Robyn was born in Girraween, New South Wales, to Chris and Janne Lawley; and has two older sisters, Shona and Jennifer. Robyn attended Macarthur Girls High School. Robyn went to see a mainstream agency when she was 15 and although they were ready to sign her, she didn't feel ready. After taking a year off she returned and started doing straight size modeling for a year. Finding it to be not worth the effort of maintaining the size 8 that was required, she signed with Bella model management, a "plus size" modeling agency in Australia, when she was 18.
Lawley's first magazine shoot was for Dolly in 2006. At the beginning of her career she appeared in a plus size clothing range for New Zealand brand EziBuy. Lawley has graced the cover of French Elle, Marie Claire (France, Australia) and Cosmopolitan. In June 2011, Lawley featured on the cover of Vogue Italia alongside fellow plus sized models Tara Lynn and Candice Huffine, shot by Steven Meisel. In addition, she appeared on the March 2012 cover of Madison, becoming the first Australian plus-sized model to grace the cover of an Australian fashion magazine, as well as the first plus size model to appear in an editorial specifically produced for Australian Vogue. Lawley has appeared in editorials for Dazed & Confused, Glamour and British Elle.
Lawley has walked for designers including Peter Morrissey at Australian Fashion Week, Elena Miro at Milan Fashion Week as well as in a one-woman show for OneStopPlus, streamed on to a New York Times Square moving billboard.
Lawley has appeared in campaigns for plus-size brands including Evans, Lane Bryant, Marina Rinaldi and Persona Collezioni. Lawley also modeled for the debut of H & M's inclusive line as well as Mango's plus-size line, Violeta by Mango. She modeled for the debut and several other collections of Swan by Clements Ribeiro for Evans, designed by husband and wife duo Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro. Lawley appeared in the debut campaign for Sculptresse, a line by full-figure bra, lingerie and swimwear brand Panache. She also appeared in campaigns for Ralph Lauren, becoming the first plus-size model to be used in their in-store advertising. Lawley appeared in Lane Bryant's rebranding campaign, which included print magazine ads and several billboards in New York City.
Lawley has also appeared in advertising for brands such as Calezdonia's Summer 2012 campaign photographed by Raphael Mazzucco and Boux Avenue lingerie. She also appeared in campaigns for lingerie brand Chantelle, photographed by Greg Kadel along with models including Maryna Linchuk. Her first beauty campaign was Face Time for Barneys New York Holiday 2013, photographed by Ben Hassett.
Lawley was photographed by Kenneth Willardt for a fine art exhibition, Size Does Matter. The show was on exhibit from November to December 2013 at the 588 Gallery in Chelsea. Lawley was photographed nude with various animals,including rabbits, an owl, an octopus and tarantulas. Each image in the exhibit had a QR code. When the QR code was scanned with a cell phone, added movement in the image was visible on the cell phone screen. In addition to the images in the gallery, a billboard with Lawley flanked by bunnies was placed on the West Side Highway in Manhattan.
In early 2015, Robyn Lawley became a Sports Illustrated "Rookie", making her the first "plus-size" model to be featured in the magazine's annual Swimsuit Issue. The assistant managing editor of Sports Illustrated had stated that Lawley "had been on her radar for years and is being highlighted as a model rather than as a "plus size" model."
Lawley's swimwear line, designed by Lawley in collaboration with Bond-Eye Swimwear, launched in August 2013. The swimwear was produced in sizes 8 (US) to 18 (US), with plans to extend the size range in the future.
Lawley photographed Tara Lynn for Galore Magazine Issue 4. Lawley's photographs of Leah Kelley in her swimwear line went viral on social media and were covered by notable fashion websites.
The success of Lawley's food blog, "Robyn Lawley Eats" led to her receiving a contract with Random House to publish a cookbook with original recipes, family recipes and tips on eating at restaurants around the world. Her recipes have been featured on Australian television and on the website of Good Morning America.
Lawley has written two articles on body image for The Daily Beast. Her first article, in September 2012 addressed the media's response to Lady Gaga's weight gain. The second article, in October 2013, addressed the thigh gap trend. In 2014, Lawley wrote an article for Mail Online, expressing her disdain that the Australian government is still reliant on mining and fossil-fuels when there are lucrative sustainable resources
Lawley and her partner Everest Schmidt, a lawyer with the Paul Law Group and former Lafayette College basketball player, are the parents of a daughter Ripley, born on 26 February 2015.
Lawley was voted the winner of the Australian Cosmopolitan Fun, Fearless Female, Rising Star Award 2011. Lawley was also selected for Sydney Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential People of the year award for 2011. In June 2013, Lawley was awarded Model of the Year during the Full Figured Fashion Week.