Gymnast Olivia Dunne's Transformation Is Truly Stunning

The following article includes brief references to sexual abuse.

When Olivia "Livvy" Dunne tumbled onto TikTok, she didn't have to be an Olympic-caliber gymnast to become one of the most popular athletes on the app — as of this writing, the Louisiana State University student has 3 million more followers than seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady. Being photogenic certainly didn't hurt her chances of gaining a large following on social media, but Dunne insists that her appeal isn't just skin deep. "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 told Sports Illustrated in April 2023. "I don't give that negativity too much attention because it doesn't deserve it."

The focus on her appearance has inspired Dunne to use her platform to school people on boundaries and sexism. She's gained a large number of male fans, some of whom were so loud and unruly at a January 2023 gymnastics competition that LSU had to hire extra security for Dunne and her teammates, per ESPN. "Girls aren't responsible for the bad behavior of boys," Dunne pointed out to Sports Illustrated. "A lot of gymnasts are taught to keep quiet, and that led to a lot of abuse in the sport."

Unfortunately, attracting fans who are uncontrollable and sometimes downright creepy is a downside of being massively successful on social media. So, it's probably a good thing that an accumulation of wealth has been part of Olivia Dunne's incredible transformation — if need be, she can hire her own security.

She initially became a gymnast for the fashion

Olivia Dunne is a Hillsdale, New Jersey native whose parents have athletic pasts of their own. Her dad was a member of the football team at Rutgers University, while her mom was a cheerleader who also did gymnastics, per However, it wasn't her mother who inspired Dunne to learn how to do a back handspring and a handstand on a balance beam. At age 3, Dunne saw her cousin wearing a pink, glittery leotard and fell in love with the look. "I was like, 'Mom, I want that,' and she said, 'Well, you can't have a leotard unless you do gymnastics,'" Dunne recalled to Elle in July 2023. "So I was like, 'Sign me up.'"

Her parents obliged, and Dunne began training at a local gym. "I remember being quite strong for a 3-year-old," said the athlete. Her interest in gymnastics soon became about so much more than a passion for the fashion, and at age 6, she upgraded to a new gym: the Eastern National Academy of Gymnastics in Paramus. The coaches at ENA Gymnastics train gymnasts from Level 3 all the way up to the Elite category, the highest level of competition, so it was the perfect fit for a serious young gymnast looking to develop her skills and start competing in meets. 

It didn't take Dunne long to impress one of her new coaches, Craig Zappa. "She is very smart about what she does and she learns very fast," he told

Olivia Dunne's skill level increased rapidly

At ENA Gymnastics, Olivia Dunne started at Level 4. While competing at this level as a 7-year-old, she dominated at competitions. After becoming a state record holder in multiple events, Dunne's coach determined that she was ready to jump up to Level 6, and it took her just a year to advance from Level 4 all the way up to Level 8. At this point, her best event was beginning to become evident; she earned another New Jersey scoring record on the uneven bars. While speaking to in 2017 about Dunne's rapid rise through the ranks, coach Craig Zappa said, "Most skills that take a lot of kids a couple of months sometimes she can just pick it up in two days or one practice and just move it through."

Dunne reached Level 10 at age 10, an achievement that allowed her to compete at the 2013 Junior Olympic National Invitational Tournament (NIT). Of the 2013 meet that she set her sights on next, she wrote on her website, "My coach and I decided to try and qualify for the U.S. Challenge. I was so excited when I accomplished my goal and came in second place, for the hopes division." The following year, she earned Junior International Elite status. She was just 11 years old at the time, making her the youngest Elite competitor in the U.S.

She started taking social media seriously as a tween

Olivia Dunne created her Instagram account at age 9 and began building a following by sharing gymnastics content. "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," she told Elle. In one of her earliest posts, she's pictured posing with someone she looked up to, fellow gymnast Aly Raisman. The photo was taken just a few weeks after Raisman returned from the London Olympics with two gold medals. Olivia couldn't have known then that she'd someday have more than twice as many Instagram followers as the Olympian.

Olivia's mother, Katherine Dunne, explained to USA Today that she was fine with her daughter being on Instagram at such a young age because her busy gymnastics schedule made it difficult for her to spend a lot of time with her peers. "She used it to stay in touch with friends she had from gymnastics who were around the country," Katherine added. But for Olivia, social media was something more than a means of communicating with people she knew. "Doing social media is always something that I've loved, and I've always taken it pretty seriously," she told the New York Post in a 2021 interview. It also made her more determined to nail her gymnastic moves. "She would want to get the perfect version on camera," coach Jen Zappa explained to Elle.

