Sports Illustrated Swim Search Finalist Gigi Robinson on Posing With Chronic Illness: 'I Hug Myself' (2023)



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SI Swim Search-Finalista Gigi Robinsonwants to change the way the world views chronic disease.

The social media influencer was chosen from thousands of submissions to fly to the Dominican Republic and photographed by acclaimed photographer Yu Tsai. The winner of the annual casting becomes a rookie in the 2023 edition.

The 2022 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, currently available on newsstands, features cover girls Kim Kardashian, Maye Musk, Ciara and Yumi Nu.

The 24-year-old was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that causes chronic pain and bruises and lesions that are slow to heal. The Generation Z star had to give up swimming, one of his passions, but then discovered a new love for photography, which allows him to express himself both in front of and behind the lens.


Sports Illustrated Swim Search Finalist Gigi Robinson on Posing With Chronic Illness: 'I Hug Myself' (2)

Gigi Robinson is a finalist in this year's SI Swim Search. (Yu Tsai/Deportes Ilustrados)

Robinson spoke with Fox News Digital about howSI Swimsuit celebrates her body, the heartfelt advice he got from editor-in-chief MJ Day on how to deal with social media trolls.

Fox News:What made you decide to try it this year?

Gigi Robinson:This may sound weird or even strange, but somehow I feel called to do it. The idea first came to me after seeing Katie Austin last year. she won theSI Swim Search for 2021. She is a few years older than me and she also went to USC. I admired how she did it herself. I figured if she could do it, then so can I. So she wanted to try it out for the chronically ill community. We don't see performance that often... I think it's something that a lot of people in the United States experience. I wanted to spread the message of advocacy and representation.

Fox News:How was filming for SI in Punta Cana?
Robinson:It was so fabulous. It's so wonderful. I think there was a snow storm the day I left. Twenty degrees and it's snowing. And then I ended up in a sunny paradise that's 85 degrees and a nice breeze. The food was good, the clouds and palm trees were beautiful, the sun felt so good.

Sports Illustrated Swim Search Finalist Gigi Robinson on Posing With Chronic Illness: 'I Hug Myself' (3)

Gigi Robinson and the other finalists traveled to the Dominican Republic for their long-awaited photo shoots. (Sophie Sahara)

My session had a positive side. They shot different girls on different days. My day was the last day the whole team was there. Unfortunately it started to rain. I chose a positive spin, how can this work? I knew the photos would be different. It will not be the sun. It will be more of a cloudy haze. I hope it sets me apart and makes me a stronger rookie candidate.


And I ended up hanging out with MJ Day because we were waiting out the storm. No other model has what was so special to me. And then after the storm passed, we went back to the beach. There was the sunset and a beautiful evening sky. Then we went back to shooting in the morning. It was the only cloudy morning *laughs*. But I thought again, just take it. Wear this orange bikini. Be the sun on the beach.

I have three shots. I took the first one as my test. I learn and absorb the cues of everyone around me. The second time I refine it and listen. The third time I was able to shoot in eight minutes.

Sports Illustrated Swim Search Finalist Gigi Robinson on Posing With Chronic Illness: 'I Hug Myself' (4)

As a child, Gigi Robinson was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. (Sophie Sahara)

Fox News:Did you prepare in any way for this session?
Robinson:As someone who has a history of disordered eating, particularly due to the medications I take, I am very sensitive to exercise and diet. I have not limited myself. I will say that I ate more salads, but not because I wanted to look thinner. It was because it made me feel better. I drank more green juices and smoothies. But I did not interfere with my diet. I did not fast.

I did a spray tan, did my nails, and had a facial and lymphatic drainage massage. I did my blowout and eyebrows. All waxed *laughs*. I did it in preparation. Spiraling in for a photo is not worth it. I talk online about my body image, the medications I take, the relationship I have with my body and how my weight fluctuates... I accept who I am now.


It's funny, I made a TikTok post mentioning that I got my period while filming. And I think it's great to say that because it's so normal. I was on a set that was mostly women. They were so understanding, like, "Don't worry, it happens all the time." That was so comforting that you didn't have to worry about being a little more bloated. None of that mattered. The session was about the empowerment message and its embodiment. I'm just a vessel that can represent that.

Sports Illustrated Swim Search Finalist Gigi Robinson on Posing With Chronic Illness: 'I Hug Myself' (5)

Gigi Robinson is a social media influencer and Generation Z star. (Sophie Sahara)

Fox News:It should empower you to be part of a brand that welcomes all bodies.
Robinson:Oh yeah, that's the vibe I got from them. I even had a moment with MJ where I was like, 'Look, my whole life I always wanted to cover up and wear a high waisted bikini to hide my fanny pack. Or I wanted to wear tops that are full of coverage. I was afraid of triangle bikinis." She says, "You know what beast? You will try on this triangle bikini. You will try this style on and you will show it off. Are you kidding me? You look so hot, hug him."

