Previously Known For: Mario Lopez’s Daughter and the Voice of Estrella on Elena of Avalor
|Currently Known For: Accompanying her Father to Various Red Carpet Events and Premieres|
“My wife, my kids, my dogs, they just complement everything in my life. It’s like a team effort now. This is honestly the happiest I’ve ever been. I feel very blessed with everything that’s going on both professionally and personally.” Instantly recognized by his dimples and muscles, Mario Lopez is best known for his portrayal of A.C. Slater on Saved By the Bell but, over the last seven years, he’d much rather be known as “Coach Dad” thanks to the birth of his daughter Gia in September 2010 making him a father. With Gia often accompanying her dad for various red carpet events and outings, it was only a matter of time before Gia made her own acting debut, which came in 2016 when she signed on with The Disney Channel to voice Estrella in their animated series, Elena of Avalor. Relying on her dad to coach her through the series, it’s easy to see why the 44-year-old Lopez is happy to call himself “Coach Dad” as he proudly watches Gia make her mark in Hollywood!
To better understand Gia’s early rise to fame, let’s first take a look at how her parents got together—the love story between Mario and his second wife, Courtney Mazza. A devout Catholic, Lopez dated actress Ali Landry for six years before the couple tied the knot in a Catholic ceremony in Mexico on April 24, 2004. However, trouble brewed for Lopez when Landry found out he was unfaithful to her during his bachelor party, which led Landry and Lopez to annul the marriage only two weeks later. Over the next few years, Lopez was one of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors before he joined the cast of Dancing with the Stars and fell in love with his professional dance partner, Karina Smirnoff, in 2006. Breaking things off with Smirnoff two years later in 2008, it didn’t take Lopez long to find love a third time after he took his dance moves to Broadway where he starred in a production of A Chorus Line. Coincidentally, Broadway set the stage for his next romance when he met and fell in love with dancer, actress and producer Courtney Mazza.
As Lopez settled into his work as the host of Extra in addition to making cameos in shows like Nip/Tuck, The X Factor, and Nashville, he fell madly in love with Mazza and the couple announced they were pregnant with their first child in January 2010. Nine months later, in September, Mazza gave birth to their daughter, Gia, and they settled into life as a family of three. “I love being a dad more than anything,” Lopez gushed. “I absolutely can’t wait to get home to see her—she’s so amazing. The whole experience is so amazing… The biggest surprise about becoming a father was watching her being born because I didn’t know if she was going to be a girl or a boy. The way Courtney was carrying and everything else, I had a feeling it was going to be a girl—and I was right.”
Shortly after Gia’s birth, Lopez signed on for his own reality series on VH1 where he shared a glimpse into his life with Courtney. “We did everything at once: new baby, new house, new puppy—lots of changes going on,” he said during an episode of Mario Lopez: Saved by the Baby. Also revealing his work to keep the romance alive through weekly date nights with Courtney, Lopez celebrated first-time fatherhood by publishing his first children’s book—Mario and Baby Gia—in 2011.
As his fans swooned over his incredible love for his daughter and girlfriend, Lopez had another surprise in store when he proposed to Courtney over New Year’s weekend after hosting the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade. The A.C. Slater that fans had instantly loved in the late 1980s and early 1990s was no longer on the market as the couple announced their engagement on January 1, 2012. They exchanged vows 11 months later in Mexico on December 1, 2012 among family and friends as they documented the celebration in Mario & Courtney’s Wedding Fiesta. A year later, they added to their family with the birth of their son, Dominic, in September 2013 as Lopez introduced his family of four to the world on a special segment of Extra.
Enrolling Gia in Montessori school where she studied Spanish, piano, gymnastics and ballet, Lopez continued juggling fatherhood and his hosting gig on Extra in addition to making special appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Repeat After Me and Celebrity Family Feud. As Gia matured, he even started bringing her to red carpet events and invited her on Extra where she won over viewers after asking her dad adorable questions like “why do you take so long in the bathroom?” Despite the embarrassment of such a personal question, Lopez’s love blossomed for both his daughter and son as he later admitted that his favorite part of the day was getting home in time to have dance parties and wrestling matches. “The wrestling matches are a favorite for the kids,” he said. “For me, after a while, I’m always concerned that I'm being a little too aggressive and my wife gets worried but they love when I’m rough with them and throwing them on the bed—I launch them. It’s the WWE at my house every night. They get mad if I don’t wrestle with them.”
Determined to give Gia and her brother the best childhood possible, Lopez was thrilled when Gia was given the chance to voice Estrella on Disney’s newest animated series, Elena of Avalor. Coaching her every step of the way, he shared the experience on Twitter captioning photos of Gia that read, “Gia’s first day of work! Gia had a blast! Honored to be a part of such a wonderful show and team! #GiaFrancesca #DadCoach!”
Apart from Gia’s latest venture into the studio, she’s also accompanied her dad to various red carpet events including the premiere of Beauty and the Beast. Adding in a father-daughter dance where the pair danced the night away, Lopez says he’s proud of the girl Gia is becoming. “I think she’s going to be a strong young lady and I feel sorry for her future boyfriend because I think she’s going to keep him in check,” he says. “I think a father-and-daughter dynamic is incredibly important. It’s the very first male bonding experience. I think the way you treat your daughter is going to set a certain standard of the way she ought to be treated. And if you raise her right, she’s not going to put up with anything less than that, and that’s what I’m trying to do with my daughter.” From the looks of it, Lopez has already done exactly that and more!