It’s Livvy Dunne’s World

It’s Livvy Dunne’s World

Livvy Dunne photographed in New York Metropolis in Could. Bodysuit, Courrèges, $740. Denims, Et Ochs, $695. Earring, $2,970, ring, $1,570, Cartier. Mules, Manolo Blahnik, $745.

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On July 1, 2021, Louisiana State College gymnastics star Olivia Dunne was in Instances Sq. staring up at a 73-foot-tall model of herself. A video clip that performed on the billboard confirmed the most-followed athlete in faculty sports activities beginning a flip on a seashore on TikTok and transitioned to her sticking a touchdown in her LSU uniform within the college’s area, her arms lifted triumphantly overhead.

The marketing campaign, which was paid for by LSU and spotlighted different athletes as nicely, was a victory lap following the NCAA’s determination to overturn its 115-year prohibition on pupil athletes incomes cash for his or her identify, picture, and likeness (NIL). “That was the moment my life changed forever,” Olivia tells me as she sips a drink outdoors a campus Starbucks on a sunny spring day in Baton Rouge.

LSU had taken fourth place on the nationwide championships the weekend earlier than, a formidable displaying given the variety of accidents the workforce suffered this season, and she or he was having fun with a uncommon second of downtime, dressed casually in black leggings and a cropped T-shirt, her lengthy blonde hair spilling over her shoulders. If not for the Prada bag slung on the chair behind her, she’d be indistinguishable from the opposite college students passing by. Pausing to replicate on that Instances Sq. second, she provides, “That was surreal. I didn’t really know what was to come, but I knew it was going to be special.”

Two years later, Olivia continues to be the most-followed faculty athlete within the nation, with greater than 13 million followers throughout platforms (7 million-plus on TikTok, 4 million-plus on Instagram, 1 million-plus on Snapchat, and 87,000-plus on Twitter). She’s turned all these eyeballs into money, netting thousands and thousands per 12 months in endorsement offers. Olivia at the moment ranks second to USC males’s basketball commit Bronny James on On3’s NIL 100 Listing of high highschool and faculty annual-earning projections, and one forward of Texas quarterback Arch Manning. The obsession along with her runs so deep that you could purchase a throw blanket along with her face on it for $61.45, whereas T-shirts that learn “Mentally Dating Olivia Dunne” go for $23.34.

Each time she posts, inside seconds the feedback roll in: “wow,” “so pretty,” “love you,” “marry me,” “mommy.” And inevitably some model of: “Is this appropriate?”

livvy dunne lsu gymnast

Gown, Christian Siriano, $4,200.

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With all the eye and all of the zeros in her checking account has come a darkish aspect of fame, one that girls faculty athletes are extra susceptible to than their male counterparts. There are the trash web sites that comply with her each transfer, oversexualizing even probably the most harmless of her posts. (When she posts a selfie in a white crop high, she’s placing on a “busty display”; a beige high “causes a commotion.”) The headline that claims “sex sells,” atop a narrative on girls athletes and NIL that focuses on her appears to be like and reductions the abilities and years of laborious work it took for her to amass such a big viewers. (There are many lovely blonde girls in faculty gymnastics; Olivia is the one one with 13 million-plus followers.) After which there are the individuals who blame her when her testosterone-crazed male followers get out of line, as they did at a meet on the College of Utah earlier this 12 months.

“To see a woman winning? People sometimes have a lot to say,” Olivia says of her haters. She speculates that a few of the criticism she faces could merely be the product of her being the primary lady to do A Factor. “If you’re a woman at the forefront of something, when you’ve got eyes on you, people are going to downplay your success and say that you’re not doing it right, that you don’t deserve all the opportunities,” she says. “I don’t want to say ‘F you,’ but the best way to get that to stop is to keep being successful at what you’re doing, because your success, and love for what you do, will outshine any of that.”

As Olivia navigates all of this as arguably the primary millionaire faculty influencer/athlete—or is she the primary millionaire faculty athlete/influencer?—one factor is for certain: The unimaginable story of Olivia “Livvy” Dunne proves faculty sports activities won’t ever be the identical once more.

Lengthy earlier than she was @livvy, Olivia was a three-year-old rising up in a ranch-style home in suburban Hillsdale, New Jersey, along with her eyes on a prize: a glittery pink leotard, similar to her cousin’s. “I was like, ‘Mom, I want that,’ and she said, ‘Well, you can’t have a leotard unless you do gymnastics,’” Olivia explains. “So I was like, ‘Sign me up.’”

