Gahbi is much more than just an actor. With a 13-year career that spans theater, cinema, television, comedy and even the Drag Queen scene, Gahbi is an emblematic figure on the Brazilian cultural scene. Born in Brasília and now based in Rio de Janeiro, this non-binary artist has stood out not only for his versatile talent, but also for his activism and the historic achievement of gender rectification in an individual legal action in the Federal District.
Previously known as Gabriel Borges, Gahbi transitioned gender and adopted his new stage name as part of his personal journey of self-discovery. This change reflects his commitment to representation and diversity in the entertainment industry, and in society in general. Gahbi is one of the pioneering voices in the search for greater visibility and acceptance of non-binary people.
His career is a true tapestry of talent, with experience in several areas. He acted in highly successful theater plays, such as “CINDERELLA”, directed by Luisa Thiré, and “INFERNO”, an adaptation of the work by Dante Alighieri. On television, he appeared in soap operas and series, including “Boogie Oogie” and “Os Homens São de Marte E É Pra Lá Que Eu Vou”. In addition, Gahbi also left her mark in cinema, with appearances in films such as “DON’T FORGET TO CLOSE THE WINDOW” and “WHAT IS STRONGEST ABOUT YOU?”.
One of Gahbi’s most notable projects was the creation of the short film “DESMONTE COM GABI”, which explores transformation art and drag queen culture. The film received awards and recognition at LGBTQIA+ festivals and events and highlights the importance of giving visibility to these forms of artistic expression.
Currently, Gahbi is shining in the soap opera “ELAS POR ELAS” on TV Globo, where she plays the character Polvilho. This soap opera is notable for its inclusion of a trans protagonist and for its diverse and inclusive representation.
Additionally, Gahbi is involved in a series, film and other upcoming projects that promise to continue to expand his impact on the entertainment industry and promote diversity and representation. Check out the interview:
You made history by achieving gender correction in an individual lawsuit in the Federal District. Can you tell us more about this experience and how it impacted your life and career?
First of all, I need to say that this achievement was only possible thanks to the support, encouragement and action of my mother, Vera Adelaide, and my friend and lawyer in this process, Cíntia Cecilio. It all started with my and my mother’s desire to take legal action to add her and my grandmother’s surnames to my name. I’m from 1988 and, although born in Brasília, I come from a family with rural roots in Goiás and, at the time, there was a sexist tradition of registering children only with their paternal family’s surnames. In the midst of this movement and after many personal processes and transformations, identification as NON-BINARY TRANSGENDER appeared in me. The place of non-binarity emerged as a possibility of existing and being socially within who I am and have allowed myself to express myself.
Then, I discovered, through Instagram, that, in some specific places in Brazil, non-binary people were fighting, individually or collectively, and managing to change their gender to non-binary on their birth certificate and other documents. It was there that I met and spoke with non-binary multi-artist Amon Kiyá, who had won this right in Rio de Janeiro. How important representation is! Through this example, the desire to make amends was awakened in me.
I looked for some lawyers before finding Cíntia Cecilio, all of them hetero-cis men. Most of them were only interested in adding my mother’s and grandmother’s surnames, but not understanding or discrediting the desire to change gender. I went searching and found Cíntia Cecilio on Instagram, as president of the OAB-DF Sexual Diversity Commission. She responded to me promptly, we talked, she explained to me the possible implications for social security and other sectors. We spoke to my mother, who paid for this process and gave me all the support and affection. We knew it was a pioneering action and that the battles would not be so simple. They weren’t simple at all. There is still a lot of prejudice masked as bureaucracy.
Between being a man or a woman, I am a failure in the CIS-theme. Being NON-BINARY is perhaps my way of denying the norms of a society that has denied me so much, and it is a new possibility of having a place in the world for me. This directly impacts my life due to the new way I will relate to people and promotes changes in my career because I believe that the more we take ownership of who we are, the more we open up professional paths.
Changing her stage name to Gahbi is related to her non-binary identity. What was the transition like from identifying yourself as Gabriel Borges to adopting the stage name Gahbi? How has this change impacted your career and the way you are perceived in the entertainment industry?
