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Gigi Robinson Won’t Let Chronic Illness Stop Her—Ever

The SI Swim Search finalist is making the most of opportunities with a whole new confidence.

Gigi Robinson was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) at the age of 11. Since then, doctors also learned that the SI Swim Search finalist has Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, Dysautonomia and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. To many, this list could seem overwhelming, but the grad student lives every day with the intention of persevering despite her chronic illnesses. She has become the face for everyone to see they too can live a full life regardless of their prognosis.

Robinson, who hosts Spotify Live’s Everything You Need is Within podcast, is more determined than ever to make her dreams a reality. “When you have a mental illness, a chronic illness or a genetic illness that nobody can see, it becomes harder because you have this guilt and resentment where you look fine, you can do things, but you can’t,” she says. “Once you accept that, you can have your grieving period – a lot of people do when they get diagnosed with something. Then you can build a road map to actually help yourself.”

If she let fear and apprehension dictate her life, she would have never entered SI Swim Search in the first place. Now, she is busier than ever–which she loves–getting her Masters of Science, Design, Business and Technology from USC, working with corporate sponsors, doing workshops and public speaking as well as working on her new book. She even got to shine at Jennifer Lopez’s Halftime premiere in New York City, where she stunned in a Nadine Merabi red dress. Read below to see how she’s fared since the 2022 SI Swimsuit Issue dropped last month.

The Swimsuit Issue is finally out and you got to share it with family and friends. How have things been since the issue hit the stands?

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“Everything has been really good. The biggest wake-up call was from my community online, reacting and messaging me. I have a folder saved of hundreds of messages that people sent me with specific stories about how my photos helped people with their body image because they had never seen a body like that represented in SI–one that was not toned with bruises, not working out. People really appreciated that, but even more so, I received messages from parents just saying, ‘I showed this to my daughter to show her that they can achieve anything. Their illness shouldn’t put them back.’ And I think it just really made me extremely proud to have partnered with SI, especially with their motto of Pay With Change.”

Have you changed your thoughts in terms of what you want for yourself for the future?

“I think I’m not going to pick up and just become a model full-time, unless that's in the cards for me. I kind of let things dictate it, but I definitely have really enjoyed hosting and being on air. I’ve been on over 60 different podcasts basically since 2020. I’ve had all of this press, but mostly I’ve gotten into rooms that I think I would’ve gotten to eventually—I just think this may have accelerated it and given me a little more attention. Now, I get to meet different people. I think that’s really special because it one, gives me access to a lot of opportunity. And two, I also think it’s just really good to push yourself, to go into environments that you’ve never gone in before with this newfound confidence of knowing I did all of this.”

You love public speaking. Were you always confident and comfortable in front of crowds or was this something that you’ve learned over time?

“It’s a little bit of both. I think I was definitely shy growing up and would practice before a class presentation over and over and over again until I didn’t mess it up at all because that was the only way I would not have anxiety over it. Something that musical theater taught me when I did that in high school was that if you mess up, and you’re confident, most people won’t even notice. You have to keep going. As college went on and I had to speak publicly, if I messed up, I was less harsh on myself. Although I still did my due diligence and made sure I was as prepared as I could be. Now that I do it more full-time and advise companies and talk to high schoolers or college students, I try to make sure I rehearse as much as I can. And I think that’s definitely helpful. But again, at the end of the day, it’s really how you carry yourself and you can choose to be confident or not confident.”

Any advice you would give to somebody who is so nervous to get up in front of speaking?

“The first thing I would do is breathe. I know it sounds really simple, but taking five super deep breaths rewires your neuro pathways. It really helps. Even before I got the news that I was a finalist this year, I had gotten into breathwork with this amazing breathwork teacher. He does the Wim Hof method. His name is Avie Greenberg, and I’ve been working with him for seven months now. I’ve learned a lot about harnessing my own mental space to the point where I could do anything. And sometimes that really is just the thing that resets you. When I was down in the Dominican Republic, that was something I did before my photo shoot. The other advice would be to just know that you’re going to be your own worst critic.”

Looking back, is there anything you were steered away from doing because of your chronic illness that you now wish you had pursued?

“When you have a chronic illness, it’s something that deters you from a lot, but it’s up to you to decide if you want to have something be a problem. When I first started having teachers push back and not believe that I was sick, I personally wish I had gone straight to the Dean or straight to Student Affairs and resolved it because without that it leaves error for a problem to happen again.”

How did you come to saying yes to things and not being afraid?

“In terms of saying yes to doing a lot is pushing yourself and doing things that scare you. Obviously posting, I already was posing in bikinis. I’m fearless. I’m like, ‘You show what you look like in the bikini and have it not be a super toned body and represent chronically ill people.’ That’s what I had been doing the past two years anyway, but putting myself out there and really being fearless and just like, ‘O.K., what if I get it,’ instead of, ‘Well, oh, there’s no way that it’s possible for me to land one of 13 spots in the SI Swim Search.’ And because I did it and achieved it, it makes it more attainable for other people. It was a pipeline dream, something that I manifested when in reality I’ve been working on it for years. I’ve been a professional in the industry. I’ve been on social media, building my community for five-plus years. I am about to have my second degree. I think that people see from an outside perspective of, ‘Wow, you’re so lucky,’ but no, it was hard work. It was preparation. The opportunity came and all of a sudden it’s luck.”