It was like stepping into your femininity... You can express the different sides of your personality through fashion, or in this case, a swimsuit. You can wear a one-piece suit and be a very bad B----. Or you can wear a skimpy triangle bikini that could show off your sensual side more. Or you can wear something with a small underwire or a push-up and be more fun. It didn't matter what my body looked like. What mattered was how I felt in those bathing suits… I felt so confident in the things that we ended up choosing. The shoot went by so quickly because I was having so much fun. I felt so confident in every swimsuit I wore.

Fox News:They wanted to raise awareness related to chronic diseases. Is it true that you were diagnosed with a tissue disorder at the age of 11?
Robinson:My chronic disease, or one of them, isEhlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a connective tissue disease. This makes it very difficult for me to do many things. It affects people in different ways and is very dynamic. There is no cure. You can't just take a pill and disappear. It's a long-term condition that affects everyone differently, including me. It causes severe chronic pain in my body throughout the day. I am easily embarrassed. I have chronic migraines because of this. My weight fluctuates due to the medications I take to control it.


Sports Illustrated Swim Search Finalist Gigi Robinson on Posing With Chronic Illness: 'I Hug Myself' (6)

Gigi Robinson is annoyed by trolls on social media. (Ely Williams)

When I was diagnosed, I had to stop competitive swimming, which was one of my passions. I really wanted to be an Olympic swimmer and I thought that would happen. My doctors told me I couldn't do it. So I had to find a new passion. It ended up being photography. I fell in love with photography and the creative production behind it. I have admired Yu Tsai for years. Working with him was like a dream. Not only was he in front of his lens, I also got to see him work behind the scenes. When I saw myself on the monitor for the first time, he made me cry. Not only did I stay true to my message, but I fulfilled one of my passions. Everything leading up to this moment felt so good.

Fox News:You described how your chronic illness can lead to bruising. How has that affected your confidence over the years?
Robinson:I would say that having bruises on my body wasn't something I really paid attention to until I realized it. Living in New York City makes it easy to wear long sleeves and cover up for at least half the year. But living in Los Angeles for college at USC, I was covering up all the time. If I ever did photo shoots, I'd take out the bruises. I don't think I really paid attention to how it affected me, but it ultimately helped me deny my chronic illness.

Sports Illustrated Swim Search Finalist Gigi Robinson on Posing With Chronic Illness: 'I Hug Myself' (7)

Gigi Robinson said she feels more confident than ever. (Dasom Lee)

I don't think I accepted it until my total burnout happened in 2019. I had issues… I sat down and said, “You have these issues. You can no longer run from them. You can't get them out of your life with Photoshop. You can't hide it. I wanted to defend myself. I was thousands of miles across the country from my family in Los Angeles, the mecca of the influencer industry. everyone is beautiful In Hollywood everyone is skinny and blond. But the moment I quit, I realized that I had to accept myself for who I am. That's when the healing really began. And this is how you can help others. It's like a champagne tower. You have to fill that first cup for yourself in terms of self-love and confidence before you can pour it out on other people.

Sports Illustrated Swim Search Finalist Gigi Robinson on Posing With Chronic Illness: 'I Hug Myself' (8)

Gigi Robinson discovered a new passion for photography. (Ellie Maclean)

Fox News:How do you deal with trolls on social media?
Robinson:I feel bad for her. Not worth my energy and time. These are people who are unsure of their own path and therefore feel compelled to comment on someone else's life. It's almost embarrassing that anyone cares so much about what I do. They are so dissatisfied with their lives that they have to worry about what I am doing.


It doesn't make any sense... But luckily, with some tools, you can filter out certain terms like "ugly", "fat", "b----" - all those nasty words. But the truth is, I'm on social media to post and interact with people who matter, people who care. So if someone feels like they need to write something like "disgusting", I just delete it and move on. It's not worth my headspace.

Fox News:What kind of message would you like to share with your followers?
Robinson:When it comes to my branding on social media, I vow not to tinker. I want people to see me for who I am... I think it's great that now, if you're someone who gets hurt easily, you don't have to copy that from a campaign. A person can look at that and say, "Wow, this person is just like me."

Sports Illustrated Swim Search Finalist Gigi Robinson on Posing With Chronic Illness: 'I Hug Myself' (9)

Gigi Robinson is looking forward to what the future holds for her. (Ely Williams)

It's about using photos to connect with others. And I think that connection is something so many of us lack, especially in the digital world we live in now... I'm excited to see how the media can represent more people in campaigns. I certainly feel part of it.

