76. Pay Inequity in Women’s Athletics with Ilona Maher

March 14, 2023

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The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

How much does an Olympian make?

The answer might surprise you!

In this episode, Tori is joined by US Women’s Rugby’s own Ilona Maher. You might recognize Ilona from her viral TikToks taking you behind the scenes of the 2020 Olympic games or for her relatable and clever ongoing content about her journey as a female athlete navigating dating, career, and business.

What you’ll learn:

  • How and when Olympic athletes get paid

  • The surprising costs associated with being a professional athlete

  • What it’s like to date as an Olympian

  • How we can better support women’s athletics and advocate for equal pay

Ilona’s Links:

Merch –– All proceeds to Girls Rugby Inc



More on this topic:

Equal Pay Act
How Much it Costs to Go to the Olympics

Meet Ilona

A breakout star on and off the pitch, Ilona is raising awareness of women’s rugby — and capturing the hearts of fans — with witty TikTok videos and behind-the-scenes looks at the sport. Graduated from quinnipiac university with a degree in nursing in 2018 and recently got her MBA from Keller school of management Trains full time for the USA sevens team. Lives in San Diego, CA.


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[00:00:00] Ilona Maher: It’s been an interesting time. It’s like, for me, you know, I’m like, oh, no, I don’t, that guy probably doesn’t like me. There’s no way. Like he’s, he’s so hot, he wouldn’t like me. And then I’m like, , he’s gonna like me. We’re gonna be fine. Like, and it’s like, it’s just been coming into like my own, I guess.

[00:00:16] It’s been like a journey myself and like having this sort of power that you find within is like, I’m, I’m hot as heck.

[00:00:23] Tori Dunlap: Yep. Well, and you realize like anybody who doesn’t find me hot, like I don’t even take it personally anymore. I’m like, well, that’s your laws. Okay,

[00:00:29] Ilona Maher: Same.

[00:00:31] Tori Dunlap: Okay. All right, , you’re, you’re not it. That’s okay. We’ll move, we’ll move along and then you

[00:00:36] Ilona Maher: in this world.

[00:00:38] Totally, totally. And then you get the men who like cannot believe their luck.

[00:00:44] They’re like just so down and excited.

[00:00:47] That’s what I

[00:00:48] Tori Dunlap: that’s it. Yep. Yeah.

[00:00:50] Ilona Maher: need. I was just like hanging out with a guy who, like, I kind of tweeted about it, barely asked me any questions.

[00:00:57] Tori Dunlap: Nope. Can’t

[00:00:58] Ilona Maher: I just was like, you have any siblings? He’s like, yeah, but brother. I’m like, did you wanna know about my sisters who are the best things ever? And he like, didn’t, didn’t give me anything.

[00:01:07] I was like, that’s all right. So now I know. That’s exactly what I don’t want. It’s all great learning experiences,

[00:01:12] Tori Dunlap: Okay. Question for you, because I am extremely direct. I’m like the most direct person you’ll ever

[00:01:17] Ilona Maher: a hundred

[00:01:18] Tori Dunlap: I have not mastered the after 15 minutes going, Hey, you seem like a great person. I wish you all the best, but this isn’t working and I’m not gonna waste my time. I’m not gonna waste your time. I’m gonna leave.

[00:01:32] I have not mastered that yet. I still sit through the first date even when I know.

[00:01:36] Ilona Maher: I’m gonna be honest, I, I sit through the first date as well because I personally leave, you can get a vibe from a person in the first five minutes

[00:01:44] Tori Dunlap: And it has nothing to do with their physical attributes. Truly. I know within 10 seconds of meeting somebody whether it’s going to go well or not, like, and it’s the way they carry themselves, their energy. Like I know immediately and there’s been times where I want to be like, I’m just gonna walk right out this restaurant

[00:02:01] Like it’s not gonna work.

[00:02:03] Ilona Maher: I had a terrible date once and like this guy just, Online. He was so funny. It was so, he was so cool when we were DMing and then I met him in person, he picked me up and I got in the car and I was like, this is not the person I was like, DMing with. They’re not that funny. And then the date was bad.

[00:02:18] He watched an NBA game at the table. He was like, can I watch this game? And I was like, you know what, at this point, honestly I don’t even wanna talk to you. So watch the game. But we were in the car back to my to drop me off. And I was like, so how do you think that went? Because he was like, yeah, good.

[00:02:33] Tori Dunlap: customer

[00:02:34] Ilona Maher: Yeah.

[00:02:35] He was like, yeah, good. I was like, okay. I don’t think that went well for me. And I’m not, I don’t wanna ghost you, but I will not be hanging out

[00:02:41] Tori Dunlap: love that. I love that. I had recently, I went on a date in New York and the guy was a little late, which he warned me of. That’s fine. He showed up on the, And sat down and continued to have a conversation. And I was like, do you need to take that outside? And he was like, oh yeah. And I’m like, I’m not your mom.

[00:03:01] Who needs to teach you manners when you show up? Like if you have a call, fine. If you’re coming minutes late, I get it. I’ve been there. I’m a busy businesswoman. I get it. But like, take that goddamn call outside. Do not sit down at this date on the phone. No, no, no, no, no.

[00:03:16] Ilona Maher: How do they think that’s okay? How do they

[00:03:18] Tori Dunlap: I dunno. I dunno, dude. I have no idea.

[00:03:22] I don’t know. I have so many other

[00:03:25] Ilona Maher: I have so many other two

[00:03:26] Tori Dunlap: I have so many questions, but like, I, I love following you in general. You’re so fucking talented and smart. And I know that you and I have very similar, like, dating is hard. Dating’s hard when you’re confident and when you’re successful and it’s hard for women dating men, it’s not easy.

[00:03:44] Ilona Maher: It’s not, it’s not easy and it’s not fun sometimes. Most of the time,

[00:03:48] Tori Dunlap: most of the time. It’s definitely not fun. Okay. Let’s talk about rugby. We were a little shocked when we were researching you to know that you came to rugby kind of later in life. What was the interest there and what made you decide to go for it at a collegiate level?

[00:04:03] Ilona Maher: Yeah, I think Rugby’s a very special sport right now in the US because it’s not like soccer and basketball where you start super young and you’re, you’re playing in a se you know, summer seasons, winter seasons, rugby is really still coming up in the us So when I was in high school, I’ve always been an athlete.

[00:04:19] I’ve always been a very good athlete, but I always wanted to play sports at the highest level. And the problem was, is that rugby was never there at the highest level. So my dad’s a rugby player. He’s been playing for like 40 years now, and he would’ve loved if we’d played rugby, but he also wanted his daughters to play the highest varsity levels there was.

[00:04:34] So instead of like putting us in, Rugby that didn’t have anything. He put us in like field hockey. And I played basketball and softball. And then it wasn’t until my senior year of high school where I was like, you know, I softball’s not for me. I wanna try something different. And my dad was like, well you gotta do something cuz I was just gonna sit there, you know, my senior year he wanted me to still do something.

[00:04:53] So I tried out for the local rugby team and like, I mean, I think my body was just made for rugby. Like, I immediately got it and I just like immediately went out there and tackled and stiff armed and scored tries and like, I think it was just, I found my place in rugby and so happy that I took that chance to try something.

