13 Questions With Gina Martin

Gina Martin is most commonly known for being the girl that made upskirting illegal, but her talents haven't stopped there. Find out what she's working on now and what activism looks like in lockdown.

First of all how are you and how are you coping in lockdown?

I’ve actually only just got into some sort of groove. I was positive for the first two weeks and then coronavirus affected my family and I basically didn’t move from my bed or the sofa for a month. I was overwhelmed. I still am, but now I’m getting back to work (at my little corner desk) and managing to get moving each day with a walk or a workout. It’s still ups and downs though… and I still haven’t put jeans on yet!

Tell us about some of the work you do

I work as a writer, broadcaster and campaigner. I do a lot of speaking at events and with industries – truth to power stuff on gender equality and pushing against the establishment – and I contribute to BBC Radio 5 Live with my slot Gina’s Gamechangers. I’m also an ambassador for UN WomenUK. I work to show ordinary people like me that you can change things if you feel injustice. The main issues I talk around are gender equality, white privilege and human rights. I want to make politics and the conversation around it more accessible to people because it’s so bloody complex and gatekept.

A lot of people will know you as being the woman who got upskirting made illegal, how did it all come about?

Ah yes! I am the upskirting girl and proud of it! I was working in an ad agency in London when I was upskirted in 2017 at British Summertime Festival and after handing the guys, and the picture, into the police I was told there was nothing I could do. So, I launched a two-year legal battle with the Government and my lawyer Ryan and we changed the law in April 2019.

We love your book Be the Change, tell us all about it!

When I first thought about kicking up a stink about upskirting not being a Sexual Offence I googled “how do you change a law?” And literally nothing came up (surprise, surprise!). I realised I was going to have to figure it out on my own and thankfully I managed to, but everything you read on politics and law and campaigning is so dry and complex and full of jargon. So, I decided to write the book I had needed back at the beginning when I had no idea what I was doing. I packed it full of all the things I learnt – everything from using social media for campaigns to public speaking to doing TV interviews to writing a press release. It’s all in there. And it’s all accessibly written and easy to understand! Order Be the Change here.

What was it like to write a book and do you have any advice for someone who wants to write one?

It was amazing but stressful – I was on a tight deadline. I wrote my book in two months as the law was about to change and I was encouraged to release it right after that happened. That worked out though as I was able to write it fairly fast as I was basically collating all this info I’d learnt in the last few years! My advice for a non-fiction book would be to;

A) Create a really single-minded and clear angle for it

B) Don’t try and write like you think you should – you’ll do this without noticing – but allow your tone of voice to shine through.

C) My friend Sam said to me “just get the paint on the wall and perfect it after!” And she’s right; just get the words down! You’ll have time to go over it two or three times and make it better, but the scariest thing is a blank page.

Tell us about your work with UN Women UK

I’ve looked up to them for a long time. They really wanted to work with individuals who not only cared about an issue but were already doing the work to change it. I met Claire Barnett, the Executive Director and we clicked straight away. Since then it’s basically like a big round- table where the ambassadors (me and others) learn about the work UN WomenUK are doing, consult, throw around ideas to help develop projects and then support their mission through our networks and our platforms.

For Instance, they’re launching a digital Everyday Allyship Platform which I’m really excited about, and I’m writing a piece for them and discussing how I could support it with Claire. It’s a very open and honest discourse which I love because that’s hard to find – even in this work!

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

It was, of course, changing the law. But not even because I achieved it, just because it made me so hopeful to think “so, someone who has zero political or legal experience and scraped by in school can change the law?!” It made things feel possible. That or when Annie Lennox emailed me to tell me she loves my work and then I met her and she gave me the biggest cuddle and took me over to meet her team. I literally almost wet myself I was so happy.

What are you currently working on?

Coronavirus has meant I’ve shifted my perspective a bit. I was putting a lot of energy into being on the ground with people, in rooms, speaking, having discussions and now I obviously can’t do that the same way. I’m working on some broadcast opportunities which will look at ordinary people who are pushing to change things which is very exciting.

Right now though I’m most excited about the podcast I’ve launched with my sister Stevie who is a comedian and journalist. It’s called Might Delete Later and it dives into people social media timelines like we do family photo albums, looking at embarrassing posts, big regrets and proud moments. Plus, it asks us to really think about our relationship with social media. It’s been such a joy to have a laugh and work on something where I can be silly Gina not only Gina Martin the Activist!

Who are some of your current favourite follows online?

God, how long do you have!? For learning, I love @rachel.cargle, @munroebergdorf, @mikaelaloach, @jamie_windust @ajabarber, For beautiful words, I love @charlycox1 and @quotesbychristie. For art, I adore @kellyannalondon @hillergoodspeed @weewaaz and for fashion or beauty, I go to @emilisindlev @katiejanehughes @rowisingh. There are about 10,000 more but I’ll stop myself.

What do you always carry with you?

My phone, but after that probably Weleda Skin food, Fenty beauty concealer and Ardell Stroke-A-Brow because I always have dry lips, a hormonal spot goatee and I like my brows to be bushy!

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Oh, what a gorgeous question. Well, it would start with the world being free from Coronavirus. And then my perfect weekend would be my parents and sister coming to stay. We’d wake up late, have coffee and then walk to our favourite tiny cafe and have brekkie. Maybe then we’d all go for a family walk to the park and sit in the sun, before heading home to hang around the house eating nibble bits and have naps. After, we woke up and got ready we’d go out for some red wine at a nice cosy bar and finish the day having Italian at Circolo Popolare! On the Sunday we’d wander around London for hours, grabbing food at a food market and come home to watch a movie and all get takeaway together. I’d kill to have that time with my family. We talk for hours upon hours.

If you could only eat one meal again what would it be?

Pasta. Not even a doubt in my mind. Any pasta. All Pasta. Pasta for brekkie, lunch and dinner. With Garlic bread. Am I allowed to add a backup and say Mexican? Because I have to give that an honourable mention – but pasta has my heart. Going to go and cook some right this second.

If you could give one positive message to our followers what would it be?

Look at your experience from the bottom up, not the top down. On everything. From where you are in the world; your rights, your privileges to personal things like your achievements and your successes. Realise you have an obligation: to do your best for other people. They need you. We all need each other. Oh, and no one can tell you you’re not the right person to make the world a better place.

Follow Gina Martin on Instagram here!