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Olivia, age 11, competing on the 2014 U.S. Basic in Chicago.


It turned out she was a pure. “I remember being quite strong for a three-year-old,” Olivia says, recalling how her coach would put her on the rings, a males’s equipment, and she or he may maintain herself up with ease whereas being swung backwards and forwards, which, she says, “I can barely even think about doing right now at 20 years old.”

Olivia began competing at age seven, as soon as shifting up an unimaginable 4 ranges in a single 12 months. By the point she was 10 years previous in 2013, she had reached degree 10—the very best degree earlier than elite. Along with her sights set on the Olympics, she began attending nationwide workforce coaching camps, then left public college in seventh grade to homeschool along with her mom. When LSU started recruiting her (guidelines about how quickly faculties may attain out have been looser then), she had a really 12-year-old response to the college’s efforts. “I liked LSU at first because one of their colors was purple,” Olivia says, laughing. “I was a baby.”

When she was simply 9 years previous, she joined the year-and-a-half-old platform Instagram. One factor many individuals don’t notice about Olivia—particularly those that wish to say she’s “turned the male gaze into a gymnastics empire” (as one latest headline in the Guardian learn)—is that she just isn’t an in a single day sensation. She’s been constructing a model and amassing an viewers on social media for greater than half her life. And the gymnastics half got here first.

“I remember, I got my first professional pictures on a podium and I was like, ‘OMG these are awesome! I want more of this in my life!’” Olivia says. She posted them on Instagram and watched the likes roll in. “I just knew this is something I wanted to do,” she says. “I was 10 or 11, and there were younger girls looking up to me and people starting to recognize me. To be someone else’s role model meant the world to me.”

In these early days, Olivia nonetheless had her pure brunette hair coloration, and her feed was stuffed with badly-lit selfies, pics of her assembly her gymnastics idols, and movies of her performing new strikes. “Livvy was so cute with it,” says coach Jen Zappa of ENA Gymnastics in Paramus, New Jersey, the place Olivia skilled. “She would work so hard to master a skill, and then she would want to get the perfect version on camera.” Olivia and her buddies, generally known as the “Chalk Girlies,” would submit tutorials on the health club’s feed about what they have been studying. She later drew a blue examine within the nook of her bed room mirror, manifesting her eventual verification on Instagram.

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Bodysuit, Courrèges, $740. Denims, Et Ochs, $695. Earring, $2,970, ring, $1,570, Cartier. Mules, Manolo Blahnik, $745.

Silver Chang

Olivia comes from a household well-positioned to lift a social media star. Her maternal grandmother based an early schooling expertise firm known as Think about Tomorrow. Olivia’s dad and mom, Kat and David Dunne, who met at Rutgers College (her dad attended on a Division 1 soccer scholarship, and her mother studied enterprise and schooling), each went to work for Think about Tomorrow after commencement, bringing tech into faculties and opening laptop facilities for younger youngsters.

Contemplate Kat the Kris Jenner of the Livvy operation. “My kids all grew up with technology in their hands, and I’ve always been a big advocate of putting technology in the hands of kids and teaching them how to use it safely. If you’re going to have your phone in your hand, don’t just scroll through—let’s make content, let’s do something,” she says. “So many parents treat technology in the opposite way. They think of it as just, ‘You’re wasting your time.’ But if that’s what your child is interested in, then what can it become?”

Olivia made her elite debut at 11, and three years later, in 2017, she was formally named to the USA Gymnastics Junior Nationwide Staff. The workforce went on to win the Metropolis of Jesolo Trophy in Italy, whereas she earned fifth and ninth locations, respectively, within the particular person all-around within the Juniors division on the U.S. Basic and Nationwide Championships. However being a member of the nationwide workforce additionally meant coaching on the 2,000-acre Karolyi Ranch in rural Texas.

In accordance with an impartial investigation carried out by Ropes & Grey, the ranch, run by longtime coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, was a punishing place in an remoted and secluded surroundings away from the gymnasts’ dad and mom. “I remember the first time I went, I thought it was going to be a fun summer camp with gymnastics. No. I was completely wrong,” Olivia says. “It shut down, obviously, because it was not a good place. But I went from the age of 10 until I was 16—that was the only way to make your dreams come true as a gymnast.”