[00:05:11] And like not just go, oh, I’ll just, I’ll just play softball or, oh, I just won’t do anything. Like, it’s really changed the traject trajectory of my life, just like trying.

[00:05:20] Tori Dunlap: You just mentioned you grew up as an athlete. What are some of the like emotional financial costs associated with being an athlete before you go professional that a random person listening to this might not think about?

[00:05:33] Ilona Maher: Yeah, I mean, so many sports. I’ve played a lot of sports where it’s like, doesn’t have the most equipment, but a lot of sports. I mean, if you wanna play hockey, you wanna play football, you wanna play all these sports, like the equipment needed for that golf, oh, don’t even start at golf. Lacrosse, even like equipment is so expensive.

[00:05:51] I mean, I buy cleats for myself now that are, they’re like Nikes and they’re like $260 for a pair of cleats, cuz I, we don’t get cleats actually for free. So I buy my own cleats. So,

[00:06:03] Tori Dunlap: You are a, an Olympic athlete and you don’t get your own cleats. You have

[00:06:08] Ilona Maher: it’s a very interesting thing. And so $260 for a pair of shoes with studs on ’em. Scammers

[00:06:15] Tori Dunlap: many how many of those pair are you

[00:06:17] Ilona Maher: Yeah. So

[00:06:18] Tori Dunlap: that’s not gonna last you a couple

[00:06:20] Ilona Maher: I do push ’em out for longer than I should. I probably do about like two pairs a year, but if I could, I’d love to like, not really like wear ’em down until they’re barely studs left. But that’s like, you know, you have to go through, I mean, field hockey, you have to buy a stick that’s a hundred and something dollars.

[00:06:34] So, and then if you wanna play like AAU basketball and whatnot, like that is expensive. And that the travel to get to the tournament. So that’s like, to be a D one athlete, you know, you can be a great athlete as well, but you need to go to these tournaments to be seen by coaches, which are five hours away.

[00:06:51] You need to pay for a hotel there, you need to pay for food there. So

[00:06:55] Tori Dunlap: Right.

[00:06:55] Ilona Maher: the track to be an athlete is not a cheap one as well. It, it, it takes a lot of money. It takes a lot of time. But from the athlete and the parents and everything like that.

[00:07:08] Tori Dunlap: Well, and, and it’s all the, the financial commitment, but also like the emotional commitment of like, I come from a theater background. I did athletics for a while and then I was like, now I’m doing theater and music and doubling down on that. And the joke was always like, oh, I can’t do that. I have rehearsal.

[00:07:22] Right. Like that was, that was always like, and I imagine for you it was like, oh, I can’t, I have practice, or Oh, I can’t, I have a game. Right. And like in order to be laser focused on something, there’s a lot of sacrifice that you have to make to your personal life sometimes to like your relationships because you’re doing this thing, especially at a professional level.

[00:07:41] Ilona Maher: for sure. I think a lot of sacrifice, but I almost don’t even, I guess I don’t really call it sacrifice as much because like it’s something that I just truly wanna do, like,

[00:07:51] Tori Dunlap: Cuz you love

[00:07:52] Ilona Maher: just love it. I love it cuz in college I did rugby and I also was a nursing major and everyone’s like, how did you do that?

[00:07:59] I must went so hard. And yeah, it was hard. I truly wanted to be a nurse, and I truly wanted to be a great rugby player. So it wasn’t a sacrifice so much. Like these are just something that I, it brings me joy to be a great nursing student and great rugby player.

[00:08:11] So that’s something like, yeah, it would’ve been nice to go out with my friends more to drink more, but like, I loved what I was doing, there’s a lot of sacrifices in other ways.

[00:08:22] Tori Dunlap: Yeah, that’s how I feel with running my business. It’s like I spend more time on that. It feels like a

[00:08:26] Ilona Maher: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:08:27] Tori Dunlap: time doing this than anything else. But I love it. I love it. And yeah, there’s parts of it that I hate, but like I love most of it, so. Okay. And you also got your mba, right? So what about having a business. Change your perspective on athletics, on just you existing in the world. Like what about getting your M B A change things for you?

[00:08:51] Ilona Maher: Yeah. And I feel like, honestly you’ll be so proud of me that I got my mba. I put that in there. I was like, guess what? Tori got my mba. It’s

[00:08:57] Tori Dunlap: No, I love it. I fucking love

[00:08:59] Ilona Maher: So I, we got free classes. So I have my uh, bachelor’s in nursing and I have passed my NCLEX registered nurse. I’ve never used my degree yet, but through the US Olympic Committee, which is who pays me, I get free classes through a online school.

[00:09:14] And so I told my dad, I was like, dad, oh, I get free classes through this school. Like should I take someone? He was like, are you? Yeah, of course you should take some. Are you serious? Cause none, not of many of my teammates take it. And so I was like, okay. So there wasn’t, wasn’t any like classes for nursing specific, like a master’s of nursing science or something more health related cuz it was all online.

[00:09:34] And so there was only a master’s of business with like a focus in health adminis. So I kind of like, oh, okay, well I guess I’ll go with that one. I have literally no passion for that. I was like, I, I don’t really have, like, wasn’t super psyched to learn about accounting and stuff like that out, to be very honest.

[00:09:52] Like, but the thought of that I could learn more and get better. And I honestly will say that driving factor is that if I’m, when I’m done with rugby, when I’m in a hospital or whatever I’m doing and there’s a position for a hire to be a chief nursing officer, to be the CEO or whatever, I wanna be one of the first in line.

[00:10:10] And I don’t wanna have wished I’d gotten my mba. I don’t want them to be like, well this dude, if it’s, and if it’s a man, ooh, if this man has all, all this, he’s done all this well, oh well I’ve actually all done all this as well while being an Olympian. So that was a driving factor. And then it was just to learn more about myself as like a, how I can be a better business woman.

[00:10:31] And it’s still like learning constantly. because it was definitely a switch up from when I kind of went viral over the Olympics and who I am now. So it’s like in a year, a lot of, a lot has changed for me.

[00:10:43] Tori Dunlap: Lots changed. Well, and for us, I think uniquely like for me, TikTok completely changed my life, like completely changed my life and my business. And I feel, I imagine it did the same for you. So like what was your life like before blowing up on TikTok and what’s it like now?

[00:11:00] Ilona Maher: Yeah, I mean, TikTok, I, I say it all the time, is the most powerful app out there. Like it is amazing what it can do for people and what it’s done for me. So my life like before was like all of us on the U S A A seven team are just, we just wanna put ourselves out there because we get paid through our Olympic committee.

[00:11:18] We get like bonuses through U S USA rugby when we win tournaments and whatnot. But we’re getting paid, you know, very below minimum as a lot of female athletes are who just are doing it cuz of this. We’re doing it cuz of pure passion for the sport. Like if you’re, I always say if you’re in rugby for money, you’re in the wrong, wrong sport and the wrong business because we weren’t getting paid a lot.

[00:11:41] But like

[00:11:42] Tori Dunlap: Yeah.

[00:11:43] Ilona Maher: the absolute love for the game and the love to grow. And I always say like, I’m, I’m playing really not for myself. I’m playing and trying to grow the game so that when other girls come in, they can have a hundred thousand dollars contract sometime one day, you know? It was definitely a tough time.

