Gabriella Montez was a female contestant on Wipeout Canada, Episode 3. She has been mentioned by Crystal Grierson and Mrs. Conception before the start of the Qualifier when Brittany McLean spells the qualifier in the incorrect way of spelling.
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When the two settle in Pembroke, Ontario or Petawawa, Ontario, Canada and Gabriella's mother promises they will not relocate until she graduates high school. Gabriella begins attending East High mid-year in the first film. Hoping to escape the "freaky genius girl" reputation she had earned at her previous schools, she does not join any extracurricular activities. Her first friend at East High is Troy Bolton, whom she had met at a ski lodge karaoke party on New Year's Eve, however she quickly makes friends with Taylor McKessie, who finds out about Gabriella's various academic accomplishments and urges her to join the school's nation decathlon team. Gabriella is hesitant, but eventually agrees. Having unearthed a passion for performing at the karaoke party, Gabriella decides to audition for the school musical, but is too late. It is only when the musical's director, Ms. Darbus, overhears Gabriella singing with Troy that she gives them both a callback. Gabriella is uncertain about perusing the lead role, especially when Taylor and the other members of the decathlon team tell her that the musical will take her focus off the upcoming decathlon event. Taylor and her friends stage an intervention, which portrays Troy as not caring about Gabriella or the musical. Heartbroken, Gabriella drops out of the running for the lead role. However, Taylor eventually confesses what she did and helps Gabriella make the decathlon and the musical auditions. Gabriella and Troy earn the lead roles, beating out Sharpay Evans, who had previously tried to thwart her chances of making the callbacks. In the second film, Gabriella has maintained her romance with Troy, and the couple, along with their friends, get jobs at the Lava Springs country club. Seeking revenge, Sharpay lures Troy away from Gabriella and his friends, showering him with various luxuries, including promising college opportunities. After Troy repeatedly breaks his promises and backs out of his commitments, Gabriella breaks up with him, only for the couple to reunite. In High School Musical 3: Senior Year, a Stanford-bound Gabriella is uneasy about the fast pace her life has taken. Before graduation, Gabriella briefly considers taking classes at the local university for a year and going to Stanford when she is ready, much to the dismay of Taylor and Ms. Montez. Troy urges Gabriella to accept an early orientation. Gabriella goes to Stanford but must drop out of the school musical (allowing Sharpay to fill the lead role) and miss prom. Wanting his last dance at East High to be with Gabriella, Troy drives to Stanford and the two share an intimate prom of their own. He convinces Gabriella to return to East High for opening night of the musical and for graduation. Gabriella will attend Stanford and study law. She was referenced by Sharpay in Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure.
Gabriella, who was named for the daughter of High School Musical writer Peter Barsocchini but modeled after a girl Barsocchini met before his teenage years, is portrayed by Vanessa Hudgens in the first three films of the franchise. Hudgens had previously auditioned for other Disney Channel projects. During auditions, Hudgens was paired with Zac Efron, who landed the role of Troy, at each callback, with director Kenny Ortega saying "We tried to separate them and try them with other partners but it didn’t work. The magic was already there between them." Following Hudgens' 2007 nude photo scandal, reports claimed that Adrienne Bailon and other actresses would replace Hudgens in the third film of the franchise. However, Disney had denied the reports and Hudgens returned for High School Musical 3. Hudgens will not, however, reprise her role for High School Musical 4.
In All-Star Brawl (Beauties), Gabriella is hired by Abigail Santos. When Allen Ford, Pearl Krabs and Squilliam Fancyson tells Gabriella to leave, they say she is leaving.
She was replaced by A. Ford of Pembroke on Wipeout.
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