I will keep my name GABRIEL on the certificate, since I grew up hearing that it is the name of an angel and there is no creature more non-binary than angels, right? (laughs) Also, my mother chose my name. As I am an actor, there is a stage name that ends up functioning as a social name, mine was GABRIEL BORGES for more than 13 years of my career, but now it is GAHBI. Gahbi contemplates elu, her and him. Everything to do with who I have become.
There was a moment when I was unsure about changing my stage name because I had already used the old one throughout my career, some colleagues said it was too bold. But I was being reborn in a way and I had a thirst for renewal, transformation, change and reconstruction. This desire for change arose during the pandemic, I remembered that Luisa Thiré (my friend, godmother at the Rio theater and person with whom I worked a lot) called me Ga[á]bi, I liked that sound. I spent late nights talking to my friend, actor and filmmaker Luca Picorelli, about possibilities for new names. I polled the opinions of close friends. Then I spoke to my friend, the actress Carol Romano, who was spot on with the meaning of Gahbi in numerology, it had everything to do with it.
This change accompanied the flowering of many professional opportunities, so I think it was good and prosperous. In the entertainment industry, there is a funny situation that repeats itself, when people ask what my name is and I say Gahbi, there is always a “yes, but Gahbi from what?” and I say “Gahbi really Gahbi” (laughs). In music, artists with just one name are more common, like Sandy, Anitta, Ludmilla. Among actresses and actors, there is now a new wave of unique names appearing.
You are the first non-binary person to achieve gender correction in an individual lawsuit in the Federal District. How important is this achievement?
I love and admire, personally and professionally, Linn da Quebrada. I learned from her to think about the concept of failure, as “being a failure of the expectations created for us” and that it is important to exercise and understand situations in which you are uncomfortable with yourself so that others can be comfortable at all costs. You need to be aware of this to fight for a change like this, it is another dissident place.
I am in the strength of affection or fury. It’s a way of (surviving) living. Each one will get from me what they deserve. This is liberating. I confess that I was happy with the victory in the process and I think it is very relevant that I am here, not as another death statistic, as many, unfortunately, trans and transvestite people still appear, but to celebrate an achievement. Just as so many LGBT+ people paved the way for me to be here alive, I want other non-binary people to be able to experience this realization too.
I see this achievement as an achievement for everyone! I hope that it can open paths so that other non-binary people do not need to resort to legal action or wait for an annual collective effort to have their gender guaranteed. I hope that this can be done in registry offices throughout Brazil and that, having recognized our existence citizen, we can fight for new and more inclusive public policies.
You have participated in several television and film productions. What is the difference between acting in theater, TV and film, and how do you prepare for each of these mediums?
They are different languages, right? So, the demands, ways of building a character, the way it fits into the way of telling that story, all of this is very variable. The theater was my first home and it’s where I feel most at home, both doing and watching shows. But I’m really enjoying the set, it’s becoming a home too (laughs). The performance varies in languages and in the way I am directed, I actually love being directed. I find it magical that the direction gives me views and sensations that I hadn’t yet discovered in the text. I would venture to say here that I believe that those who graduate in theater have good background and tools for super dynamic recording of TV and cinema.
Look, I prepare in different ways for each job, for each project, regardless of the medium. When I was doing a lot of plays, during the season, for example, I felt a greater need for physical preparation, but this can also happen depending on the character in the audiovisual as well. I think that the creation of a role to be put on stage comes from the word, from the text, as there are already many layers that will humanize the character. Regardless of the language, I am an actor who likes to rehearse and who feels the need to rehearse, the more the better. However, sometimes, when the audiovisual job is a participation, for example, there is a risk of parachuting into a story that is already being told, with an already integrated team. It’s challenging. Even if my participation is a line in a scene, if everything is already scripted, I like to study the entire story, see other works directed by that direction, etc. This study stage is also very enjoyable!
You debuted in the soap opera “ELAS POR ELAS” on TV Globo. How does it feel to act in a soap opera and how would you describe your character, Polvilho?
Doing Them for Them is, for me, the beginning of a dream come true. I love soap operas, I’ve always been a card-carrying soap opera fan. Since I was little, I watched it with my mother and grandmother. I like seeing and hearing stories and being an actor means telling stories. My first experience of dramaturgy was watching television and I had this very strong desire to work in this language. The soap opera is a very strong reference in Brazilian culture, it is a national heritage, it brings the expression and life on stage of a sea of viewers. I’m excited!