[00:11:58] We all, like, were trying to, we’d get like free stuff and try to post free stuff and see if that helps. We were trying to grow on all sorts of different platforms and then it wasn’t until like, early 2020 when I was on TikTok, I didn’t do any TikTok during the pandemic, but early 2020 when I was on TikTok at a rugby tournament in Spain and I started to see people react to it and they really were feeling it and some of the rugby content, I was like, okay, interesting.

[00:12:23] So I’m gonna keep doing this. So I kept postings and within even like a couple days, I became known as a rugby TikTok girl, and then I just kept kind of doing

[00:12:33] Tori Dunlap: I remember that moment cuz I think that’s how I discovered you. You had like the big viral video and I was like, you were just, and you, I wanna give you credit. Maybe you did this intentionally, but you were so smart in how you went about, like you have a brain of a marketer, whether you know it or not.

[00:12:46] Like it was brilliant in terms of execution. Like it was very smart. Like you were very personable. Like, you know, it was right at the peak of people’s interest, right? It was like the perfect time to post that kind of content and in the format that you did like it

[00:13:02] Ilona Maher: I just was honestly being myself, , I didn’t think of it as like any way to like, if I do this, it’s gonna do this. Like especially then we went to the Olympics and I knew that the Olympics were gonna be a key time. I knew that people grow in the Olympics, like people get get famous and get more money from the Olympics.

[00:13:18] So that was really exciting. But we were first told, you can’t do anything in the Olympic Village. You can’t record anything in your rooms. You can’t record anything in certain spaces. And so I was like, well that sucks. Like this would’ve been my time to really like put myself out there. And then thankfully the first day we got into the village and they’re like, no, you can post things, but like you have to be smart about it and you have to wear a mask when you’re in public areas.

[00:13:39] And I was like, when they said that, I was like, this is go time. So then I just. Started to think about how can I bring people in this? And the cardboard beds was a big thing. And so I was like, Hey guys, everyone come into this room and try out and do some weird stuff on the cardboard beds. And like that is what started it.

[00:13:57] And I mean, in the Olympics, like I just kind of posted what everybody was thinking and just kind of like everyone. We’re in a village with the hottest people in the world. Yeah. We’re all, we’re all thirsting after each other. I’m just the one saying it. Okay.

[00:14:11] Tori Dunlap: Yeah.

[00:14:12] Ilona Maher: I mean, it’s, it was just a really cool time and it was, it was a stressful time, but a very cool time at the Olympics.

[00:14:18] Tori Dunlap: It was like the commentary that I wanted for nbc, like that was the commentary I secretly wanted. That you were giving, you know of? Yeah. What is it like to have all of these successful athletes who are Yeah, relatively young, all hot, just hanging out from a bunch of different country. It has to be like summer camp weirdly.

[00:14:38] Ilona Maher: It’s a, it’s a wild time. We didn’t get to do much because like we were only there for certain amount of time, COVID, and they get to leave two, two days after, whatever. But I mean, I can only imagine what it is usually like.

0] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. . Yeah. Well, and of course, you know, you’re there to, to play your sport, but it’s also like, well, I got some time. I don’t know. Let’s see what

[00:14:58] Ilona Maher: yeah.

[00:14:59] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. We talked earlier about dating. I, of course have had the experience as a successful woman of men being intimidated by me, by my financial stability, by a lot of things.

[00:15:12] I’m gonna ask the question, assuming it’s happened. Are the men you’re going on dates with ever intimidated by like you being an Olympian?

[00:15:21] Like, I imagine most, most men, right? See a physically and emotionally very strong woman. And a lot of men unfortunately, see that like very, in a very

[00:15:33] Ilona Maher: I think self-conscious is a good word. I think a lot of guys definitely become a little

[00:15:37] Tori Dunlap: Sure that’s a better,

[00:15:37] Ilona Maher: When they hang out with me. But I think, I mean, I haven’t done many much dating. Well, okay, wait, I, it’s been a good couple months for me, I will say. But

[00:15:45] Tori Dunlap: Yeah.

[00:15:46] Ilona Maher: for me, I’ve always felt like men are very intimidated, more by me physically.

[00:15:50] That’s a reason because I’m a very big woman. I’m a very strong woman. And then my personality is also can be very like loud and out there, and I like to say what I wanna say. and be direct like you at, you know, you at times like just, oh, this is what I’m feeling. I’m gonna say it. So that I’ve always felt like they’ve been intimidated in that sense, but I’ve also just kind of like learned to now just weed out the ones who are gonna be self-conscious or intimidated.

[00:16:20] And the guys who like are really into me, like are just down with whatever I’m, I’m putting out. And that’s what’s really cool to me. But I, I love being like, no, I’ll pick up this check. No, don’t, don’t worry. I got this, you know, the power I feel when I’m like, no, no, no, you chill. I just, I just made a deal.

[00:16:40] Don’t worry. Oh, it just, of course is through my veins, that power.

[00:16:45] Tori Dunlap: Yep. Nope. I feel the same way. It’s my favorite. I went on a date with such a sweetie and he like pulled out his card and he was like, and I could tell like he wanted to say something and I was like, what’s, what’s up? What’s on your mind? And he is like, I would really like to pay because that’s important to me.

[00:17:02] Will you let me pay? And I was like, yeah, I’ll let you pay. Sure. Like that’s fine. Because he knew right? Financial Feminist, like, he’s like, I don’t want you to be offended, but I real, I would really like to pay. Can I pay? And I was like, yeah, you can a hundred percent pay. And it was like so emotionally intelligent, so lovely.

[00:17:17] And I was like, yeah, you can pay.

[00:17:18] Ilona Maher: cute.

[00:17:18] Tori Dunlap: It’s, it was very sweet. It was very sweet. Okay, so when I think especially prior to following you on TikTok, when I think Olympics, I think Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, like all of these people who have made a lot of money being Olympic athletes, like, you know, the Olympic logo must be worth its weight in gold for these people.

[00:17:42] And so I think a lot of people listening might think, oh, when they’re Olympic athletes, they’ve made it. And not only have they made it, but they’ve made a ton of money. But for most folks, it’s probably not the case. So how do Olympic athletes actually get

[00:17:57] Ilona Maher: Yeah. That is a big rumor there that we’re all spread in that pe Olympic athletes get a lot of money because a lot of my teammates are still like in the same place that we, we’ve bid in. The way that athletes get money is through sponsorships and through deals in that nature. Like promoting this on your channel endorsements.

[00:18:18] Yeah. So it’s very interesting that. I see all these athletes who we just do, we go through all this, we run fitness tests, we put our bodies on the line. We are pretty much destroying our mental health in some ways for not that much money. And so it’s really interesting, like the difference in payment, you know, between men and women of course.

[00:18:45] And then just between like those athletes, like, like the Michael Phelps, Simone Bas, even the women’s soccer team and us. I mean, the, the money is just so different. And for me, I’ve been able to, through TikTok, like make some money through those endorsements. But like, my teammates are, my teammates wanna do the same thing and they want me to like, give them advice.

