Gal Gadot sits on a pristine white couch in a Manhattan hotel suite, ready to greet an endless line of journalists. Despite the below-zero temperature outside, Gadot looks ready for summer in a sleeveless jumpsuit in a brilliant shade of blue.
Last week, Coca-Cola announced that the 34-year-old actress would serve as the new face of Smartwater. The move marks the end of an era, with Gadot replacing long-standing brand ambassador Jennifer Aniston after nearly 12 years.
It’s a big investment for the brand, but if there’s anyone who can deliver results, it’s Wonder Woman.
“Gal elevates the meaning of strength, beauty and balance on and off screen by bringing to life the smart, modern and innovative ethos of the brand,” Celina Li, VP, Water, Coca-Cola North America said in a press release.
Less than 24 hours after the announcement, I arrived in New York via Toronto for a Yahoo Canada exclusive, scoring the only international interview with Gadot. Waiting in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel, I bide my time by preparing for our meeting. Smooth jazz plays softly in the background as obedient staff trail guests spouting off a list of demands while carrying handbags that cost more than my mortgage.
I’m ushered by whispering staff down a long hallway in a hotel suite, not unlike that foreboding scene in “Goodfellas.”
“She’s right down there,” a woman says softly. “Yes, just keep going, she’s right down there.”
Instead of meeting an untimely fate à la Lorraine Bracco, I’m welcomed by Gadot and invited to sit down for what will be her last interview of the day.
At 5’10”, Gadot towers over the rest of the women in the room. The former beauty queen and Israeli soldier possesses a disarming beauty and confidence, with a warmth that somehow removes any feelings of intimidation one may have in her presence.
Gadot speaks slowly and articulately, deliberately choosing her words with her trademark euphonious accent. Aside from discussing her latest partnership, I learn very quickly that Gadot is not your typical Hollywood actress yearning for the spotlight—she’s a woman determined to alter the landscape of women in film.
Since skyrocketing to international fame in 2015 after landing the role of Wonder Woman in the DC film “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Gadot has been quick to establish herself as more than a lasso-wielding Amazonian princess. After reprising the role in Patty Jenkins’s 2017 blockbuster “Wonder Woman” and the critically-panned “Justice League” (2018), Gadot became determined to gain more creative control. She teamed up once again with Jenkins for the upcoming sequel “Wonder Woman 1984,” set to hit theatres on June 4, earning Gadot her first producing credit.
“It gives me the opportunity to be involved in the early stages and to be involved in the vision of a project, before you go in as an actress and shoot it. For me, it’s really important as a storyteller and actress to tell stories that matter and have an impact on me,” she says. “For a long time in Hollywood, I felt like the scripts that I got were all the same. The woman was strong and tough, but she’s distant because she’s so bad-ass. For me it wasn’t real. I was looking for more because I know what it means to be a woman and I know our stories are worth telling.”
The decision to produce seems in many ways a form of activism for Gadot, who is a champion for women’s rights. In October 2019, Gadot and husband Yaron Varsano founded Pilot Wave Motion Pictures, announcing plans to produce female-centric projects, including a Showtime mini-series about Hollywood legend and inventor Hedy Lamar, a feature film about Polish WWII hero Irena Sendler and a film adaptation of “All the Rivers” by author Dorit Rabinyan, which was banned by the Israeli government.
In the aftermath of the social reckoning of the Time’s Up movement, which gained international attention thanks to the voices of some of the most powerful women in Hollywood, the entertainment industry continues to seemingly overlook films created by women.
Both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards shut out female directors despite the fact that some of the most critically acclaimed films of the year (“Honey Boy,” “The Farewell,” “Booksmart”) were all directed by women. Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” earned six Oscar nominations including Best Adapted Screenplay and the coveted Best Picture category, but was somehow left out for her role behind the camera, while news outlets have ran countless stories calling out male audience for their reluctance to watch films with a strong female lead.
Despite the lack of progress and recognition for their work, Gadot, in true superhero fashion, remains undeterred in her conviction to give women a voice.
“My inner compass is, ‘Is the story worth telling - or not?’ For me a lot of these stories speak louder to me because I’m a woman - but all of these stories are universal,” she says leaning in, looking ready to spring into action and shatter the glass ceiling. “The more opportunities we give female writers and female filmmakers to tell those female-driven stories, the better it would be.”
Gadot’s words hang in front of me, almost as a comfort for not only me but whoever else is listening.
“It will change,” she says. “Slowly.”
When talk turns to her partnership with Smartwater, Gadot shares that while there have been “many no’s” to brands, working with Coca-Cola was an easy yes. Constantly juggling her busy career with taking care of her two daughters who she shares with Varsano, Gadot calls the brand’s emphasis on health, wellness and sustainability a natural fit.
“I always aspire to find balance,” she says. “Every mother that has a career will know that it’s a constant struggle finding time for everything and doing everything right and finding time for yourself as well.”
With such a busy schedule, which includes but is not limited to taking over the world, Gadot credits staying physically active with helping her remain mentally strong. Aside from eating well and drinking water, Gadot frequently meditates; something she reveals she practices with her daughters before they go to sleep each night.
This next chapter of her career feels limitless as Gadot cements herself as an industry power-player and changemaker. For all of her success and the opportunities that lay ahead, Gadot remains steadfast in her quest for meaningful and authentic experiences.
“My philosophy is that the simple things are the ones that are most impactful. That’s what makes me happy. Working out, eating healthy food, drinking water, going for a walk on the beach, listening to a beautiful song or hugging your loved ones and being with them,” she says.
“Those are the things that make me feel relaxed and recharged.”