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Gabbi Garcia Is All About Keeping It Real

The actress and singer leads a new generation of celebrities by being her authentic self—online and offline.

by Sam Beltran | Jul 4, 2019

"I want to be part of that movement, to send out that message that [imperfections are] normal. Even if I’m an artista, I have stretch marks, it’s okay. It’s nothing to be ashamed of."

What does it take to be a star? Many would think it entails a carefully crafted image that’s been polished incessantly by publicity pros, a heavily curated social media presence, and a striking, flawless beauty that separates one from the rest. This is the kind of celebrity that’s perpetually glammed up 24/7 with not a single strand out of place, and a sweet yet somewhat restrained personality that fits right in with the expectations of management’s expectations—nice enough for the public eye, while conforming to the mold of what others dictate them to be.


Gabbi Garcia for July 2019

Gabbi Garcia will have you thinking otherwise. There’s no doubt that the 20-year-old actress, who is this month’s Preview cover girl, is a total stunner. But there’s something about this young star that’s refreshing. She has the kind of beauty that is friendly, engaging, and fun, and a candid demeanor that just exudes youthful exuberance. And it shows in her personality, too: At the Preview cover shoot, she laughed at herself, made funny faces in between takes, and unapologetically squealed “Girrrrl!” in good-natured humor when shown photos of her old OOTDs.

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Gabbi Garcia for July 2019

Joyful and energetic, Gabbi just presents herself as she is, unafraid to simply be herself. It’s a rare quality in her line of work, where being in the limelight means that every single detail is magnified ten times over and scrutinized even more heavily. Call it guts, or the Gen Z effect, but in an industry that prizes perfection in their most treasured crop of celebrities, Gabbi would much rather be herself—and this is what makes her stand out even more.

A Star on the Rise

As one of GMA-7’s most esteemed talents, there’s no doubt that Gabbi Garcia’s fame is shining bright and steadily, well on her way to becoming one of the network’s brightest talents. Starting out as a child model alongside peers such as Kathryn Bernardo, the actress took on bit roles and supporting characters in her early teen years in shows such as My Destiny starring Tom Rodriguez, Carla Abellana, and Rhian Ramos, before being launched into a love team alongside Ruru Madrid in the television remake of Let the Love Begin. However, it was the reboot of popular fantasy series Encantadia that arguably became Gabbi's breakout project. It was a role she landed at 17, where she took over the reins from Karylle as Alena, the Keeper of Water who was blessed with an eternal beauty and hypnotic singing voice.


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“She just lights up any room she’s in,” Mark Sablan, head of PR and events at GMA Artist Center, remarks about the actress. Show biz has no shortage of fresh-faced beauties and attractive people aspiring to be celebrities, but Gabbi has a distinct appeal, a classy ingenue with a girl-next-door charm. “There’s this notion that everybody’s so made up in show biz, so when a lot of people see her as someone else, when they see her on TV, when they meet her in person, they realize that she’s so comfortable, so easy to be with.”


Blessed with natural charisma and talent, Gabbi’s rise to popularity was going to happen eventually, whether as an actress or a singer—or even both. Separating herself from the usual model of primetime celebrities, the star even produced her own single called All I Need, an empowering post-heartbreak anthem featuring slick beats and a cool, soothing voice that easily belongs at the top of the charts. “She shot the video in Hong Kong,” Mark shares, “All these things, the visuals, the pegs, it all came from her. And when it came out, we were very much impressed.”

“There’s this notion that everybody’s so made up in show biz, so when a lot of people see her as someone else, when they see her on TV, when they meet her in person, they realize that she’s so comfortable, so easy to be with.”—Mark Sablan, head of PR and Events at GMA Artist Center

According to Mark, this kind of hands-on work is just par for the course for the star. “At the Artist Center, we make sure we guide all the artists. We give them the tools, we have all these workshops for them, we introduce them to all these people who can help them. But specifically for Gabbi, she’s very hands on. She’s very sure of herself, she knows herself very well, she knows where she is, where she wants to go.”


