[ By Dawne Belloise ]
Gabriella Garcia feels that the best part about growing up here was having her whole family living in town. Her parents, Joe and Tricia Garcia, moved here in the 1970s, her maternal aunt moved here for a few years, and her father’s three siblings all raised their kids here too. Her father, grandfather Gary and Uncle Randy built and ran the Idle Spur, selling it in the early part of 2000s. With that large of a family there was always someone to hang out with in her childhood, including her own sister and two older brothers.
As a child, she ran around with those friends and cousins, and as most Buttian kids, spent most of her days outdoors hiking, building faery houses and, “Getting to know all the tourists because we were so bored with each other. We were so excited to see new people,”she laughs. “Especially when we got into middle school and everyone was starting to date each other. You don’t really want to date someone who you have photos of in diapers. You gotta start talking to the Texans. And you just can’t get mad at your friends for dating your boyfriend. It’s like a Chinese buffet, it’s icky but it’s still yummy,” she grins about the dating pool in a small town.
Gabriella graduated from CBCS in 2018 and enrolled at Western Colorado University (WCU) to study business and psychology. While she was at college, she was also enrolled in Gunnison High School’s cosmetology program. “I always wanted to go to beauty school but wasn’t quite ready right out of high school,” so she convinced the school to allow her to attend those classes with the high school students after she had already graduated. After putting in the required 1,200 hours of hands-on study, she was licensed in 2021. She’s also graduating from WCU this year.
“Cosmetology is something I’ve wanted to do because I’ve always loved playing with makeup and it probably has something to do with how we’re always costuming up in Crested Butte,” she notes of the CB tradition of the locals having infinite costumes for every party and Buttian event. But Gabriella feels that comparatively, most locals don’t have the same consuming concern about looks or name brands as the outside world. “We care about what’s underneath, what’s inside,” she says. “I like getting all pretty, but I feel like it’s different here. We don’t need that kind of stuff to see somebody as beautiful.”
However, she was always fascinated with the artistry of makeup. “I realized I always wanted to become a makeup artist, even when I was a little girl,” she tells of youthful dreams to one day do hair and makeup for movies. “I thought I’d have to move to L.A.” Gabriella reached out to local makeup artists and Natalie Duke took her on as an apprentice. “She taught me so much,” she says of her mentor. “I’m really a mountain girl and I didn’t really want to go live in L.A.”
Even though Los Angeles was not Gabriella’s cup of tea, she didn’t see herself staying in Crested Butte. “It was too small,” but at the time, she says she didn’t realize how lucky she was to live here. “I thought I wanted to live in a city, so I could go to a mall. I had been doing hair and makeup for weddings in high school with Natalie. This is my seventh summer doing them. I started working for Industry Hair Studio in Riverland, with owner Heather Perry in the spring of 2021.” Gabriella now has her own company for hair and makeup for weddings called Gabriella Garcia Beauty.
Through hard work and ambition, Gabriella got her real estate license this fall and she’s working at Coldwell Banker Real Estate. “I love doing hair and makeup and I want to continue to love it,” so to prevent burnout, she’s doing the thing she loves just part-time now. “It’s hard work and I knew I wanted to go into real estate. I plan on letting my brain have a little bit of a break at some point,” she smiles and adds that she’ll be working with her dad Joe.
Currently, Gabriella is living in Gunnison with her fiancé Austin Baragar. “We met on Bumble in 2019 but discovered we were neighbors on Elk Avenue. I lived above Shades and he lived above Donita’s. We’d leave from different exits and so we never crossed paths.” Just after they decided to become a couple, COVID hit and Gabriella recalls, “We ended up getting quarantined together, and we both got COVID. We were really sick and in my tiny little one-bedroom apartment the whole time in Crested Butte. We got to have the view of all of nothing that was going on along Elk Avenue,” she laughs, although it certainly wasn’t funny at the time. “My parents would leave food at my door and there were the free pizza kits from the Stash,” she recalls. And she says her cooking skills were honed during the quarantine. “My family stuck together, and we took care of each other.”
During all that together time during COVID quarantine, the couple figured, “We’d either break up or fall in love.” They’re getting married August 19 of this year. “We’re getting married on my aunt and uncle’s property, which is where my parents got married, right on the river.” And she’s quick to talk about her future plans. “I want to have a family someday. I still go skiing – I was 2 when I started skiing. I learned on the magic carpet with the little edgy-wedgy,” she adds, “and I want to go hiking, rafting and camping and be able to enjoy living here.”
She also plans on traveling when they get the chance and time. “I’ve only gone to Mexico and London, but my fiancé has never been out of the country. We’d love to spend a couple of months in Europe and South America. I really just want to go everywhere,” she says of her wanderlust. Gabriella is also thinking about going back to WCU to get a Masters in psychology, since the program is going to be offered there soon. “Western is growing a lot and I really enjoyed going there,” she says.
Gabriella gets out to socialize but never enough with her friends, she feels. “This summer I’m not going to take on many weddings, so that I’m not burned out for my own wedding. I really want to hike a peak a week this summer, all around CB. I need to get to the top of a mountain each week and it doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny mountain, I just need to get out. I like to hike up to the alpine lakes and swim, like when I’m peaking a mountain and find a little lake.” As a native of CB, Gabriella admits that she never thought she’d want to live in Gunnison but explains, “I thought I’d move out a lot further, but now that I’m living in Gunnison I relate to living here more.”