Olivia Dunne was impersonated on Instagram

By 2014, Olivia Dunne was already popular enough on Instagram that an impersonator had started stealing her content. "I was really mad someone else was trying to take credit for my hard work," the then-11-year-old The Gymternet. Her teammates helped cheer her up by creating a video that likely would have been a hit if she'd shared it on her Instagram account. "Everyone wore masks with my face and pretended to be me. It was really funny and made me laugh about the whole thing," said Dunne.

That same year, Dunne competed for the first time as a Junior Elite at the American Classic, where she finished in 28th place. But she had her sights set on the Olympics and was training hard to get there. She headed to Karolyi Ranch, the National Team Training Center in Texas, for a five-day developmental training camp. According to ENA Gymnastics, her gym sessions with coach Valeri Liukin, the father of Team USA Olympian Nastia Liukin, lasted seven hours each day.

The following year, Dunne's performance in the all-around competition at the American Classic earned her an eighth-place finish. Her score was high enough to qualify her for the P&G National Championships, where she finished in 25th place in the all-around. In the same event, she came in 24th at the U.S. Classic. Dunne created some primo clout-boosting content for the 'gram at that meet: a photo of her and Aly Raisman autographing posters together.

She made the USA Gymnastics Junior National Team

Olivia Dunne told the Daily Voice that she started homeschooling in 2016 so she could prioritize her gymnastics training. By then, it was evident that the sport was going to get her into the college of her choice. She cracked the top 10 at two events at the 2016 National Championships, finishing eighth place on beam and fourth place on floor. Months later, Dunne returned to the Karolyi Ranch to sharpen her skills. One of her fellow trainees was future Olympian Jordan Chiles. "The development camps really make her accountable for her gymnastics," coach Craig Zappa told "You go there and watch everyone else kick butt, and she realizes that she has to keep up." Dunne attended a selection camp the following March, and her performance there landed her a spot on the USA National Team.

Dunne represented her country at the 2017 City of Jesolo Trophy in Italy, and she left with a gold medal for the team event. She also placed sixth in the Junior All-Around. In 2019, Dunne told Famous Birthdays that this was her proudest moment.

In 2017, Dunne shared an update on her Instagram following with, revealing that it was up to 8,602. "It's really cool how some people look up to me and think that I am really good," she said. "Some say I inspire them and made them stay with gymnastics from watching my videos. It makes me happy, because gymnastics is fun."

An injury cut Olivia Dunne's Olympic dreams short

The year 2018 was a tough one for Olivia Dunne. She lost the camps that had been an integral part of her training when Karolyi Ranch shuttered its doors following the sex abuse conviction of Dr. Larry Nassar, the physician for the U.S. women's national gymnastics team. The coaches who ran the ranch, Béla and Márta Károlyi, had also been accused of fostering an abusive environment. "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," Dunne told Elle.

Dunne became a Senior Elite gymnast in 2018, but an ankle injury kept her from competing in every event except the uneven bars at the U.S. Classic. Meanwhile, Dunne was granted an injury petition to compete at Nationals, where she placed 18th in the all-around. That August, Dunne told FloGymnastics that she hurt her ankle while practicing on the beam. She would later become resigned to the likelihood that the injury was responsible for killing her Olympic dreams. 

"My bone had died in my ankle, and it fractured," she said on the "BFFs" podcast in 2021. "... I was like, 'Maybe this is not for me anymore, and maybe I should just go to college and be healthy and happy.'"

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Why the athlete decided to go to school at LSU

Olivia Dunne was still a tween when she caught the attention of recruiters from Louisiana State University. Being a young Jersey girl, she confessed that she'd never heard of the school before then. However, one thing her coaches told her about the college immediately appealed to her. "They're like, 'The colors are purple,'" she said on the "BFFs" podcast. "And I was like, 'Oh my gosh! I'm so interested now.'" Based on her experience, Olivia thinks it's a positive thing that age-restrictive recruitment rules for colleges have since been put into place. "You shouldn't know where you want to go to school when you're 11 years old," she said.