Fox News:What is the message you hope your photos convey to others?
Robinson:I just want to convey that you can look sexy and feel S--- and that's okay. A lot more people go through this than we think. Living with a chronic illness can be very challenging. So I wanted to get out of that comfort zone and do something for myself that would make me feel sexy and confident. It brings that variety into my life that takes my mind off my chronic illness. I hope it can at least empower others.


Don't bother wearing a bikini if ​​you have bruises, scars, stretch marks, stretch marks, scratches, whatever. Life is not perfect. We must remember that. I can't say enough great things about SI and how it empowered me. It was only a dream. I am very honored to have this role as a finalist. I look forward to the next stage, whatever it is.

Stephanie Nolasco covers entertainment at


What chronic illness does Gigi Robinson have? ›

Gigi Robinson was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a group of inherited disorders that affect connective tissue, at 11 years old. But she hasn't let it stop her from achieving her dreams.

What does Gigi Robinson have? ›

Robinson noted that the experience allowed her to raise awareness on coping with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. The connective tissue disorder causes chronic pain and makes one prone to bruises and injuries that can be slow to heal. Robinson received her diagnosis when she was 11 years old.

What is Gigi diagnosed with? ›

Model and chronic illness advocate Gigi Robinson was first diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a group of connective tissue disorders, when she was 11.

What illnesses are chronic? ›

Chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.

How much does Gigi make a year? ›

What is Gigi Hadid's net worth? Gigi Hadid has a net worth of $29 million. Thanks to endorsement deals with brands like Maybelline, Evian, BMW, Versace, and Tommy Hilfiger, she is one of the most paid models in the world, earning $9-10 million year.

How much is Gigi the model worth? ›

What is Gigi Hadid's Net Worth? Gigi Hadid is an American model and reality television star who has a net worth of $30 million.

Does Gigi have a twin? ›

Jelena Noura "Gigi" Hadid born April 23, 1995 and Isabella "bella" Khair Hadid October 9, 1996 are sisters, not twins.

Does Gigi have any tattoos? ›

When it comes to tattoos, there's subtle, and then there's Gigi Hadid-level subtle. If you didn't know any better, you probably assumed the supermodel doesn't have any body ink — but that isn't true. Hadid has one, but it's so tiny it's nearly impossible to spot in photographs.

Does Gigi have a nanny? ›

Yolanda took over caregiving duties, even bringing her granddaughter along to feed the miniature ponies Mamma and Muku. Gigi has no nanny, no baby nurse, none of the traditional celebrity crutches of new motherhood.

Is Gigi from a rich family? ›

Gigi's certainly earned her own money as a model, but she comes from an incredibly wealthy family, with her mum, Yolanda, an incredibly successful model herself, as well being a cats member of The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills.

What illness has no cure? ›

cancer. dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. advanced lung, heart, kidney and liver disease. stroke and other neurological diseases, including motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis.

What is the number one cause of chronic disease? ›

Most chronic diseases are caused by key risk behaviors: Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Poor nutrition, including diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium and saturated fats. Physical inactivity.

What are the top 4 chronic diseases? ›

The Top 7 Most Common Chronic Diseases in the U.S.
  • What is a Chronic Disease? ...
  • Heart Disease. ...
  • Cancer. ...
  • Chronic Lung Disease. ...
  • Stroke. ...
  • Alzheimer's. ...
  • Diabetes. ...
  • Chronic Kidney Disease.

Who is the highest paid female model? ›

From Supermodel To Instagram It Girl, Here Are The World's 15 Richest Models Of All Time
  • Kendall Jenner: $45 million.
  • Kate Moss: USD $70 million.
  • Alessandra Ambrosio: USD $80 million.
  • Naomi Campbell: USD $80 million.
  • Tyra Banks: USD $90 million.
  • Adriana Lima: USD $95 million.
  • Elle Macpherson: USD $95 million.
Nov 29, 2022

Who is richer Bella or Gigi? ›

Gigi Hadid has an estimated net worth of $29 million dollars, while her sister Bella Hadid's net worth is calculated at around $25 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Who is the highest paid model ever? ›

Gisele Bundchen is the highest paid model in history, the Brazilian has earned millions of dollars for modeling Victoria Secrets clothing, but she is not the only one who has made money in the modeling world. The clothing brand has had famous women promote its prestigious clothing.

Does Gigi have hypothyroidism? ›

World top 50 supermodel Gigi Hadid (born Jelena Noura "Gigi" Hadid) revealed in 2016 that she had been recently diagnosed with a relatively rare autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid gland, known as Hashimoto's Disease or Hashimoto's Thyroiditis which affects nearly 14 million people.

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