Gal Gadot starred as the titular DC heroine in Wonder Woman, and her beauty has a lot of people wondering where she was raised.
This was, of course, the role of a lifetime for Gadot, who made her debut as Wonder Woman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice last year and will reprise the role in upcoming DC films. Gadot got her start in Hollywood with the Fast and Furious franchise just eight years ago after starring on a TV series in her home country of Israel. She is scheduled to be a presenter at the Academy Awards on March 4, 2018.
So what do we know about Gal Gadot’s time in Israel, and what lead her down the path towards starring in one of the biggest movies of 2017? Here’s what you need to know about Gal Gadot’s background.
1. She Was Born & Raised in Israel
Gal Gadot was born on April 30th, 1985 in Rosh HaAyin, Israel.
According to Vanity Fair, in Hebrew, “Gal” means “wave,” and “Gadot” means “riverbank.” Gal’s parents are Irit Gadot, a teacher, and Michael Gadot, an engineer. Irit Gadot actually has a pretty active Instagram account, on which she frequently posts about her daughter, in recent days making clear that she is extremely proud to be the mother of Wonder Woman.
Gadot has said that when she came to California, it was a bit difficult to make the adjustment after having grown up in Israel.
“When I first came to Los Angeles, I couldn’t read people,” she recently told Marie Claire. “In Israel, people have chutzpah. People take issue with it, but I’d rather have that than play games. I prefer to know the truth, not waste time. Here, everyone’s like, ‘We love you; you’re so wonderful.’ I prefer to know the truth, not waste time.”
In an interview, Gadot said she is proud of her heritage.
“I definitely have a strong sense of my Jewish and Israeli identity,” Gadot said, according to The Daily Beast. “I was brought up in a very Jewish, Israeli family environment, so of course my heritage is very important to me. I want people to have a good impression of Israel. I find that people in the U.S., especially in Hollywood, tend to have positive opinions on Israel—both Jewish and non-Jewish people alike.”
The movie Wonder Woman was recently banned in Lebanon because the lead actress is from Israel, according to Vanity Fair.
2. Her Grandfather Was a Holocaust Survivor
Gal Gadot’s grandfather was a survivor of the Holocaust.
According to a post on Gal Gadot’s Instagram page from Holocaust Remembrance Day 2017, her grandfather, Abraham Weiss, was born in a small village in Czechoslovakia in 1928, and he lost his entire family in Auschwitz.
“His ENTIRE family was brutally vanished in WW2,” Gadot wrote of her grandfather. “Just because someone had decided they were born into the wrong religion and race.”
Gadot went on to say that her grandfather taught her “there is NO wrong religion . No wrong color . And no wrong race. I was taught to love all people for what their heart is.”
Abraham Weiss died in 2014.
3. She Won Miss Israel in 2004
Gal Gadot has a background in modeling, and when she was just 18 years old, she won Miss Israel.
According to E! Online, Gadot won a crown and a Citroën C3 supermini car from the beauty competition. For Miss Israel, she performed a Hebrew version of Irene Cara song “Fame.”
Gadot went on to compete in the Miss Universe 2004 competition, which that year was held in Ecuador. She was one of 80 contestants, and ultimately the winner was Amelia Vega of the Dominican Republic.
In an interview with People Magazine, Gadot later said that she actually really didn’t want to win Miss Universe and that she purposely rebelled in order to ensure she was not the winner.
“I really didn’t want to win the Miss Universe pageant,” Gadot told People Magazine. “It was too much being Miss Israel. I was 19. I wasn’t that type of girl. I rebelled. I came down late. I showed up late to everything. They make you wear evening gowns for breakfast. I didn’t wear evening gowns to breakfast. I didn’t wear my makeup. I remember Paula Abdul was part of the judges and she was asking me a question and I just said I don’t understand. And I successfully didn’t win.”
4. She Went to Law School in Israel
Although Gal Gadot is now a famous actress, she originally pursued a career in law.
Gadot studied law at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Herzliya, Israel. At this point, she had already made a name for herself as a model and had won Miss Israel, and so Gadot had an agent. After completing her first year of law school, Gadot received a call from her agent, who had set up an audition for the part of the Bond girl in Quantum of Solace.
However, Gadot revealed in an interview with W Magazine that she said no to this opportunity, wanting to stick with her law studies.
“I said, ‘No way’,” Gadot told W Magazine. “I said, ‘I’m studying law and international relations. I’m way too serious and smart to be an actress, and besides, the script is all in English’. I spoke English, but I wasn’t comfortable with it.”
That role in Quantum of Solace ended up going to Olga Kurylenko. However, by going through the process, Gadot realized that she enjoyed acting.
“I did not get the part at the end of it, but throughout this process I started to enjoy the acting,” she told Bring the Noise. “It was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is so much more fun than Law School!’ I said to my agent, ‘Let’s give it a try!’”
Gadot started going to an acting coach, and she soon landed her first role in an Israeli TV series, Bubot. At this point, she decided to quit law school and pursue acting. A few months later, Gadot’s casting director got her the role of Gisele Yashar, in Fast & Furious, the fourth film in the Fast and Furious series.
5. She Served in the Israeli Military
Gal Gadot for two years served in the Israel Defense Forces, as military service is mandatory for those over the age of 18 in Israel. She taught gymnastics and calisthenics in the Israel Defense Forces.
In an interview with Glamour Magazine, Gadot said that this taught her discipline.
“Let me start by saying, I wish no country had the need for an army,” she said. “But in Israel serving is part of being an Israeli. You’ve got to give back to the state. You give two or three years, and it’s not about you. You give your freedom away. You learn discipline and respect.”
In 2014, Gadot put up a post on Facebook sending her love to the Israel Defense Forces.
“I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens,” she wrote. “Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children…We shall overcome!!! Shabbat Shalom! #weareright #freegazafromhamas #stopterror #coexistance #loveidf..
In 2007, Gadot participated in a Maxim spread called “The Chosen Ones: Israeli Defense Forces.” She told the magazine that “[t]he soldiers loved me because I made them fit.”