Claim your victories — One of my favorite quotes is “there are people out there with half of your talent claiming all of your victories. Stop thinking you’re not ready to claim yours” and in reading this, I gained the perspective that some people have trouble talking about their wins, while others just winged it. Sometimes that is just what you have to do to get your feet off the ground!
As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gigi Robinson.
Gigi is a BFA Graduate of the University of Southern California and current Masters student at the USC IYA, who intrinsically weaves her passion of giving back with storytelling. The core of her work is to make a positive impact on as many young people as possible through photo and videography. Gigi lectures students at educational institutions, corporations and non profits about social media literacy, and consults with brands on ways to make their social strategies more inclusive and impactful. She amplifies content of diverse creators and causes on her platforms (@itsgigirobinson) and shares her knowledge as a guest on several podcasts and interviews.
Gigi is the creator of a GenZ focused Livestreaming Talkshow series called “Everything You Need is Within” which you can view on her website. The series is ever evolving into new formats to leverage the future of live audio and to make it the most accessible that it can be. Gigi has always been focused on about deconstructing body distortion tactics used in mainstream media to walk people through their own body confidence journeys. Robinson has openly created dialogues around her experience living with and recovering from disordered eating habits in addition to managing three chronic illnesses, which she shared “is the primary driver of why I have to share my relationship and story with body image and mental health stigmas everyday”. Connect with Gigi through email or reach her through IG Dm!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?
I grew up in the heart of New York City, I was very lucky to be a part of the New York city public school system which helped shape who I truly have become. I had dreams of being an Olympic swimmer but when I was in 5th grade, I began to develop more obvious symptoms of my chronic illness, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. My plan was suddenly changed forever and I was forced to stop competitive swim and find a new hobby. I ultimately ended up choosing art and image making. I fell in love with capturing the beauty of a variety of things in the environment around me, sights, sounds, smells and eventually that love turned into helping others see their own beauty through images. As time went on, I ended up attending LaGuardia High School, better known as the Fame School for visual arts. There I continued to develop my passion for instilling confidence in my subjects through portrait photography and eventually found a fascination with debunking and deconstructing the way in which media alters our own confidence through editing and retouching. So there you have it, the story of how I fell into the advocacy, self love and confidence space.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
As a child, my parents and extended family instilled in me the motive to constantly give back as much as you could. I spent my free time fundraising for the Ronald McDonald House and their annual Fun Runs in New York city in elementary and middle school. I also have participated in annual basket brigades through the Tony Robbins foundation which brings food to families that otherwise would not have a holiday meal. This then led me to become a Volunteer leader at USC during my undergrad where I led groups of volunteers to local community centers and organizations that needed help. It’s a selfless act that can tremendously help a variety of causes. In my postgraduate work, I have dedicated my time to partnering with globally known and local nonprofits including Made of Millions, The Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude, The Jed Foundation, Trevor Project and The World Food Program. I believe that my upbringing provided me the opportunity to do what I do today and implore all young people to find a way to give back, even if it’s just resharing or participating in a virtual challenge to spread awareness and make a positive impact. To be able to live in gratitude and generosity if it is in your reach is a privilege that anyone who is able should be encouraged to participate in.
You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?
At Its Gigi, we try to be the advocate and role models that I did not have around mental health and body image as a kid. As the founder and creative director, I put a strict emphasis on connecting to the brands that I work with based off of the values of honesty, intention and confidence building. I founded this company to serve as a platform that I wish my younger self had. During the fundamental years where our bodies are changing constantly, we get so focused on the details of how one specific part of our body looks, that we forget to look at ourselves. My goal is to curate content that helps GenZ realize their worth and confidence as they experience changes in their own bodies through lectures, a new book, creative consulting, and premium photo and video assets.
Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?
I initially began to fuel my passion for exposing the ways in which companies and media alter our bodies, skin and overall self image through editing and retouching. As a technically and professionally trained photographer, I fundamentally understand what companies do to images; I learned all of this at a young age, so when I arrived to college I was already interested and inclined to work in this field of creative advocacy. I began to research the ways in which body image, self-esteem and mental health are affected by image altering ads and started to talk about it on my social media platforms. I knew that I could combine my passions of photography and research with the medium of social media to scale my impact within the industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The most interesting story would have to be how I shifted my focus from shooting assets for brands to creating content that tells a story. I did an audit on my own brand and found a way to incorporate something I love doing with something I wanted to change in the world. This was truly a pivotal moment for me as I began to develop more strategies to make work that reflected my values, partner with more aligned brands, and inspire future generations to become better advocates of their own autonomy. If you are a young entrepreneur, these are some of the initial starting points you should leverage it and trust the process.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
The WEGO Health community, last year I was honored to receive nominations for the 9th annual WEGO awards for patient leaders for the work that I curated on TikTok and with my Senior Thesis as a patient advocate. Although I did not win last year, it opened my eyes to know that someone saw my work and valued it enough on a personal level, that it inspired me to dedicate my work to it every day. Advocating for patients is actually a field that is ever expanding and is imperative to a patients healing. I spent over 11 years trying to get doctors to treat me in a holistic way, and finally my care team is doing just that. It took creating a book (Discourse between myself and the waiting room) and building a platform around patient advocacy, to get me where I am today and for that I am grateful. My goal is to help and inspire others to advocate for themselves as patients, and now I do it every day! This year I have also been nominated for the 10th annual awards, in which the voting starts in July, you can search “Gigi Robinson WEGO HEALTH” and my name will come right up!
