In November 2022, the LSU gymnast and Olivia Dunne responded to The New York Times after they published a column headlined «New endorsements for college athletes resurface an old concern: Sex sells.» The cover photo was Dunne in her LSU leotard of hers.
But what we didn’t know until now was Dunne’s courage to speak out against the column, where she posted the same photo to her Instagram Stories and wrote «Is this too much?» while she tagged the post, she landed her spot in Sports Illustrated’s coveted swimsuit issue for this year.
Dunne’s social media presence, which includes a whopping 7.6 million on TikTok and 4.2 million on Instagram, is growing by the day. She has led her to numerous earning opportunities thanks to NIL deals, making her one of the highest earning collegiate athletes in the country.
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Those deals were the premise behind The Times contacting Dunne for an interview, to which she agreed. Little did she know that the post had another angle they wanted to write about.
«[The New York Times] wrote a successful piece about me,» Dunne said on the «Full Send Podcast» recently. “It was complete nonsense. I mean, they called me on the phone in November and said they were going to write about my accomplishments and stuff and I was like, ‘Okay, sure. That’s great. The New York Times. That’s huge.'»
Dunne seemed excited about the interview, but was a bit taken aback by the questions the interviewer had when they connected on the phone.
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«The interviewer called me and was asking me some very strange questions. It was worded quite strangely,» he explained. «He told me, ‘So how does it feel to be a petite blonde gymnast doing so well with NIL?’ I was like, ‘Why does it matter that she’s short and blonde?’ You can ask me about NIL without having to use these weird ways of saying it.»
The cover photo was also taken by The Times, featuring Dunne meeting her photographer at the LSU gymnastics facility, where she was wearing her «team-issued leotard.»
«That’s what we have to wear,» Dunne said in reference to the leotards in competition. “When the article came out, it was a giant picture of me standing there in a leotard and the headline was ‘Sex Sells.’ So I said, ‘So, you’re going to come to the gym. You’re going to ask me to pose in the outfit provided by the team and then put up a headline, ‘Sex Sells.’
«In the article, they said that the things she was doing were a step backwards for women’s athletics.»
Dunne was quick to respond, and Sports Illustrated followed suit.
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«I guess it got the attention of Sports Illustrated and then they said, ‘We were delighted that you returned the applause for The New York Times because they’re so important,'» Dunne said.
With one final season to go before she competes in varsity gymnastics, Dunne continues to be the face and person many companies and brands want to associate their products with. He added that he will continue to work with what he believes fit his message and what he believes his supporters can get behind.
What he won’t do, however, is apologize for the way he looks when he does it.
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«You can’t control how you look and I feel like a girl is not responsible for a boy’s bad behavior, especially if you’re in a leotard,» she said. “Because I knew that if the roles were reversed and, say, they walked into a soccer facility and took a photo of one of the kids without a shirt on, they would never put up a giant headline, ‘Sex Sells.’ They just wouldn’t. It’s because I’m standing there in a leotard.»