At just 23-years-old, the multi-talented Gabriella Gonthier has already built an impressive resume- a top scorer at the University of Seychelles, Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Ministry of Fisheries, and an international modelling career. Gabby tell us about her love of learning and what it takes to stay on the path towards your dreams.
BY Jade Gilbert-Finnigan
Gabby grew up in Seychelles but was born in Sydney, Australia, to Seychellois parents. She has a younger brother and describes her family unit as loving, comforting and supportive. Her ability to balance her busy life and her ever-growing list of achievements is a testament to her upbringing and strong family values.
Gabby’s parents shared their passions with their daughter, and her dad always encouraged her to give a go at everything she likes and never limit herself. This love of learning and breadth of interest is so evident in how Gabby spends her time.
Gabby’s path into her role at the Ministry of Fisheries and the Blue Economy
How did you end up working in this sector?
From a very young age, I knew I wanted to teach. It was satisfying to know I could disseminate my knowledge and continuously learn every day; equally, it made me happy to think that I could inspire many through being a teacher. Today, this career dream remains, but it’s been levelled up to becoming a professor.
Before attending the University of Seychelles, I attended SALS, where I initially studied two subjects; History and Geography. However, the Head of the School advised me to opt for three because my grades were excellent, and it meant greater chances for future opportunities, so I accepted and moved to 3 subjects. Fast forward to Uni; it’s been one year since I’ve finished studying for a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a specialisation in International Business at the University of Seychelles. Personally, I had never been fond of business, so it is still a surprise that I opted for this course. However, I love learning and wanted to continue my studies, so I decided not to limit my scope, and I took this course as a challenge accepted.
It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions. I was one of the few who was underestimated, whilst my colleagues had a competitive advantage due to previous studies in business-related fields. However, nothing is impossible- I sacrificed a lot of free time to understand this course. On many occasions, my mother would walk up to my room at 3 AM, where she saw me on my laptop, teaching myself the lessons from scratch. These sacrifices have paid off today, as I have been recognised twice by the University of London as a top scorer, amongst other academic achievements. Today, that exact curiosity, eagerness, and challenges that life has thrown at me have allowed me to work at the Ministry of Fisheries and the Blue Economy. I have been working there for six months as a Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Officer. Although it may seem that I have derailed my childhood dream, but I believe I am only just reaching it. I am learning something new every day, and I recently thought that I could become a professor with a specialisation in Blue Economy; the thought of merging two elements that I love truly motivates me. Keeping this in mind, I remain willing to learn and adapt to anything thrown at me and equally be known in my field of work.
What would you describe as your greatest professional achievement to date?
I had the honour of representing the Department of Blue Economy at a high-level EU-Africa virtual forum. I spoke on the importance of involving the youth in Blue Economy related sectors and how Seychelles is pioneering this field. I am forever grateful for attaining chances to be vocal and gain exposure to show my competencies and create a name of my own.
Gabby’s Modelling Career
Gabby’s modelling career took off after she won Miss Regatta 2018. She got her first runway exposure at Seychelles Fashion Week 2018. However, her true potential and love for Fashion and Editorial shoots was realised when she had her first portfolio photoshoots with Marsha Dine.
Her first international exposure was through Telly’s Agency, which sent her to Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2019 in Accra, Ghana, where she walked for several designers. This exposure paid off, as, in 2020, she was nominated for the Female Model of the Year Award at the Global Style Icon Awards.
‘It’s been a delight to have international photographers from Ghana also photograph me and contribute to my self-improvement. I place a lot of love and consistency in any work I am given, and it reflects in the relations I have with these designers since then. I always pray for more abundant blessings.’
When we asked Gabby about her favourite modelling jobs she’s had so far, she told us:
‘In modelling, I have made new friends who are more than just designers or models, and they are my support system. For example, I have had the honour to model for Zaida Manza, a UK based brand in Clothing and Bags. I am forever thankful to the designer, as she had a custom made dress tailored for me; it is and will always be one of my favourite dresses. I also had the honour of doing a campaign for a USA based swimwear brand. This was a milestone. ‘ She is honoured by international brands reaching out to her, but also feels tremendous gratitude when wearing and working with local brands, as she has done during Seychelles Fashion Week in 2018, 2019 and 2021. Gabby plans to diversify her portfolio and stretch herself out of her comfort zone if the opportunity arises.
Overcoming the bumps along the way…
Of course, Gabby faced her own set of challenges growing up. Gabby dealt with difficult bullying whilst at school. “I’ve always taken life with a headstrong approach, but one of the biggest challenges I faced was bullying whilst at school; it was a nightmare. In many cases, I found myself always being the bigger person trying to sit with the person to have a conversation and wonder why exactly would disliked me. It would always go left because they never had a response and would laugh and shrug it off. I learned at a later age than genuine people can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I cannot force myself upon others; my personality would attract the right people in the end. So today, I am thankful for my support group.” She was able to overcome the unpleasant experiences with unkind people by reframing them as positive learning opportunities. There’s power in always being aware of your worth and being unapologetic in your identity.
No one else provides the emotional support that Gabby’s family do and her friends are always boosting her confidence and supporting her endeavours. Surrounding oneself with the people who truly admire and support you proves to be a great aid in success, time and time again.
“My mother is one of the strongest women I have seen, and it is true that not all hero’s wear capes. She is independent, funny, beautiful and, sometimes, I don’t think there are enough words to describe her. She has her shop catering to the tourism industry, and seeing her have to adapt to the effects of COVID19 on her business re-iterates that my mum is like a superwoman. I am incredibly proud to be her daughter. On the other hand, my father is the other half of me. He is an ECA coordinator at Independent School. My dad is hilarious; he always reminds me to slow down and enjoy life. He is very strategic in what he does because of his sporting talent. But he is also calm and observant, and he has many traits I hope to attain. My parents have always taught me to stand firm in what I believe in, and it’s why I’m an advocate for many social causes, but my strongest advocacy is for mental health and suicide prevention.
“I love my brother to bits, even though we have some normal sibling disagreements. He is extremely witty, sporty and charismatic. He will always be my forever friend, and in fact, on many occasions where I am, my brother is right behind me. We are almost like two peas in a pod. My brother is brave, and he inspires me even without knowing.”
Who has been your greatest inspiration in life?
“I used to look up to a lot of people, but then I realized I need to look up to myself. Despite the odds, I have gone through many difficulties and made every lesson learnt work in my favour. I have also grown exceptionally, and I should look up to myself for always wanting to change for the better.”
As for her future? Gabby knows that she’s only scratched the surface of her capabilities. Yet, she remains adventurous and open to new challenges and opportunities. To young people who want to take their lives down that same path, she imparts that being yourself is one of your greatest strengths. Times have changed- the world is looking for the unique: those who do not limit their imagination, foster new ideas, and aren’t afraid of challenging how things have been done before.