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I think making a difference is acknowledging your privilege as an opportunity to enact change. Having a platform on social media is an honor and a privilege that I was able to cultivate while attending USC; I knew there had to be something that I could do to give back, change lives, and stir impact globally. Now I get to put it at the forefront of my work every single day.
Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.
- Audit yourself and your brand — make sure that you come up with the pillars of your brand, hold yourself as an individual, your employees and your brand presence accountable to align with that. If you are not, its ok, take a pause and rethink ways that you can get yourself there.
- Acknowledge your privilege — having the opportunity to build a brand is a very lucky thing to be able to do. Think about ways that you can build your brands reputation and voice your opinion about causes you value and care about.
- Claim your victories — One of my favorite quotes is “there are people out there with half of your talent claiming all of your victories. Stop thinking you’re not ready to claim yours” and in reading this, I gained the perspective that some people have trouble talking about their wins, while others just winged it. Sometimes that is just what you have to do to get your feet off the ground!
- BE HUMBLE — when you share what you are doing, but do it proudly. In some ways I spent a long time keeping quiet about the different things that I was doing in my own business and the second I started talking about it…BOOM, I saw value.
- Be proud — this falls under being humble, but you are doing incredible. Having the opportunity to build your own empire in the 21st century is fucking incredible.
What are the values that drive your work?
Honesty, I make sure to be transparent and clear on what my goals are, why they are that way and especially when it comes to creating images that are unedited. Vulnerability, I am again, as transparent as I can be about my life and the things I share, I do it to educate around the difficulties experienced around self esteem. Creative Innovation, I do my best to always craft premium work for my clients and my community online; my work is produced and directed by myself using state of the art equipment. Giving Back, I make sure to work with brands that make global impacts, whether on a small or large scale. Providing acts of service in partnership with these brands gives me hope that we can make a difference together, and again hopefully inspire other people to do the same.
Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centered in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?
I do what I like to call the “self audit” as a part of my social media literacy lectures which I have given to universities across the country including USC, UCLA, FIT, UMass and more. I do a deep dive on the ways in which you examine yourself, your values and the way in which you can find what your purpose is: hint it often times is a pain in the ass but its worth it. I don’t want to give away too much information here because that would not be any fun…but I will tell you that you should write down what you think your “why is”, after that ask yourself “why is that important”, write it down, repeat 5–10 times. By the end you will have what your purpose is.
You can book a 1:1 strategy session with me to do a personal audit with me for your brand, profile or corporation, OR book me for a speaking engagement where you would hear the full lecture.
In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!
I would love to see a world where we no longer have to murder animals to thrive, where we do not have extreme weather, where we are not in fear of natural disaster: in a world where people actually give a fuck. I can not wait to see the future change makers and thought leaders coming out of GenZ that will guide us through the next chapter of life on earth.
We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?
If I were to have endless resources, I would find a way to travel and teach my social media literacy courses while also visiting charities and nonprofit causes globally. I am confident that everyone starting out needs a little bit of help to get off the ground running with an idea; accepting the help would be super helpful in catapulting my brand. Right now I would love to find a way to include a higher production budget and grow my team. At the core of my brand, I want to have as many GenZ students and leaders working with me to inspire people; having a bigger budget and resources would only help me elevate and reach more people!
I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?
I would 100% love to see more education around body image, identity, mental healthy and disability. Encouraging teachers and younger generations to embrace their personalities, identities, and ethnic origins is imperative to shaping who we become in the future. If there is more education and dialogue around these topics from the educators perspective FIRST, it will hopefully become more normalized to talk about things that are deemed challenging (according to todays stigmas and standards) and make them easier for people to confront.
When I was diagnosed with EDS when I was 11 years old, I was convinced that I would grow out of it. I went as far as saying I was meeting my mom or a friend instead of talking about my doctors appointments and physical therapy. I carried so much shame around my experience as a disabled teenager and always hid it. No one should have to bear the weight of not understanding how to fit in because of a factor of their identity. Ever. This is why I advocate and speak up about these stigmas every single day.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
The future of our planet depends on what we do, how we do it and the way in which we choose to move forward. I would continue to encourage people to make as many intentional and conscious decisions moving forward whether that is how you eat, what you wear, who you spend your time with. In regards to being able to do all of those things, we have to look within to find out how we can be more positive in our personal lives to help others. In paying attention to and acknowledging our mental and physical wellbeing, we become more equip to help and encourage others to do the same. When we do that, we put ourselves in the position to work together to make a greater positive impact. There are honestly so many important factors that go into shaping the world we will live in and we can only do so by being cognizant of everything we do.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have a meeting with Lizzo, I have always admired the way that she is authentically and uniquely herself. She radiates confidence and joy and is constantly bringing smiles to people world-wide by creating such incredible lyrics that people can connect to. I ultimately would love to have a conversation around body image and mental health with her in relation to confidence!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
To find me, follow me on all platforms @itsgigirobinson, on youtube Gigi Robinson, or visit my website gigirobinson.com to learn more about me!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!