This year I complete 13 years of career, I have had many experiences in the different languages of the performing arts and the difficulties that exist when choosing to be an artist in Brazil. Doing this work, bringing Polvilho to life in the soap opera Elas Por Elas, has given me a very good feeling. It’s not astonishment because I’m aware of the paths I’ve taken, of all the work on set and the donation that comes with recording a soap opera, but there is an enchantment, I’ve felt a sense of welcome and a lot of respect for my work and the professional that I am. I’m happy and grateful!
Now, how would you describe my character? Let’s go! Polvilho is the right-hand man and spokesperson for the drama that will take over the life of Renée (Maria Clara Spinelli), one of the protagonists of the soap opera Elas Por Elas. He has worked for a good few years at the Estelar bakery owned by Dona Renée and her Wagner (César Mello) and, in addition to being an employee, he is an enthusiast of the delicious dreams that his boss makes. Having worked at the bakery for many years, he feels like he is a bit of a manager of the establishment and, in the absence of his bosses, is the one who brings order to the bakery and the other employees. He is astute and observant, he pays attention to the movement and everything that is said there in that bakery in Niterói. In addition to the professional side, Polvilho has great affection and empathy for Renée’s family, being a faithful friend to them all.
Until then, Renée’s life seems like a dream, living a happy marriage with Wagner and lovingly caring for her stepchildren Vic (Bia Santana) and Tony (Richard Abelha). However, the time of setback comes for her when her husband Wagner disappears, taking all the family’s money and leaving his wife and children full of debts. In this context, Polvilho confesses that he knew that Wagner was having financial problems, but that his boss prevented him from telling him, in addition to being a witness to the escape because he saw him leaving the house with the furniture without further explanation. It is Polvilho who breaks the news to Renée and her stepchildren, remaining firm at their side to try to reopen the bakery and help the family left to their own devices to overcome their difficulties.
What was it like watching the first chapter of the soap opera together with the entire cast and crew at the “ELAS POR ELAS” premiere party?
It was magical, very special! My heart was overflowing with happiness at the soap opera’s premiere party. I allowed myself to experience this feeling intensely because life is very complicated, mysterious and challenging, there are many ups and downs, right? So, there, I really experienced this joy. I believe this emotion was general. After so much work, the work was born. Exchanging impressions, sensations and wishing luck and success to teammates and cast members, dancing and chatting is really good. I also took the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with the cast members who hadn’t starred yet.
Her career is diverse, including acting, communication, drag queen and humor. How do you balance these different artistic facets?
I don’t balance (laughs). Things are really unbalanced, I confess. Of course, having talent and dedication to multiple skills is great and gives vent to creativity. But I think the most important thing is to debate the artist’s place in Brazil. Most of us, cultural workers, cannot support ourselves with this activity alone, with our main artistic skill. We ended up needing to work double shifts to maintain our activities in the cultural sector. What I want to tell you is that having a diverse career, most of the time, is a matter of survival, to eat, pay the bills, you know?
Before my artistic career, I graduated in Literature. So, I worked for many years as a Portuguese language teacher. Education in our country is another great challenge. When I moved to Rio, I spent years on this double journey between the classroom and the stage, the cameras, production, etc. It’s exhausting. I think that both the public and private sectors need to encourage cultural and artistic diversity, our country is a powerhouse and has a fantastic art production. There needs to be fairer competition in the field of opportunities precisely so that there is professional recognition and financial return.
His involvement with the LGBTQIA+ community is evident. How are representation and diversity reflected in your artistic projects and activism?
More than “involvement”, because it may sound like a distant place, I would say about my belonging to the LGBT+ plural community. Diversity is a critical look at our unequal society and this prejudiced and violent world. Looking at diversity identifies that we are all different and this should be powerful and not represent exclusion. I like the neologism ARTIVISM. This is because I believe that my work as an artist is capable of awakening identification, recognition, as well as discomfort and reflection.
