‘I turned my sickness into a selling point’

It was the day of Gigi Robinson’s first Sports Illustrated picture shoot, and rain clouds had been rolling in.

For days, she’d been within the Dominican Republic with roughly a dozen different Swim Search finalists and a full digital camera crew. The hopeful rookies had gotten dawn after lovely dawn, sundown after lovely sundown, all week lengthy — however when it was lastly her time to shine, Robinson woke as much as grey skies and distant thunder.

She sat by means of hours of hair and make-up, waited out the storm that briefly halted manufacturing, then shot anyway — regardless of her blowout’s long-gone expiration date and the less-than-ideal climate situations.

That rain by no means stood an opportunity towards Robinson’s means to see the glass half-full.

“I could have gotten insecure, but instead, I had to check my ego at the door and say, ‘You know what? Now you’re the only one who has these unique photos with a purple sky behind them,’” the 24-year-old social-media influencer informed The Post. “And I love that. I think I’m so unique and so rare, and it’s really important to me that that comes through in the photos.”

Gig Robinson
Gigi Robinson utilized to be within the Swimsuit Issue when she realized that fellow USC alumnus Katie Austin obtained in final 12 months.
Tamara Beckwith

Robinson, who’s single, is considered one of 13 ladies chosen as a finalist within the 2022 Sports Illustrated Swim Search, a worldwide casting name. She and the others are featured within the publication’s annual Swimsuit Issue — which drops on Monday, May 16. The final winner of the competition might be introduced in August.

Silver linings are form of Robinson’s factor. At age 10 in New York, she was recognized with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue dysfunction that causes power ache and makes her extremely vulnerable to harm and unnaturally sluggish to heal. Robinson’s household solely found the situation when, someday, she casually carried out a cartwheel which not-so-casually fractured her elbow.

Gigi Robinson
Robinson has tried to make use of her rising social media following to encourage younger individuals.
Tamara Beckwith

Less than a 12 months later, she fractured her ankle and, the next 12 months, tore some ligaments in her wrist. The latter took 13 months to heal. Robinson, a swimmer who wasn’t enjoying contact sports activities or risking severe bodily impression every day, knew one thing was mistaken.

Luckily, her mother labored in well being care, making world-class medical doctors accessible. (Her dad is a craftsman, specializing in residence renovations.) Thanks to her mother’s community, earlier than lengthy, Robinson was sitting in a Cornell pediatric geneticist’s workplace receiving her analysis: Her physique was betraying her at each flip.

Shortly after, Robinson was pressured to surrender swimming. “I really thought I was gonna be going to the Olympics. That’s how much I loved swimming,” she recalled.

Gigi Robinson
The SI mannequin dreamed of being an Olympic swimmer.
Tamara Beckwith

Throughout highschool and school, Robinson obtained injured commonly, usually discovering herself on crutches or sporting a brace. She confronted relentless interrogation by her friends: Why was she utilizing a laptop computer to take notes at school? Why was she utilizing the elevator as an alternative of the steps? Some instructors let her know that her registered ADA lodging “wouldn’t be okay to use” of their lessons, or recommended that she “work harder.” One even referred to as her “gimpy.”

Her physician had informed her to “find a new passion” to fill the void, so Robinson purchased a digital camera.

Gigi Robinson
Robinson has been working as an envoy for manufacturers comparable to Tinder and Abercrombie.
Tamara Beckwith

“I couldn’t figure out how to articulate myself. I couldn’t stand up to teachers and say, ‘What you just said to me is unacceptable, and I’m going to the dean.’ So instead, I made art about it,” she stated.

For her senior capstone venture, she put collectively a guide of photographs displaying the extremely intimate moments that chronically in poor health individuals know all too effectively.

“Like looking up at the tile ceiling from a hospital bed, or listening to that crinkle of the paper when you sit down on the examination table in an outpatient office, or that fluorescent light,” she defined.

Gigi Robinson
With her fame growing, Robinson now makes use of social media to place a highlight on extra essential points than vogue or “sparkling water.”
Tamara Beckwith

While pursuing a BFA on the University of Southern California, she joined a social media-focused membership referred to as USC Reach. That’s when she began discovering herself in entrance of the digital camera as an alternative of behind it, appearing as the topic for a lot of of her personal photographs and movies, all created with social sharing top-of-mind.

She quickly started working as an envoy for manufacturers like Tinder and Abercrombie.

Before 2020, Robinson largely used her personal social media channels to share content material about physique picture and advertising (and the way the 2 intersect) — however she didn’t submit about her power diseases. Robinson famous that many creators with severe or power diseases keep away from discussing the subject publicly, for worry of being doxxed and harassed. But the pandemic modified Robinson’s outlook.

Gigi Robinson
When Robinson was being bullied and teased by fellow college students and even some academics, she focussed her power on a brand new ardour — pictures.
Tamara Beckwith

“I was just like, ‘Gigi, you cannot be posting empty content about fashion and sparkling water online right now,’” she recalled. In the hopes of making content material that may be extra significant, she slowly started sharing about her wrestle with power sickness. “I would say that’s when I really stepped into this role of being an advocate.”

Over the previous few years, Robinson’s social media channels (she’s lively on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest) have amassed a collective following of roughly 150,000 customers. She’s additionally been nominated for a number of WEGO Health Awards, together with Best in Show for a number of social media channels, Patient Leader Hero, Advocating for Another, and Rookie of the Year.

Gigi Robinson
Robinson needs to deliver consciousness of those that undergo from power diseases.
Tamara Beckwith

Her mission is to assist younger individuals — all younger individuals, however significantly those that wrestle with physique picture and/or power sickness — discover confidence and advocate for themselves. “The next generation is going to be even more digitally native than Gen Z, and they need the role models that I didn’t have,” she defined.

The concept to use for the Swim Search got here to her in September, after studying that final 12 months’s winner, Katie Austin, was a USC alumnus. “If she can do it, I can do it,” Robinson stated. “I think that’s the attitude that more people need to have. Instead of, ‘Oh my God, I wish I could,’ asking themselves, ‘How can I do that? What’s my roadmap?’”

The mannequin says “you can feel like s–t and be super sick, not look it, and still be super sexy.”
Tamara Beckwith

Shortly after making use of, Robinson shared the story behind her submission on LinkedIn, tagging SI editor MJ Day. Within minutes, Day shared the submit, and later admitted that it’s what caught her eye about Robinson. Now, dozens extra rookie hopefuls are following swimsuit, taking to social media in an try to face out from different candidates.

In that method, Robinson acknowledges she’s a trendsetter. But her final aim stays on the entrance of her thoughts: to deliver consciousness to those that undergo from power diseases —particularly “invisible” ones.

Gigi Robinson
Robinson took to social media to face out.

“The main message is that you can feel like s–t and be super sick, not look it, and still be super sexy,” she stated. “Both can, and do, exist.”

Photos: Tamara Beckwith/NY Post; Stylist: Elise Sandvik w/SeeMGMT; Makeup: Marc Cornwall; Hair: Payton Holbrook; Stylist Assistant: Karoline Spenning; Location: Grand Banks, Pier 25 Hudson River

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