Describing the expectation of perfection and single-minded deal with coaching, she says, “It was honestly abusive there, but that was the only way.” (In a Dateline interview, the Karolyis admitted the environment on the ranch was intense, however have denied any wrongdoing, together with any claims of abuse or enabling abuse. USA Gymnastics severed ties with the ranch amid the allegations involving the ranch.)

livvy dunne

Gown, Sportmax, $925. Earrings, Van Cleef & Arpels.

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As her mother tells it, Olivia was at a nationwide workforce coaching camp “when literally all of USA Gymnastics basically fell apart” due to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse investigation. This system’s high leaders ultimately stepped down or have been fired; the ranch closed; Nassar was sentenced as much as 235 years in jail for sexual assault at numerous amenities and clinics in Michigan and for little one pornography offenses. “It was an emotional time for anyone who was in gymnastics—knowing people who were impacted personally, and knowing it could have been you too,” Kat says. “When so many people were affected, you knew that to not have it impact you was…you were just lucky.”

On high of all of the turmoil at USA Gymnastics, Olivia had been coping with an ankle damage. She confronted a alternative: Step again and deal with therapeutic, or proceed to coach on the elite degree. By way of conversations along with her household—together with her aunt, Kat’s sister Laura St. John, a star mindset coach in Malibu who has appeared on Netflix’s Promoting Sundown—she started to see previous her Olympics dream to a brand new path. In 2019, she signed a Nationwide Letter of Intent with LSU, which awarded her a full athletic scholarship.

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Like the remainder of us within the spring of 2020, Olivia discovered herself with numerous time on her arms. Gyms, the place she had spent about 30 hours every week, have been closed; meets have been canceled. In March, Olivia and her household have been visiting Jensen Seashore, Florida, the place each units of her grandparents now stay, and “then the world shut down and we got stuck there,” Olivia says. “We were right on the beach, so I was like, ‘This could be worse.’”

She posted movies of herself doing flips on the sand on TikTok, calling it “beach-nastics.” They have been a success; she began gaining a whole bunch of 1000’s of followers every week. “I don’t know if it was just a little glimmer of positivity, but people loved the vibes in my videos,” Olivia says. “Being on the beach, being happy, smiling—a bit of sunshine during such a dark time in the world. I feel like, I don’t know, I used it to my benefit.”

Her mother says she introduced an athletic-level depth to her social media. “She was used to following a schedule, so she just started doing social media like it was her job,” Kat says. “She would sit down, make a schedule, map out what kinds of content she’d do, and then watch how it performed.” She loved finding out the analytics and algorithms, watching the likes-to-shares ratio, and seeing how her followers engaged with a submit. NCAA eligibility guidelines on the time meant that, whereas Olivia may proceed to develop her following as an LSU pupil athlete, she couldn’t monetize it. “She came to college with this audience, and for her not to be able to use her own name, image, and likeness because it was wrapped up in these NCAA rules—basically, they owned her—was really unfair,” Kat says. “She couldn’t earn a single dollar. The rules were so strict, she couldn’t even take a cup of coffee for free.”

In 2019–2020, an antitrust lawsuit introduced by student-athletes difficult the NCAA’s restrictions on compensation was making its method by way of the courts. By June 2021, 19 states had handed fair-pay-to-play legal guidelines bucking the NCAA’s long-held perception that pupil athletes shouldn’t be paid for his or her identify, picture, and likeness. On June 21, in a 9-0 determination, the Supreme Court docket upheld a decrease court docket’s ruling that struck down caps on pupil athletes’ tutorial advantages. In a scathing concurring opinion, Affiliate Justice Brett Kavanaugh addressed the remaining NCAA compensation guidelines not at problem within the case, writing that sports activities traditions “cannot justify the NCAA’s decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student athletes who are not fairly compensated.” The tide was lastly turning.

livvy dunne

Gown, Christian Siriano, $4,200. Ring, Van Cleef & Arpels.

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9 days later, the NCAA’s board of administrators voted in favor of permitting pupil athletes to revenue from their identify, picture, and likeness. The physique’s interim coverage put down few agency guidelines governing how this could work, nevertheless, unleashing a chaotic free market by which donor collectives competed aggressively for high expertise. The primary endorsement offers have been signed at 12:01 a.m. on July 1. Scholar athletes began hawking hen wings, tea, razors, pet toys, fireworks, dental providers, shifting corporations—you identify it. Olivia posted a TikTok of herself dancing in entrance of a headline concerning the new coverage to Future’s Little one’s “Bills, Bills, Bills.”

