From Emmy to Empire, Gaby Natale Is Just Getting Started
She might just be the biggest TV star you’ve never heard of.
However, with three Emmy wins under her belt, plus a growing empire of media, books, and a new hair product line, Gaby Natale is well on her way to becoming a household name. And here’s the fun part: she’s also one of your neighbors. You might just run into her on a Magnolia Avenue patio eating dinner — her favorite Fort Worth pastime — or cross paths with her at DFW as she jet-sets to New York or LA. Her secret to so much success is simple but powerful: You can start small while thinking big.
I gave Gabby a call one sunny Friday afternoon for the interview. I was nervous, having never spoken with an Emmy winner before and was feeling more like Zach Galifianakis than Diane Sawyer. Her cell went to voicemail. “Please call me again,” she texted 30 seconds later. “The phone was in the next room, and I couldn’t catch your call fast enough.” Something around my sternum relaxed; here was a fellow juggler of life and cell phones.
Born in La Plata, Argentina, 41-year-old Gaby has always had a lot of irons in the fire. The daughter of parents who were both lawyers, she and her three older siblings enjoyed a “really happy childhood,” with good education, vacations, and encouragement to explore the world and themselves. Self-described as “a good student, not the best,” Gaby was an adventurous kid who loved languages and learning. She began studying English at six, then German at twelve. At fifteen, Gaby asked for a motorbike for her quinceañera so she could travel. She was able to travel to London, across Europe, and to the U.S., which broadened her imagination and gave her a sense of the world’s possibilities. But Gaby says she was not unusually ambitious with grandiose plans or dreams. Like most other girls her age, she was obsessed with crushes, loved exploring things she enjoyed (dance topped the list), and picked up through osmosis that she could be like the other women in her life — strong and capable of anything.
Most people don’t set out to be television stars or media moguls, and maybe in that lies the key to their success: they have a flexibility, the ability to divert their course, the courage to walk through an open door and take a risk. Upon completing high school, Gaby was admitted to a prestigious university in Buenos Aires to study journalism, and that’s when those proverbial doors began opening, not the least of which was meeting and falling in love with her husband, Andy. She declared her love to him during the last week of classes, and they embarked on a long-distance relationship when Gaby was offered a job in Washington, and he was given a scholarship to an elite publishing program in London. On one of their scheduled visits, they were spontaneously married at City Hall — much to the dismay of Gaby’s mother. That was eighteen years ago, and they have been life and business partners ever since.
Gaby’s foray into television began when she took a job as a journalist reporting at the Texas-Mexico border about immigration issues. She and Andy had settled in Odessa and were awaiting green cards. After a while, Gaby began to feel her job had been great but that she needed a new challenge. More importantly, she had come to understand something unsettling about being a Latina TV persona: there were two stereotypes which she was expected to choose between. The first was a hyper-sexualized Latina who only reports on entertainment and weather and is expected to be sexy all the time in tight-fitting dresses. “I was not that woman. I didn’t want to be that woman,” says Gaby. The second stereotype had a deep voice and a very serious “constipated” persona, according to Gaby. (Here she does a great impression of a very solemn news anchor: “Today in the news…”)
“That was not me either,” she says. “I didn’t want to contribute to those images. My friends are not that Latina. My family members weren’t those people. So that’s why I decided to take a risk with my job and start creating content that would represent Latinas with dignity and respect, and the multilayered view that I believed we deserved.”
The risk paid off big-time. In 2007, Gaby launched her own talk show, SuperLatina, out of an old carpet warehouse she and Andy had renovated into a studio. They got their own sponsors and their own distribution and began building an audience. Through a connection at a DFW TV station, Gaby relocated to Fort Worth in 2009 where she currently owns her own studio and the rights to her show, both unique in an industry where the talent is usually separate from the business side. When SuperLatina was picked up by VME TV (a member of the PBS family) in 2014, Gaby’s viewership potential skyrocketed. By that point, they had already taped 280 episodes and had built syndication steadily, but now she was in millions of homes across the country.
In 2016, Gaby found herself nominated for two daytime Emmy awards: Outstanding Daytime Talent in Spanish, and Outstanding Entertainment Program in Spanish. “When you know you are competing with companies that have such larger power, you don’t assume that you’re going to win,” says Gaby about the awards ceremony. “You have a camera in your face, you’re just waiting there, and you are prepared for everything, for your ‘gracious face.’ It’s likely not your name they’re going to call.” But her name was called. She won both Emmys that night. And ever flexible and ever prepared, she had come with a rousing speech written just in case with an intentional message of inclusion:
“This Emmy is dedicated the dreamers, to the rebels, the ones who wake up every day and do not allow anyone define their capabilities. You’re never too old, never too fat, too ugly, too gay, or too undocumented to make your dream come true.”
(She’s always prepared to speak, she told me. If there’s even a chance of her holding a microphone or addressing an audience, she never wants to be caught off-guard.)
