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TV Show Gives College Student Second Chance

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Jannette Perez poses for a portrait outside of Pugh Hall on the University of Florida campus.
Jannette Perez poses for a portrait outside of Pugh Hall on the University of Florida campus. Nathalie Dortonne/WUFT

“Call me.”

Gina ‘Gigi’ Butler remembers receiving this life-changing message from her brother while he was in line at a famous New York City cupcake shop in September 2007.

Butler’s brother Steve told her that her cupcakes were better than the shop’s and encouraged her to open her own cupcake business.

The former housecleaner – who sang on the side – followed his advice.

She took out $100,000 cash advances on her credit card and opened the first Gigi’s Cupcakes in Nashville, Tennessee, on Feb. 21, 2008. It is now the nation’s largest cupcake franchise.

Butler recently offered a similar life-changing experience to one of her employees.

Through the TV show “Undercover Boss,” she was able to award Jannette ‘Yane’ Perez $20,000. Butler empathized with Perez’ story, which unfolded during filming.

The producers of the show spent several months scouting about 35 Gigi’s Cupcakes locations before choosing the Gainesville shop, 3524 SW Archer Road, suite 130, as one of the stores to appear on the show.

Butler spent time at four Gigi’s Cupcakes locations for the 45-minute episode. The show’s producers chose the winners.

During the show’s episode, Butler donned a black wig, big glasses and a retainer to slur her speech. Her alias was Candace Plinkett, a single mother who was working at Gigi’s Cupcakes to raise money and start a business.

During filming, the 22-year-old told Butler disguised as Candace Plinkett how her mother died at an early age and her father was estranged from the family. Butler said she was touched by Perez’s story.

Perez dropped out of UF in 2011.

“I was dealing with a lot of stuff mentally with family issues, and I didn’t really talk to anyone about it,” she said. “It wasn’t until I was flunking out of school that I was like, ‘I don’t know I can’t do this any longer. I can’t keep living this way.'”

As a mentor and leader for the children and teen ministries at Alive Church in Gainesville, Perez gives youth the support she needed when she was struggling with depression at UF.

The aspiring counselor said she wants to work primarily with teenagers because she wants to push them to succeed.

Perez said she wouldn’t change anything about her childhood or family, because it made her into who she is.

The once-homeless 22-year-old said she used the money from “Undercover Boss” to pay off student loans from attending Santa Fe and to re-enroll at UF for the upcoming semester this June.

Perez added that she wants to give back to her community and create a scholarship using some of the money she received.

“(Perez) has done so much in her life,” Butler said, “and I’m so proud of her.”

About Nathalie Dortonne

Nathalie is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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