Olivia Dunne was becoming a social media star before she became a college athlete.
She signed her letter of intent with LSU in November 2019, earning a full scholarship.
That was a gift itself, but roughly a year-and-a-half later, college athletes were finally able to profit off their name, image, and likeness.
“That’s the moment my life changed,” Dunne, 20, told PEOPLE.
Dunne knew her charm and social media buzz could net the big bucks – today, she is the highest-paid NCAA female athlete, making “seven figures.”
And while her bank account continues to grow by the day, she’s showing off her stardom for much more than herself.
“There was no roadmap of how to do school, your athletics and social media all at the same time. There’s really no one that’s ever done it. And I figured I could change that. I could pave the way and be a good example to young girls that look up to me.”
Most college students can’t imagine making that type of money, but for Dunne, a gymnast, she’s taking advantage while she can.
“With gymnastics, you peak when you’re about 15 years old,” Dunne said. “After college, there’s nothing really for gymnasts.” There’s so many professional leagues for men’s sports after college, but there’s such a small timeframe for women to capitalize.”
Dunne might be the most famous college athlete in the country, but she’s an outlier and wants to see more women get the NIL money she feels they deserve.
“Opportunities for men and women in NCAA sports should be equal. But a lot of the NIL collectives only go to men’s athletics,” she says. “I want to show you can do whatever you love – whether it’s gymnastics or music or painting – and capitalize on it and create your own business.”
Dunne has over 7 million TikTok followers, as well as over 3 million on Instagram.