Here’s How Gigi Robinson Is Changing the Influencer Game

A young woman in a white shirt and torn jeans poses sitting against a fence by the sidewalk

Photo Credit: Ely Williams 

May 26, 2022 | Alana Altman

“It’s just jargon,” Gigi Robinson remarks, when asked about what the term “influencer” means to her. 

For Robinson, a health advocate, photographer, model, CEO, and yes – influencer, the ubiquitous moniker is simply “industry lingo.” Her impact extends far beyond the margins of the stereotypical perception of a content creator. 

If your idea of an influencer is someone who merely posts appealing curated photos on Instagram, then you’re probably not following Gigi. 

“You can say you’re a content creator. That could mean that you make music online, that could mean that you write online, that could mean you make videos. It’s so broad in my opinion that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can influence people or that you are influencing people with what your work is. If you’re an influencer it speaks for itself,” she explains of the sweeping phrases that don’t define her. “Yes, I am an influencer, but I create content about mental health advocacy on all of these different platforms. Sometimes I do say I’m a content creator, but we shouldn’t be put into a box.”

A young woman leans against a wall contemplatively
A young woman poses outside on park grass surrounded by green trees. She wears a dress as bright as the plants surrounding her

Photo Credit (left): Sophie Sahara; Photo Credit (right): Ely Williams

Considering her multi-hyphenate footprint, putting Robinson in a box would be nearly impossible. She’s amassed over 18 thousand Instagram followers and 6 million likes on TikTok, but she’s done it her way – speaking candidly about body confidence, mental health, and chronic illness. Social advocacy is at the nucleus of her platform and giving back is an intrinsic fiber woven into her thriving business model. 

Originally from New York, Robinson headed to Los Angeles to attend USC as an undergraduate at the Roski School of Art and Design. She “didn’t have enough USC” so she decided to enroll in the USC Iovine and Young Academy to obtain a Master of Science in Integrated Design, Business and Technology. Managing living and working with chronic illness – she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome at age 11 and postural orthostatic tachycardia in 2019 – proved to be a catalyst for a constructive creative trajectory. Having an “invisible illness” meant not always being believed, seen, or heard, so she channeled her frustration into art, composing a book of photography chronicling her experience as a perpetual patient. 

“I wanted to talk about my chronic illness and express myself in a way through art that really did that concept of storytelling — show don’t tell,” she recalls. 

While photography has always been a passion of Robinson’s, she’s since broadened her way of connecting with people and sharing her story through art, and the Academy has helped her take her innovative imprint to the next level. At a recent industry conference, she noted feeling like “the smartest person in the room” during a CMO’s presentation because the complex subject matter was exactly what she learned in The Community Playbook For Brands & Businesses class. 

“In terms of instances like that, it’s why I joined the program,” she reveals. “I’m 24 and I’m coming out of this program right now with information most industry professionals might not even know or think about. I just think adding this perspective of innovation, design, business, technology, and what that means and how to package that into any conversation. It really has set me [apart] as a thought leader in both the social media advocacy space and the creator economy space.”

A young woman poses on the Academy's staircase, leaning against the railing

Robinson has partnered with brands and made her mark on social media, YouTube, and podcasts, and now she’s taking on a new title – Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model. A 2022 SI Swim Search finalist, she graces the pages of the iconic magazine while opening up about her advocacy and experiences with chronic illness and body image.

A young woman sits at a cafe table holding up a page of a swimsuit magazine that features her
A young woman carrying an iced coffee cries out, grinning, as she holds multiple copies of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2022

Photo Credit: Elder Ordonez 

Body image is something Robinson has been contemplating and discovering through art since she was a teenager. As a junior in high school, she created a photo book of her friends photoshopped onto magazines to prove that you don’t have to be a model to be a cover girl. Before transferring to USC, she produced short-form documentary and photo-series on similar themes titled “I Feel Like a Supermodel,” at FIT. Moving to Los Angeles and being face-to-face with unattainable standards of beauty allowed her to re-evaluate her relationship with social media and herself. She points out that chronic illness goes “hand-and-hand” with body image and mental health because medication caused her to lose weight, leading to an unhealthy cycle of disordered eating.

“All you really can do is work on it,” she says. “It’s not something I can shut off in my mind but I know that I’m alone in that.”

Working on one’s self is a loaded concept these days when it comes to social media. Wellness and self-care are terms that are thrown around and educated on often (there’s more jargon for you!), and it’s stressful even figuring out how to dip your toe in these practices. But Robinson has some realistic ideas.

“Make sure that you are okay with what you’re doing and ask yourself why you’re doing something. Is this serving my career? Is this serving a purpose or a void? If it is a void, do I need to do deeper work to heal myself? Are you doing an interview for validation or because you’re super proud of your work?” she muses. 

For Robinson, self-care is as small as taking the time every week to refill her pill case so she can help manage her pain. She recognizes that “knowing it’s okay to struggle” is part of the battle. “You have to be honest with yourself.” 

Consistent breathwork has also been a “game changer.”And while treats like blowouts, nails, and massages are “fine and fun,” accepting imperfection helps her through the tougher times, like yet another surgery she’s gearing up for in June. “It’s not a fun reality but I just try to handle things with as much grace as I can,” she says. “And just knowing that not everything is going to be perfect all the time.” 

In addition to embracing the uncertain, Robinson welcomes self-doubt with open arms, explaining, “I think everybody deals with this at some point but I view fear as a learning opportunity instead of something that will hold me back. I’d rather at least try to do something and fail miserably and learn about it then just not do it all.”

In Robinson’s eyes, being a Gen-Z digital maven means creating content responsibly and finding purpose in her posts. How can people make an impact through social media? 

She advises, “The coolest thing about making an impact is that there’s really a niche audience for everything. I would say researching as much as you can. That’s something we love at USC, and something I’m very passionate about and hold myself to with my brand and my business and the brands that I work with. Really researching who I work with, why I’m working with them, what their existing partnerships are, and how they’re making an impact. Do they have a bigger impact that’s outside this partnership we’re doing together?”

For creators looking to carve out their own identities like her, authentic expression and a belief in your point-of-view is key.

“If you’re looking to build a voice and you haven’t even started before, again, don’t be afraid to express yourself. Understand what your thesis is. Go at it with a core idea.”

Robinson has clearly followed her own advice throughout this journey. Call her what you want… content creator, thought leader, influencer. Titles need not apply. She’s designing her own lane and staying true to herself. 

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