When Netflix surprise-announced that it was dropping a three-episode Love Is Blind: After the Altar reunion special, the news was met with a collective shrug. After all, the original series, following a group of men and women who speed-date in separated pods over 10 days before proposing to a disembodied voice, aired way back in Feb. 2020, which seems like a lifetime ago.
So it came as a shock to many—including myself—that this seemingly superfluous postscript proved to be absolutely spellbinding television. And at the center of it all, once again, was Giannina Milady Gibelli (yes, that is her actual middle name, after her mother).
Gigi, as her friends call her, was thrust into a reality-TV maelstrom when her on-and-off boyfriend, Damian Powers, brought another striking woman, Too Hot to Handle’s Francesca Farago, to the big reunion bash. Months earlier, the paparazzi had photographed the pair arm-in-arm on what sure seemed like a date, and Damian’s wine-soaked overtures to Francesca prior to the party left viewers convinced of his scumbaggery. As expected, insults flew, tears were shed, and Gigi and Damian’s romantic future was left in serious doubt—not to mention a heated COVID-related confrontation between Amber and Diamond (over Mark’s infidelity, no less), and some serious awkwardness between poor Jessica and the vindictive pair of Amber/Barnett.
The Daily Beast spoke with the one and only Giannina Milady Gibelli about the chaotic special, the status of her and Damian’s relationship, and how she managed dating a Trumper.
I was frankly shocked by how good the After the Altar special was. What was your reaction to watching the special?
Um, I honestly thought it was very juicy. I was very impressed… and very shocked. After a while, you kind of forget and think, “What happened?” It’s like a little picture book of your life. So, I was able to really look back and thought it was beautifully edited, and I was really well-informed about a lot of things too.
What surprised you the most? Was it Damian and Francesca’s wine date?
Yeah. He told me that he went to lunch with her, and you can even hear me say in the reunion, “Oh yeah, you guys go out to lunch together. Do you guys talk about me?” So, I knew that they went out to lunch. But it’s the way they had lunch.
Him pulling up in a Porsche, saying, “Hey beautiful,” and intimating he’s single?
Yeah. He didn’t tell me that part!
It very much seemed like a date, which is quite sus, in my humble opinion.
I just would like to know what would happen if I went along on the date.
I think his behavior would’ve been quite different. Far less bold.
I’m curious when the After the Altar special was filmed, and where it was filmed. It appears to be a high rise in downtown Atlanta, because you can see the Ferris wheel in the background of shots.
We filmed it in November 2020. Filming took three weeks, and the location is pretty much where I lived. Definitely downtown. I know we had lunch with the girls on the BeltLine too, so we were just all over Atlanta. I love Atlanta. I miss it.
Where are you these days?
I’m in South Florida for now. I’ll be in Cali next week for a couple of months. I’m living out of my storage unit right now, just traveling.
What encouraged you to say bye-bye to the ATL?
So, I’ve been there for six years, and now felt like it was time. Last time I tried to leave, and it wouldn’t let me. It wouldn’t let me. I got cast on the show, and then I stayed because I didn’t want to leave with a bad taste in my mouth. But it’s been six years and I feel like I’m ready to move on to bigger and better things and just live near the beach, honestly. I don’t think I need a better excuse than living near the beach.
That’s a very good excuse. Since the special was filmed in November of 2020, how did COVID affect filming? What sort of precautions were taken?
It was still a thing—and still is a thing. I felt really safe on set. They were always, always doing tests. They came in my home, cleaned and sanitized everything, and made sure everyone on set had their COVID test. I never felt at risk while we were filming. If anything, it felt nice to have that piece of my life back, know that we could still do it, and know that we could be safe doing it. It didn’t impact it as much as I thought it would.
So, November of 2020 means that it was filmed right around the election, right?
We wrapped and had gotten out of the city, and then the election was announced—or something like that. It was crazy. A really wild time. I was wondering if it would affect production. We were in Atlanta, and I marched during Black Lives Matter and everything, so it was a hot spot. My building got completely messed up. We were all on high alert, like, is it gonna happen again? But no, it was good.
Speaking of politics, there’s a fascinating fight between Amber and Diamond—and LC—over Mark and how irresponsible he was being during COVID by allegedly hooking up with multiple people and not telling them.