Olivia accepted a full scholarship to LSU in 2017 and didn't regret the decision, even though it was initially based on what color her leotard would be. "I visited my freshman year, and they had the best facilities and the best coaching staff, and the school spirit is the best I have ever seen," she told 225 Magazine in 2022. 

While chatting with twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder on their "Twin Talk" podcast that December, Olivia said that her older sister, Julz Dunne, was already a student at LSU when she started attending school there, which was another big plus. "She lives right down the hall from me, actually. Thank God, because I don't know what I'd do without her. She is my rock," Olivia stated. She also revealed that her thoughtful sibling cooks for her.

Olivia Dunne's beach videos blew up on social media

Olivia Dunne joined TikTok in 2019 but didn't plan on participating in some of the most popular trends on the app at the time. "It was mostly people posting dance videos and I can't dance really, like they do," she told WGNO ABC in 2020. What she could do was tumble, so she started sharing videos that showcased her skills in the gym. Among her early TikToks are a blooper reel of some pretty painful-looking gymnastics fails, including a fall that resulted in Dunne hitting her back on the uneven bars.

According to Dunne, she didn't start gaining a huge social media following until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. It was during that time that she switched up the setting of her videos. "I was quarantined in Florida, and I just started making content at the beach, doing flips and filming it," she recalled to the New York Post. She believes that the sunny locale and her sunny demeanor possibly resonated with social media users during a period of fear and uncertainty. "I don't know if it was just a little glimmer of positivity, but people loved the vibes in my videos," she told Elle. 

Creating the videos was also something to keep her preoccupied while she was unable to train at the gym or compete in meets. "She just started doing social media like it was her job," Dunne's mother said.

She celebrated the NIL rule change in Times Square

Olivia Dunne became a big celebrity on campus at LSU, although she did say on "Twin Talk" that some of the school's sorority members weren't her biggest fans. "Most people didn't even know I actually did gymnastics. People just thought I was just a full-time beach flipper," she revealed. But instead of worrying about her social media popularity overshadowing her collegiate gymnastics career, Dunne monetized her beach-flipping fame. 

In 2021, the NCAA changed its NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) policy, which allowed Dunne to get paid for endorsement deals with companies. LSU showed its support for the move by paying to have a Times Square billboard showcase Dunne and some its other student-athletes. "That was surreal," Dunne told Elle of seeing her likeness on the billboard. "I didn't really know what was to come, but I knew it was going to be special." Because she hails from New Jersey, she was able to make the trek to Times Square — and create an Instagram post proving that she has the social media reach companies are looking for in a paid partnership.

The first deal Dunne struck was with the athletic apparel company Vuori. "I was trying to find a brand to work with that is authentic to me," she told Forbes that September. The then-18-year-old reportedly made six figures from that deal alone, and she soon took advantage of earning opportunities offered by other brands, including American Eagle, Madden/EA Sports, and TooFaced cosmetics.

Olivia Dunne's music video appearance and ESPYs attendance

Olivia Dunne's notoriety didn't just make her a hot commodity with brands. She also landed a part as a cheerleader in the 2022 music video for the Walker Hayes song "Y'all Life," which afforded her the opportunity to visit Music City. "I am in love with Nashville now," she said on "Twin Talk," adding, "I'm so glad that work brought me to there, because now I'm gonna just live my life there."

Dunne also got to walk a red carpet for the first time in 2022, and it was fittingly for a sports-related event. She later recounted the surreal experience of being asked, "How does it feel to be the most famous person here?" at the ESPYs. "I was like, 'I am not. I was in the presence of people like The Rock. Steph Curry. Huge names. It's just so funny to me that social media has that kind of power," she recalled, per

Maybe she hasn't quite achieved the same level of fame as an NBA icon or wrestler-turned-movie star, but Dunne did top the On3 NIL Valuations list of the most influential female college athletes that same year. The college sports platform placed Dunne's earnings at $2.3 million at the time. When she showed off her ESPYs dress on TikTok, Dunne was also showered with compliments from her fans, but some of the comments were of the creepier variety; among dating claims, there were requests for her used bathwater and even Q-tips.

The gymnast slammed The New York Times

In 2022, The New York Times published an article about the NCAA's NIL rule change under the title "New Endorsements for College Athletes Resurface an Old Concern: Sex Sells." The lead image was of Olivia Dunne wearing one of her LSU leotards. She was interviewed for the piece and explained why the opportunity to make money from NIL deals in college was such a blessing for female athletes in particular. "There are no professional leagues for most women's sports after college," she pointed out. 

