Born and raised in Naples, Florida, model Olivia Ponton quickly shot to internet stardom in early 2020, shortly after signing to Wilhelmina Models NYC.
At just 19 years old, Olivia has now amassed over 11 million followers and 780 million views across her social media platforms.
Passionate about maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle, Olivia uses her social media platforms to promote self-love, the importance of a healthy mind and body, being kind to others and spreading positivity.
Olivia's authenticity and work ethic inspire young girls around the world to chase their dreams and become the healthiest version of themselves, both physically and mentally.
In 2021, Ponton came out publicly as a member of the LGBQT+ community with the help of Teen Vogue.
She hopes that in doing so, she influences other young members of the community to feel confident in revealing who they are and staying true to themselves.
This year, Olivia has been announced as a Sports Illustrated Swim Rookie for the class of 2022, adding another accomplishment to her long list of both professional and personal successes.
This June marks Ponton’s first full year of being an out and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, which she recently spoke on with Call Her Daddy, where she announced she was Pansexual.
In honor of Pride Month, we sat down with Olivia herself to discuss her journey to finding her truth, and what comes next for this social media sensation turned social activist.
View this post on Instagram
This June marks your first full year of being an out and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community! In what ways have you grown over the past year?
In the past year, my mental health has prospered. I am finally comfortable with myself and my sexuality which is what led me to find out I was pansexual. A lot of experimenting happened! Good and bad things came out of it, but I am so genuinely happy that I have gotten to a place where I can love whoever I want and love myself. Being in the closet is the hardest thing for your mental health. Constantly closing the door on that part of your brain gets mentally draining after a while. I am so blessed that I have reached a place where I am accepting of myself.
As a Sports Illustrated model and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you present an interesting dichotomy not typically talked about in the industry. How are you trying to shift the narrative surrounding sexuality?
I am so grateful to be gracing the pages of Sports Illustrated, as well as being openly pansexual. I present myself as very femme. Being a model and hyper-femme, I felt very discouraged from coming out. There is a sad stereotype that “you have to look a certain way” to date girls… and I say a big fat NOPE to that. I’d love to be an example and create a safe space for other hyper femme gals to speak up about this and feel confident in being themselves. I talk about this a lot with other girls in my same situation and I want them to know they are not alone. It’s frustrating having to flirt extra hard with girls because it is not “obvious” that you are gay/interested in them.
With over 11 million followers, you have built a very large and impressionable community across your social media platforms. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, what responsibility do you feel when talking about your sexuality?
With a large percentage of my followers being 13-25 women, I love giving them a safe space to talk about their sexuality and things that they are going through. I love relaying information that is going on in the LGBTQ+ community as well. The age group that I am reaching is right around the time where you are starting to figure out who you are and what you like. I love leading by example and creating a platform that helps other girls feel as comfortable as possible in their own skin.
You’re continuously shattering barriers and stereotypes in the industry. Does being a “spokesperson” for the LGBTQ+ community ever get exhausting? What do you do to mitigate these pressures?
Not at all, I honestly could never get tired of speaking about it. I want to be the voice for people who don't necessarily have one. I love educating people about things in the LGBTQ+ community. I think a lot of the miscommunication is a lack of education and if I can help in any way shape or form… sign me up.
If you could say one thing to your ten-year-old self, what would it be?
“It's okay, one day you will be so secure in yourself, no one else’s opinions will even matter.”
You’ve already raised so much awareness about the LGBTQ+ community, but of course, there is so much work to be done. Do you have a plan of action for the future?
In the future, I'd love to start speaking in public settings and connecting with more people in person. Besides that, I would love to just continue speaking about the community on all platforms and bringing awareness to brands that also support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month!
Photography by: Jojo Korsh, Madison Voelkel, Neil Rasmus