[00:19:06] And I’m like, I don’t know. Like it’s all how you roll the dice. It’s how you talk to people. It’s how you present on social media. There’s really, I don’t really know if there’s a formula for it. It’s like, , it’s all about putting yourself out there and having a personality. So not only do you have to be great on the field and be work your ass off, you also have to be just a funny person and have to have a personality.

[00:19:27] If you’re pretty, that’s even better, you know? So it’s like these athletes are expected to be literally the whole package to get, you know, quarters and dimes, like,

[00:19:39] Tori Dunlap: Yeah, I was talking to we had Queen Herby, I don’t know if you know her work, cuz she’s a musician. She’s amazing and also blew up on TikTok. I’ve been following her career for 10 years and is now a friend of mine and we had her on the podcast and like she was talking about like, you can’t just be a good musician.

[00:19:53] You have to be like your own hype person. You have to be, you know, the person who’s on TikTok, she’s like, you cannot get a record deal now without blowing yourself up on TikTok first. You can’t get played on the radio without blowing yourself up on TikTok. And it feels like kind of the same thing where it’s like, it’s not enough to just be an incredibly successful athlete.

[00:20:13] It’s like with the asterisks, oh, if you wanna make money at this thing, you actually have to spend all of this other time hyping yourself up building a brand that, that’s a lot. That’s a

[00:20:25] Ilona Maher: is a lot. And it’s so true. I think like surface level attractiveness as well in athletes is like something that people look for. Like you could be the best player on a team and have the best, especially for women, the best you score all the points, you do all this, you have the best step.

[00:20:40] But if you’re not hot, it’s like, ugh. It’s just, it’s very interesting.

[00:20:44] Tori Dunlap: Or if you’re not performing femininity in a certain way, right?

[00:20:48] Ilona Maher: especially like female athletes, you have to have every, every little thing about you works. And so for me, I thankfully have a personality that works for TikTok and that has put me out there and people really respond to.

[00:21:00] but I also have to, like, I try to do, like show myself really fem feminine, pretty on TikTok because like I want people to also like me in that way. So it’s like trying to be everything all at once. It’s very hard and, and time consuming.

[00:21:16] Tori Dunlap: Well, and I think. Any, any person on TikTok, any person on social media, but especially women, there is the element of, you kind of have to play the game even if you don’t want to. Like I went to an event, I, I was flown out for this beautiful event a couple weeks ago in New York, and it was very much like a traditional influencer event.

[00:21:35] And I walked in like a, I looked great, but I walked in on a $15 Banana Republic dress, and Adidas and everybody else had gotten like full glam, done, bought new outfits. And I was like, shit, is this what I’m

[00:21:47] Ilona Maher: Mm-hmm.

[00:21:48] Tori Dunlap: to be doing? Like, is this what I’m supposed to be doing in order? Like I don’t, ultimately I don’t care.

[00:21:54] But it’s also like, am I hurting my career by not performing femininity in a certain way? And like, how shitty is that?

[00:22:03] Ilona Maher: It’s, it’s really tough. And coming from a sport like rugby, which is thought of as a very masculine sport, very like, and I think that’s something that I maybe am not only trying to prove to others, but also like prove to myself that I’m feminine because I feel very feminine. I feel like beautiful, but like I want others to feel that way about me as well.

[00:22:23] And that’s where I get into like really wanting people to like me and wanting people to see the sides of me. But it is like, oh, is that, is that what I’m supposed to look like? Is that what femininity is? And is that what you know is right for me? So I feel that it’s, it’s tough.

[00:22:40] Tori Dunlap: Right? And it’s like, do I participate knowing that I will make more money if I participate in Yeah. In femininity, the way it’s expected versus what if that’s not true to myself? Right. Or what if like, it’s not true at the level that I need to do. Yeah. I struggle with that. I struggle with that too, of like, people expect me to show up a certain way.

[00:23:01] I show up on social media all the time without makeup and I always get a comment about it and like, ultimately I don’t care. But then, right. My brain, the, the marketer, the person who is good at making money, part of my brain goes like, did you just lose out a money because you don’t look professional? Which men don’t have to deal with those men tuck in their shirts like . That’s it. That’s it. That’s it.

[00:23:24] Ilona Maher: I always thought too, like if I don’t look pretty on social media, like, oh, guys aren’t gonna want me cuz they don’t look pretty. I’m like, honestly,

[00:23:31] Tori Dunlap: Hmm.

[00:23:32] Ilona Maher: that’s so wrong. It’s so wrong.

[00:23:34] Tori Dunlap: Oh

[00:23:35] Ilona Maher: just, I, I was always afraid about that. When I post a video, I’m like, oh man, I look like absolute crap in this video.

[00:23:40] They’re gonna, not guys won’t like me. It’s like, okay, that’s just wrong. If you find the right people, they’ll like you.

[00:23:45] Tori Dunlap: Yep. And it’s patriarchal bullshit, right? It’s the patriarchy being like, again, perform femininity in this certain way and the, and the, it’s always, or you won’t

[00:23:57] Ilona Maher: Yeah.

[00:23:57] Tori Dunlap: man. Right. And this assumes of course, that that people who identify as women even want men. Right. Maybe, you know? Right.

[00:24:04] Yeah. Or yeah, maybe you’re, you know, gender non-binary. Maybe you are into women, right? But I think that that’s always. The, the thing, and that’s what the trolls come for first. And I don’t know if this is ever for you. I’m sure you get comments about your body. Right. And for me it’s always like, why are you doing this?

[00:24:19] You won’t find a man. No man will ever wanna marry you. And I’m like, yeah, okay.

[00:24:23] Ilona Maher: Honestly. Yeah.

[00:24:26] Tori Dunlap: I’m doing great. I’m doing great for myself. Yeah, that’s, that’s

[00:24:31] Ilona Maher: My comments are always you look why is you’re, are you a man? What? You look so masculine or whatever. And that’s like, I always say like, Hey, say those things to me. You say ’em because I’d rather you say ’em. To me. It’s what makes me mad is that they’re saying this to other young girls.

[00:24:46] Like if you’d said that to a young alonna in high school, middle school, she would’ve been like, oh, no, I’m. I feel very feminine. I, I’m like a girl, so like, say that shit to me. But if you say that to young girls, that grinds my gears like no other, because I know it’s just a, a, a man or a young boy behind their computer who thinks they’re so cool.

[00:25:05] And that’s what, oh, ooh. I’ll fight somebody.

[00:25:11] Tori Dunlap: No. And one, turn it into content. That’s what I do with my hate comments. And typically they go viral. It’s great. But I literally, I look at, I think you’re just like the hottest fucking thing. And I look at you and I’m like, that is, that’s the kind of strength that like I want to see a diversity of body types for women.

[00:25:27] I wanna see women be strong. And again, in a patriarchal society that has told us to literally shrink ourselves to be as small as possible. Somebody standing in their power, but especially standing in their power physically. That’s fucking incredible. Like, that’s incredible. So I, yeah, I get mad for you.

[00:25:44] I’m like, no, no.

[00:25:46] Ilona Maher: No thank you. It’s not passing the vibe.

[00:25:48] Tori Dunlap: I brought up Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, all these people in these like classic primetime sports, right?

[00:25:54] Gymnastics, swimming. Do you feel like you have to fight harder for pay and endorsement deals than someone in a primetime sport?

