Gabriela Garcia: AMDA Alumna, Miss Tarzana and USC MFA Grad Student
We were thrilled to catch up with our recent AMDA alumna Gabriela Garcia who has been a very busy lady since graduating with her BFA in Acting from AMDA in Fall 2012. Gabriela is currently the reigning Miss Tarzana (a city suburb of Los Angeles) and will soon be leaving to compete for the Miss California title. She will also be starting at USC this fall where she will be working toward her MFA degree. Gabriela grew up in Lancaster, California, which surprisingly enough was also Judy Garland’s hometown – a little fact that she likes to think of as good luck!
Gabriela, when did you know you wanted to be a performer? Was there a pivotal moment for you?
It’s funny, for the longest time I was convinced I would go into forensic science and the FBI, even though none of my natural characteristics as a child pointed me in that direction. I was the kid on the playground leading the imagination games and always putting on a show or making up stories. Although I had the honor of playing two roles as a young girl - The Mayor of Munchkin City in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in 5th grade, and Sandy in ‘Greece’ in 8th grade - the light bulb didn’t go off until my sophomore year of high school. I was studying the night before an IB Biology test when I realized “It would be so much more fun if I could just pretend to be a scientist.” The moment was honestly as simple as that.
From then on I engulfed myself in the arts, taking as many voice lessons, dance classes, and being a part of as many school plays as I could. I even transferred schools my senior year to be a part of Beverly Hills High School’s Performing Arts programs and started working in the business where I landed my first lead in a pilot. I was very blessed to have immediate support from my mom.
How did you learn about AMDA and what made it the right choice for you?
Well, my mom is a really big fan of Google and has almost turned googling things into an art. She always seems to find exactly what we need as a family, AMDA being one of them. When I was initially applying for undergraduate programs my focus was Musical Theater, but there was also a part of me that was deeply interested in the craft of acting and film making. Like a lot of performers I was torn between coasts. I really loved that AMDA offered me the flexibility and opportunity of experiencing both Los Angeles and New York City while attending school. I also loved that all of the faculty members were currently working in the business. This provided a very fresh and relevant education on a business that is morphing constantly.
What were some of the most important things you learned at AMDA?
Gosh, that is such a heavy question for me; I don’t even know where to begin. This school literally challenged every aspect of me as a person, performer, artist, women, creative and spiritual human being, all of it. I went in one person and came out a completely different one. Being pushed into a creative environment as dense and tight-knit as AMDA is something I wish every young artist could experience.
I have to say that being involved in the Student Vision productions hold some of my fondest memories. There is nothing like collaborating with your fellow brothers and sisters on something that is completely your own. It was such a special experience and brought out what I think is some of my best performed work to date. The most important thing I learned at AMDA,“Make a choice.” – Barbara Schofield. As far as favorite teachers; Anne Burk, Bill Mesnik, and Nick DeGruccio will always have a very special place in my heart, as well as the entire LA Stage Combat Department and many other faculty and staff. The list sincerely goes on and on. I LOVE YOU GUYS!
This fall you are going to USC to get your MFA. What made you decide to continue your education?
Life after graduation has indeed been very exciting! I’ve had the honor of being accepted into the University Of Southern California School Of Dramatic Arts where I will be getting my MFA in Acting. I have so much gratitude towards AMDA for supplying the best play ground possible to really express and discover who I am as an artist. Even after being involved in ten productions while I was enrolled and after having so many amazing teachers and classes I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what my true potential is – which is amazing considering how much I’ve grown.
I decided to continue my education because one, I still feel like I have so much to learn and experience and I’m hungry for that, and two, I want to make sure that I am playing this game at my highest ability before I enter the business so that I am ready to tell the stories that I am meant to tell. I understand that as an artist you are always growing and learning, but I know USC’s program is going to give me an amazing edge to start my career as an actor.
Tell us what your experience as Miss Tarzana has been like for you?
Being Miss Tarzana 2013 has truly been a blessing. My involvement in pageantry actually began in middle school and by the time I graduated high school supplied a little under a quarter of my college tuition in scholarships.
After learning I had been accepted into grad school, I realized I had the perfect excuse to strap on the heels and bust out the bling one more time! I have had an amazing time getting to know the kind people of Tarzana and am so grateful for their generous support thus far. I’ve also enjoyed working on my platform ‘Share Your Story’ – a website I have created to challenge my followers to share any adversities they’ve gone through in a creative, artistic way. My hopes with this idea is to allow the younger generations a positive and supportive environment on the internet and create a pay-it-forward effect; by posting their story online they can instantly become an inspiration to another individual who is going through similar situations. And, of course, I’ve been really touched by the support from my alma mater! It is clear to me now, more than ever, how much AMDA deeply cares about the success and well being of its students.
What is the next pageant that you will compete in?
Winning Miss Tarzana puts me directly in competition for the title of Miss California. This will take place in Fresno on June 25-29. The final night will be live streamed; you can find the link on misscalifornia.org. The girl who takes home the crown will go onto compete at Miss America. Fingers crossed!
You are clearly very motivated, how do you stay so focused and what advice do you have for current students?
My motivation stems from the fact I that truly believe, with all of my heart, that I am the creator of my own path. There is nothing and nobody standing in the way of achieving my wildest dreams and fantasies. However, I can’t expect anything to unfold unless I do the work. My mom made me promise this to her at a young age “People may be smarter, prettier, or more talented than you, but you will never be out-worked.” The options are simple, you give up, or I die trying. I also keep this quote in my back pocket “Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” – Denis Waitley. After I began to let go and submit myself to living each moment under these circumstances I found that things began to just fall into place.
What is next for you on the horizon, what goals do you have for yourself downthe road?
After Miss California I’ll only have a couple of months to get ready for school. I’d love to get representation! Especially a team who is willing to respect my school schedule, because education is very important to me. Down the road, I have a very clear vision of who I want to be. I want to represent an idea. The vessel needed to tell the stories that humanity needs to here; to spark change. Whether that takes me to the silver screen, or Broadway, or Off-Broadway, or Off-Off Broadway, or traveling the world performing for children in third world countries, or teaching, or being Miss America. I know that whatever it is, it will be great, and I will never stop using my gifts and talents in this craft to restore love and creativity into the world.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us Gabriela. We cannot wait to see you in the Miss California pageant and beyond!