What It Takes to Succeed In The TV Industry

By Luz Plaza
If you were to ask me who is one of the most humble, hard-working and driven people I know, Gabriela Tavakoli would definitely be one of them. She’s basically produced more series than Shonda Rhimes (per IMDB) and would never bring it up – but I would ;)
You’ve probably already seen one of her shows and don’t even know it. She’s a woman on a mission, and that mission is to tell stories to as many people as possible. She’s a Senior Executive Producer at TLC and is responsible for overseeing some of the network’s most successful and buzzed about shows including “90-Day Fiance” and “Skin Tight.” Before that, she worked on various shows and productions including “Basketball Wives,” “Celebrity Fit Club” on VH1 as well as shows on Fox, Bravo, Lifetime, Mun2 and Syfy (full list here).

What does your typical day look like and how has it changed in the past five years? 
When I’m in the office, I’m talking to production companies, going through creative breakdowns, watching cuts and working with internal departments varying from marketing to digital. Some days I travel on shoots and others I go into the bay and dive into the edit. I’ve been at TLC working on the network side of things for four years. So, five years ago things were different in that I was working freelance focusing on just one show at a time. Right now I have a slate of shows so my focus isn’t on just one project. And in terms of the future, I’ll just continue doing what I love: storytelling.
As a successful woman in entertainment, what has been your biggest struggle? What life lessons have you learned working on a demanding industry like TV? 
I hate to give a cliché answer, but finding the balance between personal life and career has definitely been a challenge for me, but I continue to try to give my ever-constant working brain a rest.
I work in TV because I genuinely love it. So in terms of life lessons I think this is a good place for me to weave in one of my favorite quotes: “You have to give your heart a reason to keep on beating. It seems so simple. But if you don’t have passion and if you don’t have vision, if you don’t have something that brings you joy day in and day out, then nothing else makes a difference.”
How have viewers' behavior changed through the years and how have you adapted? 
Twitter and Instagram have definitely become more popular and it’s awesome being able to interact with my viewers in real time while my shows are airing. I love being able to live tweet with them and get immediate feedback.
What shows are you really excited about? What shows are pushing the envelope and doing really innovative things? 
I’m absolutely obsessed with “90 Day Fiance.” We are currently shooting the fourth season and each season we have incredible stories that explore relationships with an international twist. And as far as being innovative and pushing the envelope – I feel lucky to be at a network that allows me to think outside the box. For “90 Day Fiance,” men and women travel to the U.S. on a unique 90-day fiancé visa, the K-1 visa, to live with their overseas partners for the first time! The couples must marry before their visas expire in 90 days, or the visiting partner will have to return home. 

What advice would you give to people who are just getting started in television? 
To always give 110 percent, never give up and be kind.
You can follow Gabriela on Twitter @gtavakolitv and tweet her during one of her shows.

luz plaza