules Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Have to Follow (Even Before They Make the Team!)

However, after having her meeting with Finglass and Trammell, Kalina revealed on camera that she decided to quit DCC. "That was just kinda a hard pill to swallow at first. I didn't see it coming at all. I decided to hang up my pom poms," she said. "Yes, I could prove them wrong and yes I would love to, but I don't need to. I know I proved them, like, over and over, time and time again. I don't need to do it again."

While reflecting on his time spent with Kalina during the filming of season 1, Whiteley is grateful for how open she was on the show. "Victoria, to her credit, from the moment I first met her, she was one of the very first cheerleaders that I met, and as she would explain it, she's an open book," the director tells PEOPLE.

"She did not back away from a single question that was ever asked of her, and, in fact, would go further. We would ask her one thing and she would say, 'Well, here's my answer to that. But what you should really ask me is this, let me tell you about this,' " Whiteley recalls. "And I just found her to be incredibly courageous, vulnerable and sort of a perfect documentary subject."

The PEOPLE Puzzler crossword is here! How quickly can you solve it? Play now!

America's Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders is now streaming on Netflix.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.