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Now, Gabbi is set to star in LSS, a music-themed film starring Ben&Ben, Tuesday Vargas, and real-life boyfriend Khalil Ramos. It's also slated as an entry in the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino this September. The movie marks the actress’ first lead role in a movie, a fitting project that puts her singing and guitar skills to good use.


Of the movie, Gabbi gushes, “It actually brings together two things I love the most: music and acting. It’s the perfect movie for me. It’s about music, dreams, and it’s also a love story—about love for music, and love for passion.”

It’s also one of a string of projects where the actress is stepping out of the shadow of her former love team. So when she was initially tapped to star alongside her off-screen partner, she understandably had some hesitations.


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“When we first got the offer, we asked ourselves, ‘Are we doing this because of the script? Because of the character? Or are we doing this because of us working together? Sabi ko, even if you’re not the leading man in the movie, I would still do it because I like the script. The script is really nice. And he had the same answer, so that’s why we did it,” Gabbi explains. “It’s really not about us working together, it’s about the amazing script the writer created, the amazing story, and also the concept. It’s something new, something fresh, very relatable—especially now that OPM is very alive.”

Judging from outtakes and teasers that have been released online, the film theme directly relates with the actress’ generation. “It’s been a while since we had a musical that’s relatable,” Gabbi shares, adding her excitement about working with indie sensation Ben&Ben. “It’s kinda new because an actual band is gonna be starring in a movie—it’s not just their music, but they will be acting in it, too.”


The Digital Darling

Apart from her blossoming career on television, her social media presence is nothing to sneer at with 3.8 million strong followers on Instagram, and 4.4 million likes on her Facebook page. While a follower count in the millions is expected of any celebrity, Gabbi just innately makes use of social media in a way that feels right for her. Instead of relying on a specific aesthetic, the actress draws on her personality and the world. Scroll quickly through her Instagram feed, and instead of heavily filtered photos, orange sunsets, and curated backdrops, you will find a motley of color palettes, subjects, and snippets of the actress’ public and personal life. It’s far from the over-glossed content we've become accustomed to seeing, but telltale of her generation.


“That’s the secret, I think: I don’t really have a plan for my Instagram,” Gabbi muses when asked about her online activity. “I just feel like posting whatever I feel like posting. I just post whatever I feel good in. For example, I want to post a selfie, okay fine. But then I’m going to post something very different about myself, like my interests, or my family, or my dog. It’s basically me being real and me being a normal person. I don’t plan what to post.”


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It’s the same story for her Twitter account, where the actress proves to be fluent in Twitter-speak and the ways of the raw and unapologetic nature of the platform. Aside from her endorsements and project updates, she also posts about her cravings for Din Tai Fung and La Chinesca in BF Homes (“south girl” is written on her profile bio). The star also wins over fans and users with her “relatable AF” tweets that she posts on her account. Tweets such as “things happen for a reason. *repeat 10 times*” garner over 4,400 likes and 1,800 retweets.

“That’s the secret, I think: I don’t really have a plan for my Instagram. It’s basically me being real and me being a normal person."—Gabbi Garcia

"Gabbi’s a very smart girl," Mark praises, adding, "You could relate to her, but at the same time she’s very aspirational for a lot of people. She’s very real, and in an industry where many pretend to be somebody else they’re not, it’s refreshing to see someone who is like you."


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Gabbi values authenticity in her content and how she presents herself to people, a quality that has serendipitously led her to launching her YouTube channel. Although not initially on purpose, the actress has proven to be a natural on the site, with her first real vlog—an adventure trip to Hong Kong’s Ocean Park uploaded two weeks ago—already racking up over 400,000 views.


“Oh my god, I’m starting my vlog!” The actress giggles. “I’m not really a vlogger, but ever since I uploaded a vlog—my Hong Kong trip vlog with Khalil, I’ve been getting a lot of feedback na, ‘Oh you should continue vlogging, it should be your thing.’”

Gabbi is already closing in on almost 80,000 followers, not bad for a fledgling content channel. “So right now, I’m kind of gathering my thoughts, and I’m thinking of basic content to share on YouTube. I feel like on YouTube kase, it’s very authentic, it’s very raw. The more authentic you are, the more people will watch your videos. So I think it’s a good platform for you to express and to just be yourself.”