And allegedly giving LC COVID. I think everyone’s argued over COVID! [Laughs] We’re a diverse group of people and I’m sure there’s a lot of curiosity around it, but as far as everything with COVID, it was a way to figure out it out, because it was like, “I know that you were with me because you gave me COVID and you also gave this other girl COVID.”
How together were you and Damian going into this party/reunion in November of 2020? Because you guys stopped posting photos of you together on Instagram around October of 2020, just before filming. Were you two already fizzling out?
Our relationship is always very complicated. We were on and off, and then in October 2020, we just decided to make the decision to say, “Hey, let’s actually try not to be boyfriend and girlfriend.” But the thing is, we were doing exactly the same things that we were doing as boyfriend and girlfriend, we just weren’t calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend. And then the show happened, and after that I just felt like all the trust was gone. It was a very long breakup. I’m usually one to just peel off the Band-Aid, but this one dragged out for a while. It was a pretty big gray area, but we were still pretty together in November.
It’s a unique situation, I think, because the public watched you on Love Is Blind and view you as sort of tethered to one another. Did that dynamic complicate the split?
This time it was a lot easier, because I couldn’t say anything about whether I was with Damian or not, so I was able to really process it on my own and not have other people’s opinions—even though they were asking me questions and giving me unsolicited advice all the time—since no one really knew what was happening. So, I was able to drown out that noise and focus on what made me happy. It wasn’t the public that clouded thing for me; it was my parents. My parents loved Damian. It’s interesting, because I value their opinion over everybody else’s, and everyone’s going to have an opinion on who you’re dating—whether it’s your friends, or your family—but after two years, I was finally able to drown all that out. And I feel really, really good.
That’s great to hear. And parents really only see the very tip of the iceberg. So, with the Francesca situation, the reality-TV-watching cynic in me would say that this was some drama cooked up by producers, because Francesca is a cast member on another Netflix reality show [Too Hot to Handle] and has somehow been shoehorned into this special as Damian’s wild-card date. How authentic is the Francesca of it all?
Well, whatever way you see it, they actually did have a “friendship.” They did go out to dinner back in August, and their interactions were all real. No one forced them to be friends. No one forced them to keep talking. So, whether she was brought in because Netflix wanted her to, I just think that the way that they acted—and their interactions together—was what spoke volumes.
How did you feel about the Us Weekly photos of Damian and Francesca? It sure seemed like a date. I’ve gone to many dinners with female friends and I don’t think it’s standard to be walking out of the restaurant holding each other’s arms—and wearing just a bra.
I’m the type of person who will wear a bra with a blazer and think it’s fashionable and cute, so to each her own with that, but I also believed him too. I saw the pictures and they were barely brushing their hands, so I just burst out laughing. I have this coping mechanism where I’ll just laugh, and I also thought that was hilarious, because I thought I knew the type of person that he found attractive. So, my initial reaction was that I thought it was really funny, and I talked to him about it, and he said, “Oh no, she’s just a friend of the paparazzi and they were getting really close to us,” and I thought, “Oh OK, fine. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt here.” And then I saw it with my own two eyes.
Did he explain to you how they met? This looks like a DM-slide situation.
Oh, no, no, no! They’re actually managed by the same person and went out to dinner so they could meet their team. So, that part was genuine.
Damian brings Francesca to this party for your show, and you’re there, so at a minimum it shows complete disregard of your feelings. He’s almost even taunting you. What was it like to see that go down, and also to confront her about it?
They didn’t arrive together, so I saw Damian before I saw her. She walked in later, so that made a difference. But it was really hard to want to put the blame on somebody and outright put all my anger onto someone, as I could very well do. I didn’t want to beat someone down if I didn’t know the reason why I was doing it, so I had to get all my ducks in a row, see who was telling me the truth, and based off of that, figure out how I feel. He didn’t even introduce her to me at the party; I had to introduce myself. There were a lot of times where I felt like, man, you didn’t really have my back there! She was there all by herself, essentially, but I felt like I was a little bit in the corner, and that wasn’t really fair at all.
Beyond unfair, I think. What did you think of Damian getting fillers and work done? He’s only like 29, right?
No, he’s 30, and I actually inspired him to get it done. He would say, “I don’t like this” or “I don’t like that,” and I would say, well, there’s an easy fix for that: Botox and filler—or a little bit of skincare. I would always help him feel like his best self and I knew that would make him feel better, so we went on a little consultation and he got it done. And personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with men getting anything done so long as it’s natural, tasteful, and makes you feel better. I hope that he inspires more people to not be ashamed of it, because he’s actually really happy about it. I was watching it and like, awww.