[00:26:03] Ilona Maher: It’s almost like I don’t really get deals for the sport I play though, like for me and my teammate.

[00:26:09] Tori Dunlap: Hmm

[00:26:10] Ilona Maher: We aren’t. We’re not, because Rugby’s not out there. We just don’t get deals like that. Like soccer players, if you’re on the national soccer team, if you’re doing swimming, like you’re getting deals for that.

[00:26:19] But I’m really getting deals because I’m a talker and like that’s something that like really sucks, is like people call me a content creator and I’m like, no, I’m an athlete who happens to do TikTok, but we and my teammates aren’t really getting deals for rugby and being athletes so much as I’m getting deals for being on TikTok.

[00:26:40] An influencer. Yeah, so athletes kind of second, I make more money as a TikTok than as an athlete, which really sucks. And I think it’s kind of changing the landscape kind of for athletes as well. Like all athletes who are in these niche sports wanna be on these apps because they’re not, companies aren’t gonna sponsor a rugby team because they don’t really know rugby, but they are gonna sponsor a girl who has a lot of followers on TikTok cause they know that I’ll get them out there.

[00:27:06] So, , especially in America, rugby’s just not big. And we’ll go to other countries like we’re gonna South Africa for the World Cup, and you’re a star there. Rugby players are the stars there, but here, like we are, my teammate and I walk down the street, they have no idea who we are. So I don’t think it’s kind of interesting.

[00:27:20] Now I’m thinking about it. It’s like, we’re not getting sponsored because we’re rugby players. You, you’re getting sponsored because of a social media presence.

[00:27:29] Tori Dunlap: Does that make you feel bitter at all?

[00:27:31] Ilona Maher: don’t know if it’s bitter. It just like, I think at times you’re just think, man, you work so hard. And like, especially for rugby, like we put our bodies on the line, we get tackled, we’re on the ground, we’re getting up, and it hurts a lot. And like, I just feel bad because we do so much on field, but like that’s not translating to more money for, it’s just kind of like, you just kind of plateau.

[00:27:55] So that’s why I call my, you know, doing TikTok, my other job because. It is. Yeah.

[00:28:04] Tori Dunlap: it is,

[00:28:05] Ilona Maher: But that’s again, why,

[00:28:07] Tori Dunlap: and, I

[00:28:07] Ilona Maher: again, why we’re like trying to

[00:28:08] Tori Dunlap: go ahead.

[00:28:09] Ilona Maher: make it so that these girls can just focus on rugby and make money and not have to do all sorts of different income sources. You know?

[00:28:20] Tori Dunlap: Right. Well, and I think about the fact that, to be honest with you, I probably wouldn’t have known your name had I not come across you on TikTok.

[00:28:27] Ilona Maher: A hundred percent

[00:28:28] Tori Dunlap: Right. And so I, I have friends in, in the UK who Yeah. Played rugby, love rugby, I think. Yeah. Specifically in the United States. That’s, you know, more of a niche sport, but it, you know, it’s no less significant than everything.

[00:28:42] Ilona Maher: yes.

[00:28:43] Tori Dunlap: At the Olympics and I just, yeah, I just feel like that’s, that sucks so hard for you to like work so hard and be like, I mean, I feel like anybody listening, there was probably somebody you know who had that in their life where, oh, the thing I’m really passionate about is not the thing that makes

[00:28:56] Ilona Maher: Oh, yeah,

[00:28:57] Tori Dunlap: all had that experience at some point, right? Yeah. like the thing I love, the thing I spend the most time doing, the thing that I’m good at, the thing that I’ve put so much time and effort into is not the thing that’s actually paying the bills and like that

[00:29:09] Ilona Maher: does suck. Cause it’s like, as you’re doing, it’s like, why am I doing this? Like, to do and do it for such a little amount. And I, I am one of the more higher paid just for rugby on my team because like, there’s like, you know, tiers and we get paid through a certain amount. So like, I am one of those who make the more money just from the rugby. So like,

[00:29:33] Tori Dunlap: Can you talk to me through, I didn’t know there were tears, like how does that

[00:29:37] Ilona Maher: like the Olympic committee. And so on my team, there’s people who have full contracts. So we get paid, you know, not, not anything wild. You get like a monthly thing each month before taxes, no taxes are taken out. So we’re all independent contractors. So when tax season comes around, you wanna shoot yourself with a foot

[00:29:57] Tori Dunlap: Right. You own your own business as a, as a Olympic

[00:30:00] Ilona Maher: So I, there’s like tiers, like people who are like, I’m a top tier, like we are the ones who, like, we get paid the most. We have, we don’t live on, we don’t have anything paid for. We don’t have our housing paid for whatnot. We have, we find our own housing in San Diego, which is I think, the most expensive city to live in, in the US right now.

[00:30:18] Yes.

[00:30:19] Tori Dunlap: Top five.

[00:30:20] Ilona Maher: and then there’s like another tier of people who are a little bit below that, like a tier below that. And then there’s like some girls who live in housing that the rugby team provides and they get like a smaller stipend every month. And so like what people are doing is like, you’re trying to make your way up those tiers by becoming that player who like gets invited to every tournament, who’s kind of a really valuable part of the team.

[00:30:38] And that was like, that’s my thing is like, I want to be at every tournament, I wanna play in every game, and I wanna be the best I can be whether that’s being the best player in the role or just being the best person for my team. So I’ve moved up pretty much when I came in I lived on site on in housing, then moved up to a bigger contract, then was moved up to a bigger contract, and now I’m at the highest contract.

[00:30:58] So it’s all just kind of like, you wanna like keep fighting for that spot to get up, but then there’s already, it’s already filled with some girls. So like, you know, you can only move as, as far, but are you gonna move some girls down? So it’s, it’s really an interesting time because it’s all about performance.

[00:31:13] It’s all about how well you’re playing. And so if you know some, but if something happens, thankfully we have longer contracts now,
they go for like a year or they can go for a longer time. They used to be like for three months. So if you weren’t, if they didn’t coach, didn’t like you after three months, you know,

[00:31:31] Tori Dunlap: Wow.

[00:31:31] Ilona Maher: injured.

[00:31:32] And thankfully, that’s why it’s great to have contracts that are of a longer period of time. So then nothing changes at that. I mean, I say you’re still injured through your contract ending. I think it’s gonna go back to like who you are as a player. and how you’re looking on your recovery journey, because we have the best trainer in the world, like our trainer’s, the best.

[00:31:51] So if you work with her, they’ll put you back on the field and just remembering who you are before your injury, because we play a sport where injuries are just really prevalent.

[00:32:02] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. Yeah. I what was it? I, I studied abroad in Ireland. Um, Do you know about hurling? I don’t know, you can probably describe it better than I can. It was like rugby, but somehow more violent,

[00:32:14] Ilona Maher: wooden paddles. It’s insane.

[00:32:16] Tori Dunlap: I had never seen this before. It was like rugby mixed with lacrosse, mixed with, I don’t even fucking know.

[00:32:22] They probably carted. I only stayed for like half a game, maybe three quarters. They carded half the players off the field due to injuries. I could not believe it.

[00:32:31] Ilona Maher: Mm-hmm.