Everybody’s Girl

With the internet’s viral nature, it’s easy to get noticed on social media, and much easier for celebrities to gain engagement and likes. For Gabbi, however, being authentic isn’t just about filter-free pictures and witty tweets; it’s about standing up for issues she believes in and imparting real, inspiring messages to her fans.

“With [a great number of] followers comes great responsibility,” Gabbi declares, paraphrasing the Spider-Man quote. “It’s a big responsibility to have a huge following 'cause it reflects on how you treat people, how you want to send out that message. And I feel like we should be responsible for whatever we post because a lot of people can be damaged by just one post—just by reading words.”


Gabbi calls her large social media following a superpower, and she’s embraced the idea of being a role model to her fans, especially to girls. Eschewing the standard of heightened beauty in the industry, she has talked about her flat chest, her stretch marks, and her morena skin—things she used to get teased about.

When asked why the actress felt it was important for her to talk about these things, she answers, “Because it’s really important to be real, and not be filtered anywhere,” adding, “It’s such an important factor to be honest with everyone because, let’s face it, not everyone is perfect.”


In an age where everyone, celebrities and non-celebrities alike, feel compelled to over-curate their social media feeds, Gabbi feels compelled to set the record straight, especially for the sake of her younger fans. “Everyone feels like whatever they see on social media is the standard of life—and it’s totally wrong. We’d be injecting negative thoughts, we’d be injecting false information in the younger people who follow me, so it would be really unfair for them.”

"I just really want to be part of that movement where girls feel secure, and feel comfortable with themselves.”—Gabbi Garcia

Social media has allowed for bullying and body shaming to rise, and over-perfecting social media content can spell disaster for anyone’s self-image and identity. Born in the middle of the millennial and Gen Z generations, Gabbi had the fortune to grow up before social media became the pervasive tool it is today so she’s not as easily affected by it. “Ako, growing up I wasn’t really exposed to social media. And I grew up with a very positive mindset that, no, it’s okay if I have stretch marks or whatsoever. [But now], people are having problems because they have stretch marks, or they feel so fat.”


Gabbi adds, “I want to be part of that movement, to send out that message that [imperfections are] normal. Even if I’m an artista, I have stretch marks, it’s okay. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. And you can’t just live up to the notion of society na this is the standard of you being sexy or you being beautiful. That’s a no-no. I just really want to be part of that movement where girls feel secure, and feel comfortable with themselves.”


The kind of security Gabbi wishes for her fans is one she had to anchor on, when she was growing up. “A lot of girls are messaging me right now, saying, ‘I [also look] very Filipina like you, and I’m also really touched that there’s also a fellow Filipina out there who’s an artista and has the same skin tone. At least I’m doing something good for myself and for people who follow me.”


Gabbi recalls when the industry was not as forgiving on more morena-toned talents when she was starting out. “I remember when I was younger, whenever I'd go to VTRs, na-f-frustrate ako because, bakit puro half-half ‘yung nakukuha? Why don’t I have commercials? Bakit ako parating final call, and no more callback? Because a lot of my ka-VTRs are all white, mestiza… and I was like, is this really the beauty standard of the Philippines?” Fortunately, Gabbi’s self-esteem was not shaken, seeing her skin color as an advantage rather than a flaw.

“When I was new in the industry, a lot of people would tease me about my skin color, and I didn’t really mind them because I wanted to use me being morena as my edge, and something to be known for. I feel like it worked,” Gabbi explains. “That’s just one of the examples that whatever color or skin tone you have, or whatever your size is, you are actually unique because of that. And as I always say, if everyone’s perfect, then what makes you unique? What makes you different and what makes you stand out from the rest?”


Beautiful celebrities are dime a dozen. But in the case of Gabbi Garcia, it’s being her own unapologetic self that makes her stand out.

Produced by Isha Vallés and Marj Ramos

Photographed by Charisma Lico

Art Directed by Bacs Arcebal

Styled by Steph Sison and Yanna Lopez

Beauty Direction by Nicole Arcano

Makeup by Jason delos Reyes

Hair by Mark Anthony Rosales

Nails by Nailandia

Set Design by Monique Cruz

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