You said it was a drawn-out breakup, but when did you two actually cut the chord, and how are you doing now? Are you dating? I know it’s still weird to date right now during COVID.
We kept cutting the chord, dude, for like three months after [the special]. I went to Miami in February, and that was when we just decided to really not talk every day. Because then you still go in the same circles. That was a good two to three months after the show. And dating… I’m telling you, I don’t really get hit up in the DMs a lot because no one’s known that I’m single, but it’s been great. I was able to go to Europe and travel, and no one knew who I was or whether I was on a show, so the people I met were really authentic. Some people, once they found out, I got turned off by it, but that’s OK too. I had a great time finding myself, discovering what I do and don’t want, and who’s genuine in my life. I’m ready to find a boyfriend—just not quite yet. When it comes, it comes. I know it’s going to happen.
You’re shown hanging out with Jessica prior to the party, and it seems like you two are friends, so how do you feel about the way she’s treated on the show? It seems like they treat her almost like The Joker, which strikes me as pretty unfair. And Amber and Barnett’s animosity toward her at this point seems pretty petty. Although there is that incredible cut to Jessica’s disgusted face after Barnett shows that greatest-hits video at the party.
[Laughs] Yeah, I know. So, there’s a lot to that. Jessica’s amazing, and the way that she’s handled everything has been really commendable. She’s in such a good place right now, that honestly, I feel really bad about the way people talk about her and she was portrayed, but if it weren’t for that, I don’t think she’d be happy in her relationship with Ben. So, in a cliché way, it all happens for a reason. I would not want to be treated like that. And Amber and Barnett are just reacting to that. Amber… I understand that she’s very stubborn and passionate, but I feel like she’s holding onto something that no longer affects her relationship. Her and Barnett are happy. So, just be accepting and move on.
She’s got that dude on lockdown.
Yeah… and he’s not going to make a move unless she does.
There’s an interesting scene in Love Is Blind—the original show, not the special—where you and Damian are locked in heated conversation at a restaurant. It’s quite vague, but definitely over politics, because you bring up how you believe certain things because you’re Venezuelan, and that Damian’s a Trump supporter. I know politics played an outsized role in a lot of people’s relationships both during the pandemic and in the lead-up to the election, so I’m curious what role it played in yours?
In the beginning, there was a lot of misunderstanding. But we both ended up completely accepting the other person’s political views. I’m very in the middle. I think both sides are wrong. I can argue both ways, because I’m from Venezuela and think the government sucks, so I don’t have a strong connection to the government. I like to hear people’s opinions, but at the end of the day, I’ve had my own experiences and that’s why I believe what I believe, and I know you’ve had your experiences too. We just didn’t talk about it much. But he was really supportive by the end of it. He actually marched with me and did a lot of things during the election that I was really proud of him for, so we both grew from that.
What is a “soulpreneur?” Because I know that used to be in your Instagram bio. And your YouTube show The Vibe with G felt like it was a similar vibe.
Yes. The Vibe with G was a lifestyle/beauty YouTube series that was created during COVID. There were a lot of things that I couldn’t do that I’m really passionate about, so I’m excited to explore the travel side, and all the crazy things I do on a whim, and how I use fashion and beauty to help my mental health and put myself out there. That’s something that I’m excited to fully explore, especially now that I don’t have anything to hide about my relationship and can be fully authentic.
I’ve been through, like, 14 actual big-girl jobs. I did social media at Universal and The Weather Channel, and I sold tech, and at every job I felt like my soul was being crushed. I was either underappreciated or underpaid. But I never accepted that. I’d always move on and try to create my own thing. That’s how I live my life: if I feel something is not right, and not serving my soul or my best self, then you move on and create something that will either help your life or help others. So, I’m still on that journey. I believe you shouldn’t settle in love or in work.
Is this the last we’ll see of you on Love Is Blind? Or are there more Gigi adventures coming in the Love Is Blind universe?
I hope so. I’ve been hearing some things, so… we’ll see if there’s more Gigi. I would love to be there. And I’d love to see how other people handle the pods—and not be in a pod. I would love a Gigi spin-off. Whether it’s me dating, or talking to other people from the cast, I love sharing everything. And if anyone wants to follow along, come. Come on, Netflix!