Introducing 2023 SI Swimsuit Model Olivia Dunne (2024)

At first glance, Olivia Dunne is the quintessential girl next door—imminently approachable with her bright hazel eyes, shiny blond locks, petite 5' 6" frame and beaming smile. It’s part of what has attracted an impressive 11 million followers across her TikTok and Instagramhandles, but don’t be fooled. The LSU gymnast, who is the toppaid female collegiate athlete in the country, is much more than her social media and she’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind.

In fact, after hordes of her male fans packed the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City at LSU’s season opener this January, causing a security threat and swarming Dunne as she was attempting to leave, she tactfully issued a statement on Twitter thanking them for their support while demanding respect.

“Girls aren’t responsible for the bad behavior of boys,” she says. “A lot of gymnasts are taught to keep quiet, and that led to a lot of abuse in the sport. I want to be part of the new generation that tells girls to use their voice. You can be comfortable in your own skin and be strong, sexy and smart.”

Introducing 2023 SI Swimsuit Model Olivia Dunne (1)

In all the content she creates, both in and out of the gym, to share snippets of her everyday life, the 20-year-old posts with intent and purpose—and has her loyal admirers going wild for all things “Livvy.”

We’re so excited to announce that Dunne will make her SI Swimsuit Issue debut with the release of the annual edition next month.

“Usually being a D1 athlete, an all-academic and an industrious entrepreneur is enough to garner respect and accolades,” explains SI Swimsuit editor in chief MJ Day. “But when you are Livvy Dunne and you also mix in being arrestingly beautiful, you unfortunately garner the ire and resentment of a certain niche population. The refusal of some to appreciate Livvy for being more than just a pretty blonde is missing the point. The backlash she received for‘leveraging’her sexuality for endorsem*nt dollars after the NIL restrictions were lifted is incorrect. We are here to celebrate this incredible young woman and encourage the world to respect and applaud Livvy and her fellow athletes for owning the blood, sweat and tears that have fueled a lifetime of achievements.”

Day continues, “Livvy is harnessing this newfound power and turning it into a long-term, sustainable brand, growing the sport of collegiate gymnastics and setting an example for athletes of the future of what they are also capable of accomplishing outside of the competitive arena. In a world where women are constantly being forced to pick a lane, Livvy is in all of them, winning. We couldn’t be more excited to feature her on the pages of our 2023 issue.”

In January, Dunne traveled to Puerto Rico for her first editorial photo shoot with photographer Ben Watts. We later chatted with her about her journey in the spotlight thus far, her experience on set (which she calls “a dream come true”) and how she hopes to level the playing field for female athletes to come.

Homeschooled from seventh to 12th grade, Dunne first used social media to communicate with other kids her age. She eventually saw that the medium could provide a pathway to a lucrative career. During the pandemic, users became intrigued with her life as a collegiate athlete, which is how her videos catapulted to viral status to the tune of millions of views and hundreds of thousands of comments.

With this much attention, many are quick to assume they know Dunne on a personal level, making her susceptible to cyberbullies.

Introducing 2023 SI Swimsuit Model Olivia Dunne (2)

“People always comment stuff that they would never say to your face, so part of it is just having developed tough skin. Social media is hard,” she shares. “That’s something that Paige Spiranac helped me with, just keeping certain parts of your life private. Making sure not to post things that, you know, maybe you don’t want people’s feedback on.”

The haters IRL are not far behind, ready to tear down someone at the top of her game, and the critics have painted the Hillsdale, N.J., native unworthy of her fame. Some have even diminished her accomplishments with the myopic narrative that the athlete is merely playing up her sex appeal. After an outlet tried to shame her into “toning it down,” Dunne retaliated with yet another selfie in a leotard.

“I think it’s important to stand up for yourself,” she says. “Maybe it’s the Jersey girl in me, but I think girls needed to know it wasn’t O.K., especially posting things that any other college kid would post in—a leotard—which is the required uniform for being a gymnast. It’s ridiculous.”

Dunne is not discouraged by her detractors. Quite the contrary, she loves defying people’s expectations of her. The truth is, she worked hard to put herself in a position to earn the seven-figure income she brings in from deals with companies like Vuori, American Eagle and Plantfuel, which resulted from the new NCAA name, image and likeness (NIL) policy that went into effect on July 1, 2021.

“There’s always people who want to downplay your success and say it’s just because of how you look or it’s just luck,” she says. “I don’t give that negativity too much attention because it doesn’t deserve it. If I want girls to hear my message, I need to focus on what I want to say and not waste my time getting defensive about people who don’t take the time to understand what I do.”