However, in her counterargument, Stanford basketball coach Tara VanDerveer opined that it was "a step back" for female athletes because physical appearance can be a factor in social media popularity, which translates to interest from brands. Dunne seemed to shade VanDerveer in a TikTok video with the caption, "Only taking steps forward." In it, she wore another team leotard and lip-synced the words, "If you don't like me, that's fine. But, you know, watch your mouth." 

On the "Full Send Podcast" in June 2023, Dunne accused her New York Times interviewer of being overly fixated on her appearance. She also called the newspaper out for its headline and photo combo; they could be taken to suggest that Dunne is trying to profit off of her looks simply by wearing the attire that she competes in. "Let's say they went into the football facility [and] took a picture of one of the players working out without a shirt on. They would never put a giant headline, 'Sex Sells,'" she argued.

Olivia Dunne became a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model

When Sports Illustrated offered Olivia Dunne the opportunity to pose in the Swimsuit Issue, it wasn't her social media fame that put her on the magazine's radar. According to Dunne, she was told that the publication liked her New York Times clapback. "I got off the phone with them and I was jumping up and down, and I think I cried," she recalled of the invite on the "Full Send Podcast." "I was so excited."

The magazine's editor-in-chief, MJ Day, defended Dunne in a Sports Illustrated article that included a sneak peek at her photo spread. "The refusal of some to appreciate Livvy for being more than just a pretty blonde is missing the point," Day said. She praised Dunne's hard work and dedication to her sport, as well as her major entrepreneurial moves. "In a world where women are constantly being forced to pick a lane, Livvy is in all of them, winning," Day added.

Sports Illustrated made sure that its sole focus wasn't on the way Dunne looked in her cut-out bikini by quizzing her about a variety of topics. She spoke about social media, gymnastics, mental health, and the fund she was creating to help other female college athletes earn money through NIL partnerships. The gymnast also expressed her desire to be a positive role model for her fans. "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," Dunne said.

She started dating a pro baseball player

When Olivia Dunne appeared on "Twin Talk," she opened up about her struggle to recover from a long-term relationship with an unidentified ex. "I dated someone for like a year and a half, and that ... heartbreak was one of the most painful feelings I have ever felt," she said. The gymnast also shared that she finds it difficult to make a genuine connection with guys she meets online. It can be hard to trust them because she worries that they may only be interested in her fame. Luckily, this wasn't a problem when she found love again in 2023.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that August, former LSU baseball player Paul Skenes revealed that he and Dunne met through her roommate, Elena Marenas, who happened to be dating one of Skenes' close friends. Skenes was the No. 1 draft pick of the 2023 MLB draft that July and scored a record-breaking signing bonus worth over $9 million from the Pittsburgh Pirates, so he's likely not dating Dunne for money or clout. In fact, he wishes that both of them didn't get quite as much attention whenever they go out together. "It can be a pain in the butt sometimes, to be honest," he said of being asked for autographs and photos. Skenes also said of his girlfriend, "I do wish she could come to a baseball game and just enjoy it. It does irk me. I don't have any control over it. She really doesn't either."

Olivia Dunne wants to launch her own brand

In September 2023, Olivia Dunne snagged the 48th spot on the Forbes Top Creators list. In addition to her $2.3 million in earnings, she had 12 million followers across all social media platforms at the time.

Dunne spoke to about why she didn't simply quit college gymnastics to become a full-time content creator. "I love my team. And I still love to do gymnastics. That's why I'm still here," she said. But losing that camaraderie was always inevitable, as was a future where she would be forced to rebrand herself as something other than a student-athlete. For her college major, she chose an interdisciplinary studies program: a combo of leadership, communications, and sociology. These are all fields that an entrepreneur can gain useful knowledge and insight from. Dunne told Forbes she isn't certain what her future holds, but she would like to develop her own brand someday. The possibilities she mentioned included an apparel line or an app of some kind. "I do feel like I have an entrepreneurial background, so I want to put that to good use," she said. Becoming a commentator is another option; all of her interviews and podcast appearances have made her a natural when it comes to speaking on camera.

As for where she plans on living, Dunne told Elle a coastal city would be ideal. "Then I can just honestly go back to what I started doing," she said. "I could flip around on the beach."