The Olivia Dunne Experience rolled into Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington, Kentucky Friday night, and outside of a few fans holding signs, including one student asking “Livvy, will you marry me?”, it didn’t exactly feel like the highest-paid female college athlete and social media superstar was in the building.
It was a completely different scene inside Rupp compared to a week ago in Salt Lake City where the 20-year-old Dunne received treatment typically reserved for the likes of Harry Styles, the Jonas Brothers, or Justin Bieber. Things were so crazy in Utah that Dunne had to tell fans it was time to chill out a little bit and get back to being gymnastics fans — or at least tone down the bro-ness a little bit.
“I will always appreciate and love the support from you guys, but if you come to a meet, I want to ask you to please be respectful of the other gymnasts and the gymnastics community as we are just doing our job,” the TikTok star tweeted Sunday.
The message was received loud and clear in Kentucky where the school’s gymnastic team was celebrating opening night — called Excite Night around these parts — and Dunne bros kept things under control.
As was the case last week, Dunne, who is said to be paid $2.5 million in NIL money — wasn’t in the lineup due to a labrum injury.
Analyzing the Olivia Dunne Experience
It was my job Friday night to go to Lexington to find out exactly what the scene is like when a TikTok star with 6.7 million followers rolls into town. Is that the dumbest use of resources ever?
The OutKick Culture Department has a duty to be the eyes and ears to what’s going on in this country and so that means you go into the belly of the beast to see if the Utah experience was an outlier or if it’ll be the norm for Dunne in 2023.
The Tigers will face road trips to Arkansas, Auburn and Alabama. It was announced this week that the team will have extra security along for those trips to handle crowds, but if Kentucky is any indication of what’s coming, things seem to be back under control.
Let’s get to the basics from Lexington:
• Ticket price: $8 for general admission; $10 for reserved seats
• The 6 p.m. start time is absolutely brilliant and appreciated. Give the person running this show a raise.
• Were there Dunne fans: Yes. No doubt. There’s Dunne bro hair. You can see it a mile away. Long in the front. Doesn’t look like it’s been washed all week.
• Was it an overwhelming performance from Dunne fans? Not at all. So well-behaved. Livvy should probably release a video complimenting her fans for not causing another scene.
• Friday night’s announced crowd was 10,000. Were there TikTok fans in the stands attracted to the event because Dunne was there? Yes. Is that a bad thing for gymnastics? Absolutely not. Don’t believe me? See the response from UK gymnasts below who were jacked up by the huge crowd.
• With Dunne out with her injury, the event came down to actual gymnastics, and the fans were treated to high-level action. “Kentucky brought the crowd tonight,” UK junior Isabella Magnelli said after her team’s win over the No. 10 ranked Tigers. “We’ve never seen anything like this. They lit up Rupp. Me and my team are just so excited to come out here and show Kentucky what we have done all preseason. It was just amazing.”
• Speaking of never seeing anything like this, try being a gymnastics rookie who had no idea DJs were brought in to keep the party going two straight hours. There were fireworks during the introduction. There were t-shirts thrown into the crowd. There was a hand-stand contest between girls brought out of the crowd. There were high-top table areas for VIPs. There was a WWE-like stage setup for the UK gymnast entrance.
• By the way, what’s up with the soft-serve ice cream at Rupp Arena? Folks, it’s soft-serve ice cream. Does it have special healing powers?
This is just one of the lines for ice cream. There were three to four more lines just like this around Rupp. It was insane.
• What’s next for the Olivia Dunne Experience? The LSU home opener is Monday in Baton Rouge against Oklahoma.