Introducing 2023 SI Swimsuit Model Olivia Dunne (3)

The gymnast, who credits Olympic gold medalistsAly Raisman and Nastia Liukin as mentors, has been working toward this moment since she was just 3 years old. After years of training, she competed at the 2015 American Classic, where she finished eighth in the all-around. She was added to the U.S. national team roster two years later, alongside Simone Biles, and made her senior elite debut in ‘18 in Jesolo, Italy. Dunne signed her national letter of intent with LSU in November ‘19 and joined the Tigers for the ’20–21 season. A big part of her mission is to shine a spotlight on college sports.

“As a female athlete, I hope I can bring attention to how amazing college sports are and how hard college athletics are. People don’t see [behind the scenes] every day of my college athletics, and it's very time consuming,” Dunne admits. “In gymnastics, a lot of people only watch the Olympics every four years, and I feel like I’ve been able to use my platform to bring an audience to college gymnastics, and people are starting to see how amazing all these gymnasts are.”

With her own multifaceted approach to success, Dunne hopes to inspire the younger generation to reach for the stars, no matter what their aspirations may be.

“I want to show young girls that you can have it all, and you don’t need to choose between whatever it is you’re passionate about,” she acknowledges. “You can be passionate about music, art. You don’t need to pick and choose. You can do it all and be successful. I think you need to set your own expectations for success and dream big.”

“Getting the opportunity to be in SI Swimsuit was such a dream of mine”

Vision boards are a big key to Dunne’s own ambitions becoming reality. Just last summer, being in a future Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue became a goal of hers.

“The way that the [SI Swimsuit] brand has evolved and has become such a positive spotlight for women to tell their stories and to spread awesome messages of being strong, sexy and beautiful, I knew that was something I wanted to be part of,” she says.

When it comes to brand partnerships, the Division I athlete, who attends LSU on a full athletic scholarship, gravitates toward companies that share her values. It’s why she chose to make her editorial debut with SI Swimsuit.

“I just feel like our visions and core values really align, so it just felt like a perfect fit,” Dunne says. “The magazine is all about celebrating women and making them feel strong and confident, which I love.”

While the athlete and influencer regularly shares snapshots of herself in bikinis on social media, her photo shoot with the franchise was her first time modeling swimwear. Dunne says she’s never had a brand make her feel so comfortable in her own skin.

“That’s something that’s really important, that a brand makes you feel comfortable, confident, and that you feel like you’re the best version of yourself,” she says. “And that’s definitely what SI [Swimsuit] made me feel like. I felt like a better person leaving that shoot.”

Introducing 2023 SI Swimsuit Model Olivia Dunne (4)

Months after her time on locationwith the franchise in the Caribbean archipelago, the reality of the immense opportunity still hasn’t quite sunk in yet for Dunne.

“Just getting the opportunity to be in SI Swimsuit was such a dream of mine and when it happened, I actually could not believe it,” she adds.

Dunne is doing everything she can so female college athletes feel empowered and have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. She is actively working to create a solution for closing the gap in college athletics.

A January 2023 report by Opendorse found that only 34% of female college athletes receive deals from NIL collectives (money pooled together by fans and boosters), while a whopping 66% is funneled to male athletes.

“It’s not anywhere near equitable right now,” Dunne says. “Most NIL money being raised goes into collectives for men’s sports like football or basketball, and I just don’t agree with that.”

She plans to tackle this in two parts. First, she wants to show girls how they can use their social media platforms to grow a brand like she has spent years doing.

“It was all brand new to me when the [NIL] rules first changed, but hopefully girls can see what I’ve been doing, and I can inspire them to grow their own personal brands,” she says.

Dunne has also been working with her agents and additional companies to set up her own NIL fund this year that would help raise money specifically for women’s sports.

“I’m just getting started with it, but I want to leave my mark and bring attention to the issue that needs to be talked about,” she says. “[The future collective] can fund NIL deals for female athletes and get people talking about the underlying problem, which is that money needs to go out to support women’s sports in a way that respects the work that was started with Title IX.”

With this relatively newfound popularity, Dunne is using her status to improve hers and other women’s future in sports.

“I can use my voice to keep fighting for women to get fair treatment when it comes to NIL deals, because they deserve it,” she says. As for herself, she hopes to double her business growth in brand deals and eventually achieve her long-term goals of developing her own product line while acting as a mentor to other female athletes.

Because life is a constant balancing act that is not just on the beam, Dunne looks to her family and friends when she feels overwhelmed.

“Mental health is so important, especially in college athletics,” she says. “Everything in college can get really stressful, so it’s good to have a routine or people that you can talk to, whether that’s a counselor, my sister or my best friends. It’s important to have people around you that care.”

And never underestimate a good beach trip, which is where you will find her during the offseason.

Introducing 2023 SI Swimsuit Model Olivia Dunne (2024)

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