In 2017, Gaby won a third Emmy for Outstanding Daytime Talent in Spanish, a first in Emmy history. In its run, SuperLatina has evolved from a hot topics and lifestyle show to exclusive interviews with headliners like Deepak Chopra, Enrique Iglesias, and President George W. Bush, to name a few of the diverse guests. Gaby now reaches millions of viewers coast to coast and in Puerto Rico. (VME transitioned out of PBS and is now aired on cable.)
Gaby sees herself not just as a pioneer for Latinas, but for anyone who might feel marginalized. She receives messages from fans all the time who tell her she represents possibilities for them they hadn’t imagined before. “I feel a big responsibility,” admits Gaby. “When you are a pioneer, your experience is not just your experience, it’s a case study for more people like you in that space. It’s not pressure but responsibility. I know I have to be responsible when I speak, and I have to be responsible in the way I am.”
To capitalize on her television success, Gaby leveraged her many celebrity connections to write her book, El Circulo Virtuoso (The Virtuous Circle, published in 2017 by HarperCollins Espanol), which explores the common denominator among elite achievers. The book has been so successful the Leadership Division within publisher HarperCollins has plans to re-release her book in English in 2020. This will make Gaby the first Latina represented in that field along with motivational/leadership heavyweights like John C. Maxwell and Rachel Hollis. Writing has been a natural extension of Gaby’s interests. “I read self-help books in my free time. They nurture me. But I wouldn’t be productive if my everyday life was to be the best mechanic I could be because I don’t like cars,” she laughs.
The art of leveraging — both her connections and her true passions — is clearly one of Gaby’s defining superpowers. Her TV and book exposure have given Gaby a platform to reach ever-increasing numbers of Latinas through social media and other channels like the motivational conference speaking circuit. In 2007, she created AGANARmedia (originally named SuperLatina Productions), a marketing company geared towards reaching Spanish audiences; clients include Fortune 500 companies such as Hilton Worldwide, Sprint, AT&T, eBay, and Amazon. (Aganar means “to win” in Spanish. Well-played.) She has demonstrated huge skill connecting with her tribe, with over 52 million views on YouTube and more than 200,000 followers on social media, according to her web site.
What’s next for Gaby? The answer may be surprising.
As of this writing, Gaby was two weeks from the public launch of welcomeallbeauty.com, a hair piece and extension line for jet-setting women who need to look camera-ready in five minutes or less. Over her years of travel and demanding location shoots, Gaby jokes that she has had ten members in her beauty squad — her ten fingers. “They’re very loyal,” she quips. “They go everywhere with me.” Admittedly good at makeup and bad at hair, Gaby started noticing she wasn’t finding the products she needed. Some hair pieces were good quality, but the price was high, or the price was good, but the product looked like “doll hair, shiny and horrible.”
For the past eighteen months, Gaby and her team have been working on product development, photography, and the web site, to create the “first hair piece and extension line focused 100% on women’s productivity. We like to brag that it’s not about your hair, it’s about your potential.” According to Gaby’s research, it takes the average woman three to four hours a week to style her hair; she’s touting Welcome All Beauty as a way for women to reclaim their time and eliminate another hurdle towards success. And if anyone can speak to the power of time management, it’s Gaby Natale.
So what does Gaby Natal see ten years from now? Is she able to predict what’s next in a life that’s been so full of twists and turns? “I do have a couple of things that might be planned, but I also leave a lot of room for life to surprise me as well.” (There’s that flexibility again!) She laughs when she thinks about her current success and if she could have predicted it as a student in Argentina. “Yea right!”
For Gaby, the key all along has been to pay attention and understand that “discomfort is your wake-up call.” If something wasn’t working, be it a television stereotype or a hair extension, Gaby paid attention to the discomfort, addressed it, and found success. But she’s quick to add, “Starting small is not the same as thinking small. You can start small and think big. Like now, for example, I don’t know where the hair company will lead. Maybe it’s just another project I’m taking on. But the idea is that when we’re creating, let’s make the best products we can make.” This is advice she frequently gives people who ask for her for career wisdom. “Whatever you have right now, make it work to the best of its capacity. You cannot commit necessarily to a certain result, but what you can commit to is excellence.”
Good words from a reliable source. When we hung up, Gaby was about to head over to SMU to give a keynote speech. I imagined her standing in front of a crowd, mic in hand, speech written, and, of course, ready for just about anything. Anything at all.
Gaby at a Glance
Favorite breakfast food: Croissants
Weirdest thing in her purse: charger plug (but no wire!)
Favorite App: Later (saves time by helping you schedule social media posts), Canva (image design for social media)
Top Travel goal: French Polynesia, Egypt, Morocco (the open markets!)
Her Happy Place: a quiet evening with Andy, curled up with a mug of tea and a vanilla candle burning
Does not Believe In: Sleep deprivation
Worst Habit: Being very anxious
Best Quality: Loyal
Julie Rhodes has performed on many metroplex stages, including Casa Manana, Amphibian Stage Productions, Dallas Children’s Theater, Circle Theatre, Stolen Shakespeare Guild and Lyric Stage. She is married to Gordon and is mom to kids Drew (12), Madeline (9), and pug princess Eloise. Visit juliekrhodes.com.