In 2021, in the context of the pandemic, I created and produced the short film DESMONTE COM GABI, a film about transforming art, drag queen art, based on my personal experience in creating my Drag Queen Gabriela Pimentel. The short was made with a small team, which included in-person work from my mother, Vera Adelaide, and remote work from Vinicius Santana, Drag Mackaylla Maria, and Luca Picorelli. This film has been circulating, winning awards and opening many doors for me. DISASSEMBLE WITH GABI was already at the VII International Festival O Cubo de Cinema em Língua Portuguesa and received the Best Film Award by the Popular Jury in 2022, later receiving the FUNARJ Award, was shown at the 1st Health Seminar for the LGBTQIA+ Population of the OAB/DF and was born as a Drag performance at the Cabaré Impacto das Montadas at the Centro Cultural da Diversidade de São Paulo. Now in 2023, he participated in the 5th Marginal Art Festival, which took place in Portugal (by EURARTS) and in the 1st LGBTQIA+ Film Festival in the DF, Festival LABAREDA, in Brasília at Espaço Cultural Renato Russo. I feel like I’m occupying spaces in the audiovisual world and it’s very significant to bring this narrative to the public.
Now, in the soap opera Elas Por Elas, for example, I’m happy to play a character that is part of Renée’s core. Having a trans woman as a protagonist in a Globo soap opera is a very important step and is revolutionary in a Brazil that continues to rank as the country that kills the most LGBT people in the world. I thought it was very wise of the authors, Alessandro Marson and Thereza Falcão, to create this family in this remake. When you think of a family that owns a bakery, the imagination is more traditional, but there we have a diverse family, headed by a trans woman, who welcomes her stepchildren as children, and a black man. Polvilho is an employee of the bakery, but he is also a friend, he feels intimate and participates in the routine and upheavals of this family.
However, the care we need to be careful when we talk about representation is the risk of thinking that if an individual is occupying that very representative space, everything has already been resolved. This is what the market makes us believe. We still have many steps to take and many diverse stories to be told in fiction.
You have been involved in several theater shows. Can you share about a role or production that was particularly memorable for you and why?
As I am very talkative in this interview (laughs), I will try to keep it short, choosing two specific plays. One of them is the show O INFERNO, an adaptation of the work by Dante Alighieri and directed by Felícia Johansson, which was staged in Brasília, in an epic format, with a large cast, which took place in seasons and the public accompanied the protagonist Dante as it traveled. I played Lucifer in this show. In addition to the physical preparation, having shaved his hair and spending hours on body makeup (to apply and remove), he was a challenging character, due to the impact that every word he uttered had and because he is a mythological figure from the Western imagination. He always said prayers before starting and after finishing rehearsals and each session of the play, it was a cleansing of the heavy energy that the character exuded in his icy hell.
Another delightful and challenging play was CINDERELLA, directed by Luisa Thiré and written by José Wilker. It was a children’s show of a classic story, but which Wilker retold in an irreverent way. It was the first piece I produced (along with the artists from the company I was part of at the time) in Rio de Janeiro and we did several seasons, passing through Teresópolis and Angra as well. Look, acting and producing the same show is crazy! I played the Fairy Godmother and I was a drag fairy. The kids loved “the fairy lady” and I had a wonderful reception from the public. The character had humor and enchantment.
You are involved in a variety of upcoming projects, including a series, a film and more. Can you give us a preview of what to expect from these projects and which one are you most excited about?
I’m very happy with the professional path my career has taken, you know? I come from theater, I’m passionate! Now, after many closed doors and “no’s”, windows and keyholes are being opened. I’m loving this dive into audiovisual. I am stubborn and persistent professionally, I like to learn. It took a lot of effort to get here, but I also realize that, at an ant’s pace, some changes are taking place in the audiovisual market. I, who never “was the profile”, have seen the creation of roles that are now for me. There are new types of characters being written in dramaturgy, new types of people are being represented on stage.
I’m excited about all the projects. In fact, I just premiered REBOBINA, on the YouTube channel of Boneca de Pano Filmes, directed by Camila Cohen, with the cast comprising Wagner Trindade, Giselle Lopez and Josi Larger. Next year there is a series from Globoplay (which I thought would premiere in 2023, but it hasn’t come out yet) and one from Warner. I could highlight here the film I just recorded*, MÃE FORA DA CAIXA*, with Miá Mello, Danton Mello, Manu Valle and a great cast, directed by Manuh Fontes, where I will play Cláudio, a controversial celebrity advisor; and would highlight the DEFENDANTS series. In the series I played one of the main characters alongside Cláudio Heinrich, Juliana Tavares and Aline Araújo, directed by Cibele Amaral and scheduled to premiere in 2024 on Prime Box Brazil.
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