[00:32:32] Tori Dunlap: how is this legal? It was the most violent thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It was incredible to watch. But yeah, and I think about the injuries of something like that.

[00:32:40] Constant.

[00:32:41] Ilona Maher: like we do this because we just absolutely love it and like, this is what we wanna be

[00:32:46] Tori Dunlap: yeah. Yeah. So you play outside of the Olympics, are you paid a salary for that? Any perks that are paid out for playing

[00:32:57] Ilona Maher: the Olympics, you get paid if you medal at the Olympics. I think a gold is something like,

[00:33:04] Tori Dunlap: You only wait, you only get paid if you medal.

[00:33:10] Ilona Maher: So, I think a medal is like 30 something. Yeah. Gold is 30 something silver’s 20 something bronze is like 15 or something like that.

[00:33:19] Tori Dunlap: You

[00:33:20] Ilona Maher: yeah. Yeah. I mean, but that’s,

[00:33:23] Tori Dunlap: That somehow makes every, every Olympic like close call so much more painful.

[00:33:31] Ilona Maher: So,

[00:33:33] Tori Dunlap: I think about all the people who didn’t get on the podium or all the people who got silver, like barely like, oh

[00:33:39] Ilona Maher: Yeah. It’s wild. And like for the US the thing is though, we, us sends I think the most athletes of any delegation, so we have so many athletes, so that’s why like America’s like win gold or nothing. He’s freaking suck if you don’t win gold. You know, like, but that’s cuz it is a lot on the line.

[00:33:56] And like, we don’t get paid as much as some countries do, which I’ve seen a lot of people, like people in the Philippines get a million dollars if they win gold. Well, to me it’s like, it’s very different because there’s only like really one, I think only one athlete in like the last Olympic from the Philippines won a medal.

[00:34:11] Whereas the United States, like we are pumping out metal winners. And so, it’s definitely wild, but like, and it, it is a great way to give you motivation to win that money. But I am, honestly, it’s really cool to say that I’m not motivated by money at all for this sport because. I mean, I get to travel the world and like do the coolest things.

[00:34:32] Like I’d rather be doing that and getting paid not much than sitting in a desk and not getting to go and be outside, train, work on my fitness constantly. So, lot of, lot of trade trade ups you gotta do.

[00:34:46] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and it’s not, yeah, I, I’m realizing just how much of it is paid on performance, even to like your rank on the team too. How much are you getting paid if you medal versus if you don’t, versus like gold versus silver versus br like, that’s insane. Crazy. We, you’ve already talked about this, we publicly know, especially like the, the soccer teams for men and women.

[00:35:14] Are men paid different than women? Are they paid on a different scale? What does

[00:35:17] Ilona Maher: So on our team through the US Olympic Committee, they are, I think we’re paid the same. We have like the same kind of tier system. The difference is that the men have more opportunities to make more money because they have more tournaments. So we only, next year we’re gonna have like seven tournaments.

[00:35:37] They’re gonna have something wild like 11. So that means they have three or four more, four more times to make possibly $5,000 each. If they win first and then they get

[00:35:51] Tori Dunlap: Wow. So 2020 K more potentially, right?

[00:35:55] Ilona Maher: then you get like a bonus for going to it. Like just a bonus of you’re selected for the tournament and if you win if you place one to five, you get a certain amount of money through that.

[00:36:02] So like, I think we all get paid the same just by the, like our base, but because of their, they’re getting so more opportunities to make money and go play. So whereas we’re missing out on that $500 just for selection fee or whatever it is, they can go out and try for that 5,000

[00:36:25] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. I talked about, like I mentioned, primetime sports. Do you feel like if you played a more feminine sport, you would be better compensated?

[00:36:39] Ilona Maher: I don’t know, honestly. I think it’s really not even about that. It’s like how well these sports are marketing themselves and putting them out there and especially how are they winning? The US soccer team is so great in that they’re getting people to come watch their sports. If you watch like this documentary on. I think they’re called the 99 ERs. I’ve watched that a couple times, but they did.

[00:37:04] Tori Dunlap: There’s the one on hbo. What

[00:37:05] Ilona Maher: that one. And then there’s another one too, like ea
rly on about like how in the 99, how they’ve like grew you rug soccer. I think for me to grow a sport like that, that that not really even about femininity is that like you need to win.

[00:37:19] And in, in us, in the US culture, we like winning. We like gold. So to get your sport on the map, you have to be a winning team. And that’s something that I, I’ve realized like it doesn’t matter if we are the best people, if we’re great players, if we’re not winning, people don’t care, especially in the us. So,

[00:37:38] Tori Dunlap: No, you’re so right because I think about, yeah, like Megan Rapino and all these players, I think the reason their case was so strong is it wasn’t just like we’re underpaid, which should have been enough to get pay equality. It was like, we’re underpaid and we are way better than the man’s team. Like we consistently win.

[00:37:57] So it, yeah, it’s like not enough to just have the on par. Right. It’s the always like, you can’t just be good. You have to be five, 10 times better. Right? So like it should have just been enough of hi, we’re not compensated at the same rate that they are, but specifically, we’re not compensated at the same rate and we’re way fucking

[00:38:14] Ilona Maher: is like men will get paid regardless. We need to be the best players, the prettiest, the most well-spoken, the most attractive, and then we’ll get paid what we are deserving. So like, it’s kind of this like very hard time, but playing a sport that we didn’t grow up playing. So we’re not, we don’t think it, we don’t, aren’t as good as it, but like we want the sport to grow, so we have to win.

[00:38:35] So it’s that extra pressure on us. So you gotta win to make money.

[00:38:41] Tori Dunlap: Yep.

[00:38:43] Does that ever get to

[00:38:44] Ilona Maher: I get very stressed sometimes when I’m like, oh gosh, we’re gonna, if we don’t, if we don’t start winning consistently, they’ll pull off, pull our. or if we don’t qualify for the Olympics, like this program could be shut down. Like it, it scares me all the time because not as, again, not only for myself, but for those other girls, like who I want them to have a chance to do this and to be able to be a professional rugby player in the us and the thought of it, it feels on my shoulders to like, make sure this program continues and that, you know, we, I, I wanna medal so bad at like the World Cup and the Olympics so that it can shows that, okay, these girls are deserving of continuing to be sponsored.

[00:39:24] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. And I think, yeah, it’s, it’s like the pressure of not just how am I performing, but how is my performance affecting everybody else and affecting the perception of this sport nationally and globally. And then the added pressure of I’m trying to pave away for future girls or future women athletes so that they don’t necessarily have to go through all of this.

[00:39:49] That’s

[00:39:49] Ilona Maher: a lot.

[00:39:50] a lot

[00:39:50] Tori Dunlap: of

[00:39:51] pressure.

[00:39:51] Ilona Maher: a lot of

[00:39:52] pressure

[00:39:53] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. Well, and with TikTok, how are you finding the balance of that? Like how are you making that something that’s sustainable with playing rugby

[00:40:04] at a professional level?

[00:40:05] Ilona Maher: I think of it just as another job for myself. Like people are, I was just made TikTok on it. People always ask ’em like, oh, how do you grow on TikTok? How do you dress? I’m like, well, first off, be funny. And then second, you have to think of it as like, you have to put in the time to do it, because it’s not just something that you can post one TikTok and you’ll get like you have to do it.

