Olivia Dunne is at the forefront of the NCAA’s Name, Image and Likeness frontier. The LSU gymnast makes an estimated $3.5 million in endorsement deals and is the highest-paid woman athlete in college sports.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated that was published Thursday, Dunne shared how she has navigated the world of immense social media popularity, which also comes with being publicly criticized. Dunne has nearly 4 million followers on Instagram and 7.4 million on TikTok.
Dunne, who was named as a model for this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, said she has learned a lot from golf influencer Paige Spiranac, who has built her own platform on social media to engage millions of followers with golf tutorials and event coverage along with fashion and editorial photo shoots.
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“Paige is just so great at showing that you can be beautiful and athletic and successful at the same time, so it just really is awesome to have someone like her stand up for me and be on my side,” Dunne said.
Besides showing public support for Dunne when she’s received criticism, Spiranac has given her practical advice on how to balance reality with social media.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that you need to make sure to keep certain parts of your life private,” Dunne said. “Some things you don’t want the whole world knowing, so (you have to) keep certain parts of your life private.”
“… That’s something that (she) kind of helped me with … Making sure not to post certain things that maybe you don’t want people’s feedback on.”
Fellow LSU Tiger Angel Reese makes an estimated $1.4 million off NIL deals and her popularity rose as the women’s basketball team won the national championship. The Cavinder twins, who played basketball with the Miami Hurricanes last season, have also made an impact through NIL and announced their retirement from the game earlier this month to focus on their business opportunities.
Dunne also shared how fellow gymnast Aly Raisman inspired her in how she uses her platform. The six-time Olympic medalist was one of the athletes that testified against Larry Nassar, who is serving what could amount to a life sentence for sexual assault.
Raisman appeared in the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue with the words “Survivor,” “Fierce” and “Women Do Not Need To Be Modest To Be Respected.”
“She’s always been a role model of mine in the gymnastics world,” Dunne said.
Dunne is working on projects to further fund and support women’s sports and she hopes to mentor young athletes to give back in a way that these women have encouraged her.
“I hope I can bring attention to how amazing college sports are and how hard college athletics are,” she said.