When the movie was released, Gal became the talk of the town, generating thousands of Google searches and populating movie websites, blogs and magazines. Some movie critics considered her the only bright spot in an otherwise lackluster movie. So who exactly is this lady and what makes her so special?
Beauty queen army instructor
First things first: Gal rhymes with dhall, the curry that goes with your roti canai, while Gadot is pronounced ga-dote. She was born in 1985 in the small town of Rosh HaAyin in Israel. One couldn’t say that acting is in her blood – her mother was a teacher and her father an engineer. Her rise to stardom seemed to be one serendipitous incident after another. “If things had gone according to my plans, I would have been a lawyer,” she said in an interview.
She was 18 years old and had just finished high school when a talent scout convinced her to participate in the 2004 Miss Israel pageant. With her fresh-faced beauty and 5 ft 10 inch height, she beat the rest of the competition and clinched the title. The win kicked off a modeling career. But it also meant she had to compete in the 2004 Miss Universe. This was so far beyond her imaginings that she actually did not want to win. “I was afraid I might get picked again, so I rebelled,” she laughed. She had a lark by showing up late and refusing to wear evening gowns.
Gal may not have taken the international beauty pageant seriously, but her striking beauty is undeniable. She has been the face of campaigns for global brands such as Gucci, Jaguar Cars, Huawei, and been the cover star of major beauty and fashion magazines. In recent years, Forbes Israel named her one of the highest earning models in Israel.
Modeling and traveling started to open her eyes to new possibilities, but before she could explore her options further, the military came calling. In Israel, military service is compulsory for both men and women over the age of 18. One might imagine that a pageant princess would kick, scream and whine about having to undergo the rigorous discipline of the army, but Gal took to it capably. Unlike another Israeli model who avoided enlisting and reportedly declared, “Celebrities have other needs, that’s just the way it is”, Gal fulfilled her two years in the army with pride. “It’s not about you,” she said. “You give back your time to the country. You learn discipline and respect.” In fact, she did so well in a grueling three-month boot camp that she was selected to be a combat instructor.
After completing her military service, Gal went on to study law at university. A year into her studies, she received a call from a casting director who invited her to audition for the part of a Bond girl. The part ended up going to another actress, but Gal started going to an acting coach. The Bond casting director must have seen something in her, because he later approached her again and this time, she got a part in her first movie: Gisele of the Fast & Furious franchise. Her casting seemed to be once again a serendipitous occurrence as one of the reasons she was chosen was because of her military experience. In the movie, Gal’s character worked with the Mossad (the national intelligence agency of Israel), and according to her, “The director Justin Lin really liked that I was in the Israeli military and he wanted to use my knowledge of weapons.”
From army rifle to golden lasso
Her military experience had served her well. And it continued to work in her favour as she started training for her game-changing role as Wonder Woman. She has said that training for the film reminded her of her army training. “It’s a very serious training regimen,” she revealed. “There’s Kung Fu, swordsmanship, kickboxing, capoeira and Brazilian jujitsu.”
One would think that there’s no question about her fitness level. After all, she was outstanding in her army boot camp, she kept soldiers in shape as a combat instructor, and she performed several of her own stunts in Fast & Furious. But hardcore comic book fans complained that, as a model, she was way too skinny to play the role of the powerful Amazonian warrior. In response, Gal promised to gain body mass, and she made good on that promise. “Since I started training, I’ve gained about 17 pounds, and it’s all muscle,” she said.
Playing the lead in the first solo female superhero movie is both an honour and a responsibility, since so much rests on the actor. For Gal, her character had to be a strong and independent woman – she’s not just a love interest, she’s not dependent on a man, she’s not there to serve someone else, and she’s certainly not just eye candy. And that was what she brought to the table for Wonder Woman.
The superhero is so emblematic of strength, compassion and justice that in 2016, Wonder Woman was made an Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women & Girls. Gal attended the event at New York City along with the Secretary-General of the UN.
For all women
As she put on the tiara, braces and golden lasso, Gal was aware that she would become a role model for young girls all over the world, including her own little daughter, Alma. “I want my daughter to see that women can be superheroes too.” She is glad of how far women have moved up, but noted that there is still a long way to go.
Despite playing a superhero on screen, she has the same struggles of being a working mother and all that entails. “We feel that we have to be the best wife, best mother, best worker, best everything!” She has said that family is her first priority. Married to an Israeli property developer since 2008, the couple has a five-year-old daughter and (at the time of writing) is expecting their second child.
From small town girl to iconic superhero – Gal Gadot has come a long way. If the Wonder Woman movie is as good as it promises to be, we will surely be seeing a lot more of Gal in the near future.