[00:40:25] And I

[00:40:26] Tori Dunlap: Three to five videos a day,

[00:40:28] Ilona Maher: all, yeah. And like, you need to be, you need to be on the app. You need to be finding trends. You need to be doing all the stuff. Like, my teammates used to kind of make fun of me for the TikTok. Like, oh, look at low making TikTok. And then they’re like, oh, wait a second. Yeah,

[00:40:40] Tori Dunlap: money. Yep. That was the same thing with me. It was like, oh, you’re giving financial advice on TikTok. It’s still kind of this thing of like, it’s not legitimate. Like people don’t see me, I think as more legitimate. And I was like, yeah, but the amount of money I’ve made on TikTok

[00:40:53] blows everything else outta the water, and it’s the reason we have a successful podcast, and it’s the reason I have a book deal and it’s the reason I have all of these things.

[00:40:59] So, yeah.

[00:41:01] Ilona Maher: it’s just like, I just think of it as, I don’t, I love it too. I like being on TikTok. I like bringing my personality to life on there, but it is work. And I think people are realizing that now, like how much work I put into it. And I mean, you can make fun of me all you want for my TikTok, but I just signed this deal.

[00:41:19] So, or like I, I work with like some makeup brands and I’ll wear like lipstick during practice and like, why are you wearing lipstick? And I’m like, if only you knew, if only you knew

[00:41:27] Tori Dunlap: Yeah.

[00:41:29] you’re like, cause I just got paid a lot of money to do it. So. Yeah. Yeah. And I think, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s something that I think people are finally seen as more legitimate. And then when you start realizing the, for me that like financial advice on TikTok is like meeting people where they are of, okay, if they’re on TikTok and they need this, , then I should, I, I may as well be on TikTok, especially since that’s my target demo.

[00:41:54] I’m not gonna go spend a bunch of time on LinkedIn . I’m not gonna go spend a ton of time on Reddit. Like that’s not where my audience is. They’re on TikTok and if, you know, they’re already there for, I don’t know, dance videos or whatever, you know, they can be there for financial advice too, or they can be there for confidence and laughs and whatever.

[00:42:12] in terms of making money and figuring out brand deals, like how do you go about that?

[00:42:17] Ilona Maher: I think like one thing that I do on TikTok, or one thing I’ve always done is really undervalue myself. Like I, when people are like, oh, what’s your rates? Like for the beginning time there, I was like, oh, you know, I, yeah, I’ll do a TikTok, I can do it.

[00:42:29] Instagram, a TikTok, and I’ll do Instagram stories for $5,000. All of that for $
5,000. And like to me, I was like, that’s a lot. I shouldn’t ask too much of these companies. They may say no. And then that’s been a very interesting time of like people having to tell me like, stop undervaluing yourself. You are worth so much more than that.

[00:42:48] And I’m like, ah, I don’t know. I don’t know if I am, I don’t want, I don’t wanna

[00:42:54] Tori Dunlap: You are, you

[00:42:55] Ilona Maher: I’m still learning , I’m still learning.

[00:42:59] Tori Dunlap: I have literally become the person in the past two years cuz a bunch of people have blown up who have never done this before, who have never negotiated, who, you know, don’t know how to con, you know, talk to a brand. I’ve become like the resident person that like gets the dms.

[00:43:13] Like people will slide my dms and be like, hi, I have 3 million followers and this brand wants to pay me 500. Is that good? And I’m like, no, no it’s not, but. There’s no sort of transparency. Now there’s companies out there that are starting to build like the glass door for influencers, but like, I think we’re still a long ways off to where that’s actually information that is, is useful and super helpful at like a larger level.

[00:43:38] But I think that that’s the huge thing where no one knows what they should be charging. And in addition, most content creators, most influencers are women who we’ve been conditioned to just be grateful and not ask for more money. And then companies have been like, oh, why is she asking for more? And that’s

[00:43:55] Ilona Maher: she doesn’t just want free product. That, that’s weird.

[00:44:00] Tori Dunlap: she can’t pay her, she can’t pay her rent and uh, exposure. That no sense to

[00:44:05] Ilona Maher: I I just said that when like everyone I get all these like, oh, free product, well do you for free product. And I’m like, oh, thanks so much. I actually don’t do that. I will totally do this for this amount. And what’s been really great is I actually have an agent now who I work with who, she’s a woman.

[00:44:21] I was working with a male agent and I didn’t like the way he kind of talked with me and I realized I want someone who’s gonna represent me in a boardroom with a company like who actually is kind of like, who I vibe with, who’s something like me as well. So I work with this woman who she does all my kind of negotiating with companies now, and what she’s able, how she’s able to word.

[00:44:41] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. Your brand deals.

[00:44:42] Ilona Maher: It’s something I would never say like, or is she like, oh man, I can’t wait to create this lasting partnership with you. Alonna is so excited to work with you. Can we move it to this much money to continue? Cuz she’s a female athlete. Like the way that she says things, I’m like, oh my gosh, you’re so right.

[00:44:55] Like, I just, I love her and I love how she’s like, able to get me more money because I, that’s not something I would do. I’d be like, okay, well let me offer like 6,000 for this. No, offer them, say you’ll do it for 13.

[00:45:09] If they come back with nine, say you’ll do it for , you know, 11, 12. So that’s been very tough for me because one thing my sisters, who are also my sisters helped me a lot.

[00:45:18] And they also want me to you know, value myself is that I’m not just a TikTok, I’m an Olympian too. So that I think you, I like, okay, yes, companies want, you’re a TikTok, but you’re so much more than that. Yes.

[00:45:32] Mm-hmm.

[00:45:32] Tori Dunlap: the credibility. Yep. It’s the, it’s the logo behind it of Yeah. Olympic athlete. Yep. Totally. Yeah. And um, you’re not asking also just gonna give this to listeners and if it helps you, great. But I think the two things that I tell anybody who’s negotiating anything, whether that’s, you know, you’re at your nine to five, you’re an entrepreneur, always ask them what their budget is first.

[00:45:53] Because the amount of times, like I have gotten myself, especially early in my career, when I didn’t do that, I would ask for, you know, let’s say $5,000 and then find out, oh

[00:46:02] Ilona Maher: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:46:04] Tori Dunlap: or I could have gotten 20. You know, so what is your budget is like magic. And it’s also helpful when people.

[00:46:13] oh, we don’t have a budget. Cuz they have to say, we want you to work for free. If you go, oh, I’m, I, it sounds like a great product, sounds like a really exciting opportunity. What’s your budget? And then they go um, I, don’t have a budget. And then it’s like, yeah, you sound stupid, don’t you?

[00:46:26] Don’t you think you sound

[00:46:27] Ilona Maher: Are you hearing it?

[00:46:28] Tori Dunlap: So I think that’s, yeah, you’re hearing it right? You’re, you’re writing this email to me right now. You’re gonna respond like this. And then I think the second thing to your point about like the credibility is that it’s so much not just about your influence and about your follower account, it’s about the amount of time it’s create, taking you to create this content.

[00:46:48] You’re basically a one person marketing agency. You’re the one person who’s writing and posting and engaging with that content and doing potential reshoots and coming up with a concept. And like you are a one person, or if you have a team, you know, you are a marketing agency, as an influencer, as a content creator, in addition to.