Lower than two months later, she was the primary faculty athlete to signal with WME Sports activities, the athlete-focused division of the behemoth expertise and media company. In September, she introduced her first deal, reportedly value six figures, with Vuori, an activewear model. Olivia has since added offers with L’Oréal, Spotify, Perpetually 21, Motorola, American Eagle, Grubhub, ESPN School GameDay, and YouTube. (Earlier this 12 months, Olivia obtained backlash after endorsing Caktus synthetic intelligence, however she defends the continuing deal: “I felt it was a good partnership because AI is the future.”) On3 now tasks she makes an estimated $3.4 million per 12 months. “To be able to be in college and make seven figures is awesome,” Olivia says in LSU’s palatial follow gymnasium. “And the fact that people before me couldn’t do it…that sucks.”

Olivia takes lessons and trains throughout the day, and creates content material for social media at night time. She has the assistance of her older sister, Julz, who began at LSU one 12 months forward of her and is, Olivia says, “sometimes the brains behind the operation.” They give you concepts for movies collectively and movie them, after which Julz usually edits them whereas Olivia is at follow. Julz graduated from LSU this spring, however she isn’t at the moment on the lookout for a job in her main, kinesiology; as a substitute, she’s working in Livvy Land as a paid worker whereas constructing her personal social media enterprise to assist different pupil athletes to maximise their NIL.

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Gown, Sportmax, $925. Earrings, Van Cleef& Arpels.

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The sisters lived in residences down the corridor from one another till just lately, and so they hang around on a regular basis. Olivia says the condominium she shares with three roommates is “disgusting,” which strikes me as one of the crucial regular college-kid issues about her. She’s majoring in interdisciplinary research, a mix of three minors: communications, sociology, and management. She’s on the educational honor roll. To her family and friends, she’s Liv or Olivia, not often Livvy. She doesn’t at the moment have a boyfriend, however says that if and when she does, she’ll maintain that a part of her life personal. Olivia says she’s cautious when she walks round campus, acutely aware that she has eyes on her. Typically different college students method her for photographs, however largely they’ve gotten used to her round right here. Nonetheless, she doesn’t attend lessons in individual “for safety reasons,” she says. “There were some scares in the past, and I just want to be as careful as possible. I don’t want people to know my daily schedule and where I am.”

She has trigger for concern. At LSU’s opening meet of the 2023 season, an away meet on the College of Utah, a mob of unruly younger male Livvy followers chanted wildly throughout the competitors, disrupting the efficiency of different gymnasts. There have been additionally reviews of gymnasts being harassed because the estimated 100 to 200 males demanded to see Livvy; one was instructed she wasn’t Olivia however “she will do.”

Olivia didn’t even compete on the meet—she was injured and simply there to cheer on her teammates—nor did she see the chaos outdoors. “It was our first meet of the season. I knew that my success had grown from the years prior, but I did not expect there to be that many people out there to see me and my team,” Olivia says. “I didn’t really realize until after the meet when I saw the videos of it. I was like, ‘Holy moly.’” On Twitter, she requested her followers to be “respectful,” reminding them that she and the opposite gymnasts are “just doing our job.”

Within the aftermath on-line, some commenters levied the identical drained, sexist line at Olivia that we’ve all heard earlier than: She was asking for it, they stated, pointing to what she wears and posts and ignoring that she clothes and behaves like her friends, a leotard is her required uniform, and she or he is by no means accountable for the unhinged habits of her followers. “It’s not a girl’s responsibility how a man looks at her or how he acts, especially when you’re doing your sport and that’s your uniform. I can’t help the way I look, and I’m going to post what I feel comfortable with,” Olivia says. “It’s hard to handle at times, definitely, because I am just a 20-year-old student. I think people do forget that.”

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The college’s athletic division employed personal safety to accompany the workforce to meets for the remainder of the season, and there have been no additional incidents. LSU Gymnastics head coach Jay Clark, who’s “not a fan of social media” and but finds himself teaching the NCAA’s greatest social media star, says what occurred in Utah is one thing he’s feared. “I’ve always been afraid of the idea that social media takes what otherwise would be a fairly localized fan base, and now it’s everywhere. As awareness of our sport got greater, as awareness of Olivia got greater, as NIL deals got bigger, it seemed kind of like the perfect storm was brewing,” he says. “I just want to coach. I don’t want to have my head on a swivel worried about if somebody is coming out of the stands.”

