Digital Creator Gigi Robinson Breaks Down Body Image & Mental Health On “Everything You Need Is Within” Podcast Series

Image by Sophie Sahara

If there is anything we have learned about Gen Z, it is that they are the generation who are taking control of their own lives, self-determining their future, and giving voice to the issues they care about through a plethora of digital platforms. Gen Z are the heroes they have been looking for, and gone are the days of putting celebs and experts on a pedestal to learn from. This is the generation we should be looking to if we want to assure ourselves that in the future we will all be OK.

One young woman who is making it all happen for herself and those who come into her orbit is Gen Z Podcast Host, Chronic Illness Advocate, Digital Creator, and Current USC Masters Student, Gigi Robinson. This 24-year-old digital maven and former Sports Illustrated Swim Search finalist with a rapidly growing fan base seemingly does it all.

Gigi masterfully balances her master’s program in Innovation Design, Business & Technology, content creation, advocacy work for the chronically ill and her podcast “Everything You Need is Within” all while living with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. The podcast is hosted and produced by Gen Z for Gen Z, that tells it like it is and places an emphasis on change-makers and creative innovators across social advocacy industries. Gigi knows that life isn’t always easy and aims to bring her audiences together and help them tap into the power they hold inside themselves.

Born and raised in Manhattan, the 24-year-old is a New Yorker through and through. When she was just 11 years old, Gigi was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, that leaves her very susceptible to injury. She has used her chronic illness as fuel for her passion for advocacy.

Along with chronic illness advocacy, Gigi is also extremely passionate about mental health and body image. Having suffered from both in her teenage years, she strives to be a role model for the next generation, speaking directly to them via social media, podcasts, as well as numerous panels at colleges, high schools, and multiple nonprofits organization seminars.

Here’s what she told us about her podcast, and what she hopes to empower listeners with, from Gen Z and beyond.

Image by Ely Williams

Can you tell us how the idea for your podcast came about?

The idea was conceived in late 2020. It was based on a conversation I had with Julia Michaels on Instagram Live, which you can go back and find if you want to. The subject was being an artist and dealing with mental health not only online, but also in our creative work. After this conversation I decided that it’d be really cool to interview creators from all different backgrounds and really give my platform to people who didn’t have as large of an audience and people who wanted to get their mission out there into the world.

I really just went for it and started doing interviews on Instagram Live, which I then downloaded and distributed after they were edited. The creative production process was definitely slow. I did about 17 Instagram Live episodes, which of course came with technical difficulties. The microphone quality was not perfect and the video quality was sometimes really glitchy but, that’s also just the nature of working with tech. The show was then picked up by Spotify Live and I was with them for a year and a half which was incredible and really helped grow the podcast.

‘Everything you need is within’ feels like such an empowering statement all around. Can you share any personal stories of how this has resonated in your own life, before you even launched the pod?

As a full time patient living with multiple invisible chronic illnesses, I’ve found myself having to push the boundary of what normal feels like as well as learning how to optimize my life within the parameters that I’ve been given. That in and of itself was enough to inspire me to start a podcast about mental health and mental endurance, especially amidst physical challenges. 

Image by Sophie Sahara

You have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and have been open about this issue in your life. How are you viewing your chronic illness as a way to fuel your passion for advocacy?

I think the biggest reason why I’m so passionate about advocacy is because of the impact that I know I’m having on creating discourse around what it means to live with an invisible illness. I wish that I had something like this to look up to when I was in middle and high school, so I figured why not try to make it myself! I’m trying to carve a path for advocacy so that others can feel empowered and inspired to advocate for themselves.

Who have been some of your fave guests on the pod, and what do you specifically look for when inviting them on?

I’ve had a ton of guests that were really amazing, but my favorites were probably the ones with my friends and with mental health professionals. There are so many episodes to listen to though, so go check them out. When I’m choosing my podcast guests, I try to find people that I resonate with and try to hit on different spheres of influence and niches. I wanted to make sure that I could host a show where mental health was woven into the conversation regardless of what the guest’s content is, because at the end of the day, if we don’t take care of our physical and mental health, we can’t create well. 

Mental health is a big topic that more and more Gen Z folks are talking about. Why do you think it is important for us to have more open conversations about our mental health, and how has it helped you personally?

Mental health has always been something that people have wanted to hide because they’ve feared judgment from others or felt that it would give other people leverage over them. Gen Z talks about these issues candidly because we want everybody to get help and we want everyone to hold equity within different ecosystems, and the only way we can truly do that is by being honest not only with ourselves, but with our peers and colleagues. Creating an open forum and talking about our issues has really helped build empathy and trust across our generation which has been so amazing for me to see. 

Body image is something that is also important to you. Can you share more about your journey, and what still needs to change in society?

As somebody who grew up in the mid 2010s always thinking that I wasn’t thin enough or pretty enough, I often felt like I didn’t fit in. When the pandemic happened, I was forced to come and live in my childhood bedroom and relive what I experienced in high school about my body image. I know that other people dealt with this too, and that it’s not a unique experience. All of this led me to start talking about the intersection between technology, self-worth, and mental health challenges. They are so intertwined, and you really can’t acknowledge one without the other. Ultimately, that’s why I started talking about body image online and I am really happy to be a part of this community.

Image by Sophie Sahara

You were a Sports Illustrated Swim finalist in 2022. What was that experience like for you?

Being a part of the Sports Illustrated Swim Search was an amazing experience. I entered because I wanted to represent people with chronic illnesses in the magazine and wanted to show people that you don’t need to be retouched in your photos to be featured in an amazing publication; you’re fine just as you are.

For my application I tagged MJ, the editor in chief, in a LinkedIn post where I submitted my video, and it got her attention because it was the first time anybody had ever recognized Sports Illustrated professionally, outside of their internal network. It was also a full circle moment for me to celebrate all of my achievements in advocacy and shoot with one of my favorite photographers in the world, Yu Tsai, who I’ve looked up to for years. 

What is something about the advocacy and passion of Gen Z that other people misunderstand?

I think a lot of people forget that half of Gen Z is in college or already working full time. People don’t take Gen Z seriously because they have it in their head that Gen Z is the youngest generation, even though that’s not true anymore. On top of that, there’s this concept that Gen Z doesn’t work hard and that we want to quit if something doesn’t suit us perfectly. Typically, we quit because of things that have been ignored and overlooked in workplace settings, such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. And all these things exist in the social media sphere, too. This is a narrative that I am actively trying to change!

For those listening to your podcast and reading about your career and health journey, what do want others also living with a chronic illness to know?

I think that other people living with chronic illness should know that however you’re feeling and wherever you are with your acceptance journey is valid. I also want them to know that it’s completely okay to have guilt or resentment towards yourself for not being able to operate at a level that you once did. You also can’t compare yourself to other people because everyone’s journey is so different. Just because your friend with the same condition is doing well, doesn’t mean that you have to be doing well too! Give yourself grace to not be okay and to take things slow. That’s also something I’m working on getting better at.

What can we look forward to in 2023 from the world of Gigi Robinson?

2023 is going to be really exciting. I think that the most exciting thing is going to be embarking on a more serious speaking tour to universities and conferences around the country. I’m also looking forward to finishing writing my book!

You can subscribe and listen to ‘Everything You Need is Within’ on Spotify, Apple Podcast or Follow Gigi on TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn and check out her Website.

Image by Sophie Sahara

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