'Only taking steps forward': Olivia Dunne hits back at coach who called her racy photos a 'step back'
Olivia Dunne, 20, responded to a New York Times piece that criticized physical beauty being prioritized over athletic excellence in female sports
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA: Olivia Dunne recently responded to a New York Times piece that claimed she owed her success to her explicit social media posts. The star athlete also hit back at a Stanford coach who claimed that the fact that "sexiness sells" is bad for female athletes. The gymnast from Louisiana State University, who has an estimated net worth of $2.3 million, was characterized in the article as "a petite blonde with a bright smile and a gymnast's toned physique." The article also claimed that focusing on physical attractiveness is "regressive for female athletes."
Tara VanDerveer, the Stanford women's basketball coach who was featured in the article, suggested that the emphasis on attractiveness was a "step back." However, Dunne, 20, hit back with a TikTok video captioned, "Only taking steps forward." In the video, she used a Nicki Minaj voiceover while sporting her LSU leotard: "If you don't like me, that's fine, but, you know, watch your mouth."
As per Daily Mail, in a video uploaded on November 16, Dunne quipped that she preferred a lump of coal over being "on [the] NY Times" or having a "Sugardaddy." Later, she added "Is this too much?" as caption to a swimwear photo on her Instagram account.
The gymnastics star, who was born in New Jersey, has been competing since she was three years old and is currently one of the highest-paid athletes in collegiate sports. She is also considered "the most influential female college athlete."
After competing for several years and eventually making the US Nationals Team in 2017, Dunne switched to college gymnastics in 2020, entering Louisiana State University. Her social media following soon burgeoned thanks to the intimate peeks she offered into her life as an NCAA gymnast and all the glitzy benefits that come with it.
The focus on a female athlete's physical beauty is a step backward, according to Tara VanDerveer, the head coach of Stanford's women's college basketball team, who claimed that technological advancement has enabled archaic sexist conduct to continue. "I guess sometimes we have this swinging pendulum, where we maybe take two steps forward, and then we take a step back," VanDerveer told The Times. "We’re fighting for all the opportunities to compete, to play, to have resources, to have facilities, to have coaches, and all the things that go with Olympic-caliber athletics."
With more than 2.3 million followers on Instagram and 6.3 million on TikTok, Dunne quickly became the most-followed collegiate athlete online. However, NCAA's strict rules about its members selling sponsorships prohibited her from profiting from her online activities. This ended when the organization announced on June 30, 2021 that it would permit its athletes to make money off of their name, image, and likeness.
Dunne joined WME Sports, a division of Endeavor Talent Agency, a month later. In September, she revealed she had inked a deal with the activewear company Vuori, which Forbes estimated to be worth "mid-six figures." Although she was instantly inundated with similar offers from other businesses, she claimed that she would be careful and would only choose those that were "authentic to her."
"We have some of the same core values, and I think it's so great how they care about the environment," she gushed of Vuori. "They are also committed to happiness, and that's really important to me."
Although gymnastics is her top priority, she maintains fashion has always been a "big passion of hers." Dunne has since obtained sponsorships from apps like Nate as well as clothing retailers like American Eagle and Forever 21. She frequently posts pictures of herself on Instagram living the high life, going to the beach, hanging out at the pool, and having fun with her friends. She also posts pictures of herself driving fancy automobiles and going on expensive vacations.