Nonetheless, he doesn’t yearn for the pre–social media days, as a result of he is aware of how significantly better issues are for his workforce now general. “I’m excited about the exposure they’re getting, that they’re getting their just due for the work, athleticism, and things they accomplish—that part is tremendous,” Clark says. “I don’t look back and long for the good old days, so to speak, because the good old days weren’t so good. No one was in the stands, no one cared what we did, and nobody was making any money.”

Incomes cash in faculty is particularly essential for girls athletes who don’t stand to make anyplace near what males make after faculty. Final 12 months, some had speculated that UConn basketball star Paige Bueckers would enter the WNBA draft, forgoing her senior 12 months. However staying in faculty will doubtless be extra profitable: Bueckers stands to realize about $1 million from her NIL this coming 12 months, 4 instances as a lot as what she would possibly make within the WNBA if she have been supplied 2023’s highest wage: roughly $235,000. For gymnasts, who haven’t any professional prospects and usually age out of the punishing sport by their early twenties, faculty may very nicely be their prime incomes years.

After all, not everyone seems to be incomes like Olivia. Of the roughly 520,000 present pupil athletes, the New York Instances estimates 519,000 are “making nothing at all.” Male basketball and soccer stars comprise many of the high NIL moneymakers, and it’s not at all times one of the best athletes who get probably the most consideration. Olivia has been tormented by accidents to her shoulder and shin. This season, she usually cheered her workforce on from the sidelines with the help of a knee scooter. As such, she readily admits there are girls on her workforce who “are better than me,” and but due to her following, she’s by far the highest earner.

livvy dunne lsu gymnast

Bodysuit, Courrèges, $740. Denims, Et Ochs, $695. Earring, $2,970, ring, $1,570, Cartier.

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She isn’t responsible for the inequity, however she desires to be a part of the answer. To that finish, she just lately launched the Livvy Fund to create alternatives for different girls pupil athletes at LSU to attach with manufacturers and safe endorsement offers. “It’s really important to raise as much money and awareness for these incredible women athletes who won’t have the same opportunities after college,” she explains.

The concept is that manufacturers would put a portion of the cash they offer Olivia in an endorsement deal towards the fund, after which Olivia and her workforce would use that cash to offer monetary alternatives and enterprise steering to girls athletes, which might, in flip, hopefully result in future contracts and offers for the Livvy Fund-ed athletes. “There are collectives in NIL, which mostly go to the men’s sports, and I think that’s extremely unfair,” says Olivia, who had simply signed her first contract that designated cash to her fund once we met. “So I wanted to let other women student athletes know that anyone can do this—you can do this. This is just the beginning, truly.”

Her mother says the inspiration for the fund got here, maybe surprisingly, from Olivia being handled cruelly on-line. “It made her start to think about what her bigger message was,” Kat says. “It was like, ‘All right, you’re in the spotlight, good or bad, you get all of this attention, what is something that you want to do with it?’ And that started the conversation of how she wanted to give back to other women in sports.”

As Olivia thinks forward to her senior 12 months, she appears to be like previous subsequent 12 months’s nationwide championships (hopefully a win) to no matter comes after she leaves gymnastics behind for good. “I know it’s coming to an end, so I’m trying to take in every single last memory I can, but I’m also excited to see what the future holds,” she says.

There may very well be a product line; an appearing function; a ebook—the choices are limitless when you may have a following like hers. She is contemplating shifting to Malibu, New York Metropolis, or Florida after commencement. “Probably I’ll end up near a beach, I’m guessing,” Olivia says. “Then I can just honestly go back to what I started doing. I could flip around on the beach. I could. That’s how it all happened. All of this…” trailing off with a contact of surprise as she displays, “All these followers and this life.…”

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Hair by Ben Skervin for Colorwow; make-up by Jessi Butterfield for Chanel Magnificence.

This text seems within the August 2023 problem of ELLE.


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Deputy Editor

Kayla Webley Adler is the Deputy Editor of ELLE journal. She writes and edits cowl tales, profiles, and narrative options on politics, tradition, crime, and social tendencies. Beforehand, she labored because the Options Director at Marie Claire journal and as a Employees Author at TIME journal.

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