By Samantha Ibrahim
They’ll always be connected in spirit.
Former conjoined twin Gabby Garcia has opened up about life since her sister, Michaela, died at 13. The pair were born connected and were separated eight months later at their belly buttons.
And although Michaela tragically passed away due to a complication of their condition, 10 years later, Gabby has learned how to honor her sister — and she’s going viral for it.
The 23-year-old Idaho Falls, Idaho, native has more than 233,000 followers on TikTok, where she posts reels about growing up with her condition. Gabby posted a makeup tutorial video in 2020 where she also shared her tragic past.
The viral clip earned over 10.5 million views since its premiere. It’s given Gabby an unexpected way to process her grief, she said.
“I was a tomboy, and my twin, she was so girlie and so out there and very, very, very outgoing,” Gabby told the Independent. “And she would always tell me, ‘Gabby, please put makeup on with me; let me put makeup on you.’ And I would never budge.”
But years after her sister’s passing, she realized makeup could be a way to connect to her sister, she said.
“I kind of fell in love with it, and I always say I hope she’s proud of me; I finally came around to being a girlie girl, and I wish she was here to experience that with me,” Gabby added. “I feel like I can channel her through me.”
Michaela passed away in 2011, after both girls underwent surgery to correct the infected surgical mesh that was placed in their stomachs when they were separated — the sisters shared a pair of legs and kidneys, a bladder and intestines. While Gabby got better and was discharged from the hospital, her sister died the following day.
Gabby, who was left with only one leg, has become an open book to her followers about life as a former conjoined twin.
“People were so intrigued,” she revealed. “So from there I went on and did a couple of storytime videos. I talked about my sister, and people who were very curious about her condition [were] asking the most bizarre questions you can think of about conjoined twins … I guess the most popular question was, ‘How do you use the restroom?’ “ Her TikTok feed is full of videos of herself answering viewers’ most asked questions about her life and disability.
Aside from raising awareness about her condition and trying to “educate” people, Gabby wanted people to know about her sister’s story.
“I just wanted to share a piece of her with everybody because she impacts my life every day still, 10 years later after she passed away. And so I wanted everybody else to have a piece of her, as well,” Gabby said.
She also shared how her mother, Karen, went through a traumatic pregnancy with her and Michaela. At the time, their mother’s “harsh” doctor advised her to abort the twins so that her children wouldn’t be deformed. But Karen persisted and read up on her daughters’ condition.
“When we were kids … people called us freak babies. People called us very disgusting things. There was an incident when my mom was at the post office, and somebody ripped the blanket off our car seat and they told my mom that we were freaks and abominations,” Gabby remembered. “It’s crazy to me that people can be so disgusting.”
“[Michaela and I] had these huge dreams. We wanted to grow up and write a book about our life,” she stated. “[Michaela] wanted to be famous and do all this cool stuff — and so I felt like I was doing all of this for her. It felt really cool to kind of see a little bit of our dream come true.”
Going viral on TikTok has brought up many emotions for Gabby, her mother and five siblings. But sharing her story has been “very healing and therapeutic” for them as well.
“I felt like there’s a piece of her that I carry with me every day — so I felt like she was there every step of the day during this.”