[00:47:09] The credibility and the followers and all of the clout, you know, that you talking about this product on your platform gives you, and I just wish more people thought of it like that.

[00:47:20] Ilona Maher: a hundred percent. I’m learning still.

[00:47:24] Tori Dunlap: And the agent thing is

[00:47:25] Ilona Maher: Yeah. It’s

[00:47:26] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. . No,

[00:47:27] Ilona Maher: because I get, most of my deals come directly to me. right now. So like at first I’m like, well, why do I need an agent? Like everything I’m getting is coming to me, so I wanna keep all the money, which is great, but I then I’m not getting as much money as I could be getting so that my agent now, like she’s getting me so much more money than I would get.

[00:47:47] Yes. I have to give her some of that. But like creating this partnership together has just been great And like just, I think shows like having someone who knows what your value is when you don’t is just will up your game so much more.

[00:48:04] Tori Dunlap: and you weirdly powerful when you’re having somebody else negotiate on behalf of you. It

[00:48:08] almost like, you know, you like are

[00:48:09] Ilona Maher: Yeah. I won’t be on the call, but my agent will up really busy right now.

[00:48:14] Tori Dunlap: Exactly. Exactly.

[00:48:15] Ilona Maher: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:48:16] Tori Dunlap: like there’s something about that. Right. and I’ve also heard, I’ve actually tried this a little bit as having folks uh, email on behalf of you and then using a male name.

[00:48:26] I’ve had so many people who have done that and like gotten better results when it’s Scott emailing as opposed to, I know Ashley or whatever, you know, it drives me crazy. Um, okay, so you have your bsn, you have your mba. Is that the plan once you’ve retired

[00:48:44] Ilona Maher: it always was the plan to go into nursing, and then with the BSN it’s, or with the mba, it’s now like, okay to be a chief nursing officer or to have a really higher position, and maybe not even in nursing, just be in business in some way. But it’s been definitely an interesting change up now with the influencer content creator, like how many different paths you can take with that as well.

[00:49:06] So that’s been something, but for me, like I wanna play rugby for as long as I can and I’m definitely going for Paris 2024, which is the next Olympics. And then, you know, after that there’s the Olympics in is in LA in 2028 and like to play in a home Olympics like that is something that I might sacrifice my body for to play out there in la.

[00:49:27] So that’s something I’m also thinking about, but definitely taking some time off. I would love to actually take like a time off to focus a little bit more on the content creator side and what I could actually do, if I literally could do it 24 set, like as a just my job, because I think maybe I could grow a little bit, really

[00:49:45] focus on that.

[00:49:46] But it’s also a very scary time because being content creator, from what I know from some of my friends on TikTok and whatnot, it’s like you don’t really know where your income’s gonna be. Whereas I do still have the income from rugby, so I do know I’m gonna get that. But with the TikTok, it’s like hopefully I get an email from this company and they wanna pay me, you know?

[00:50:02] So, , that’s a very stressful time, but I have a lot of things I wanna do, and now with this platform, I really think I can do it.

[00:50:11] Tori Dunlap: Um, I think about other Olympic

[00:50:13] athletes who like went on to commentate. Is that a thing for rugby?

[00:50:16] Ilona Maher: Definitely a lot of opportunities to commentate, but like, that’s what I think is kinda interesting is like a lot of people try to take that route because that’s like, one of the few ways you can really stay in rugby is by being commentator. So like everyone tries to slightly get into that realm.

[00:50:29] And I, and I would love to, do that at some be a spokesperson for something for more rugby. One thing I am doing and I would actually wanna talk to you about is like I’m writing a book myself.

[00:50:38] I was like, sat

[00:50:39] down on Saturday night and I was like, let me just, I’ll just write something too. And then I realized, like, because I always thought I didn’t have enough to tell. And then you start writing, you’re like, you know what? I do

[00:50:48] and I have a lot that I wanna share and like, I wanna be very real in the book.

[00:50:52] I’m just being very real, , and like truly just speaking from who I am. So like, I’d love to get that out there. It’s not gonna be a very inspirational book where you just like, you know, athletes, autobiography’s, like, I was the hardest worker in the room. I was like, I had sex when I was this age, then I did this.

[00:51:05] You know, like I have

[00:51:06] Tori Dunlap: that’s a certain niche that’ll, yeah, but that’ll work great. Right, because everybody’s read those books already, like we don’t need another one of those books. No, and I think especially having any sort of social media audience is, again, I was talking about queen Herbie of like, you don’t get played on the radio unless you blow yourself up on TikTok first.

[00:51:24] It’s very similar with a lot of like book and podcast deals of, it’s a lot easier to get deals and to create shows or other things that are successful if you already have a social media following, like way easier because it’s less risk. It’s just like, you know. , you asking for a loan, right? You go into the bank and you’re like, hi, I would like, I would like money.

[00:51:45] And they’re like, what’s your credit score? Right? Because they’re looking at like, how responsible are you? How are we gonna get our money back? It’s very similar with a book deal because you’re presenting like, hi, you’re gonna give me all this money upfront and then I’m gonna write this book. That hopefully sells a lot easier to guarantee that if you have an

[00:52:01] audience of people who you know will read it.

[00:52:03] Yeah.

[00:52:05] Ilona Maher: So I, I’m really excited. I’ve been talking with my agent, but I think also my agent, like, we don’t really know how to go about it, but like, I wanna figure that out sometime and like see what I can do because

[00:52:15] it’s, it’s very cathartic at times writing as well. So we’ll see if, if I, maybe next year, I don’t

[00:52:22] Tori Dunlap: Couple last questions for you. What misconceptions about being a woman athlete in rugby, do you wish you could clear up?

[00:52:29] Ilona Maher: I think for me, and this goes back to a hashtag that I have, hashtag Beast Beauty Brains is my hashtag. And I feel as though they put a lot of athletes in a box, as I already talked about. They put us in a box as like, we’re masculine and, but we don’t care about anything. And, but I want to be known like I, the most beautiful people I know, the funniest, the smartest people I know are athletes.

[00:52:52] So we’re not just, you know, great at sports, you know, we’re not like dumb and just play sports. Like we have so much more about us. And being, coming from a, a sport like rugby where everyone’s like, oh, you’re, you must be a lesbian. Oh, you’re all this, that they just come in with these stereotypes about you.

[00:53:09] It’s like rugby players are so diverse and we’re so different. We have so much about us that are, it’s more than just being a rugby player. . That’s why like I love to be a beast on a field, but I’ll also wear lips to
get practice. I’m very smart. I’ve gotten my nba, so I just don’t like being put in a box.

[00:53:30] know, they do that with any female athlete, any soccer player, you know, uh, tennis player. So athletes. That’s just a small, smallest part of who we are

[00:53:40] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. And the stereotype of what people expect you to be based on. Yeah. The, the idea that they have in their heads, I feel like Yeah. Whether you’re an athlete or not, women are

[00:53:50] constantly,

[00:53:51] expected to be one thing, you know? Right, right. What do you hope moving forward for women in athletic.

[00:54:03] Ilona Maher: I mean, for myself, for my teammates, just to have a sustainable career, that it can be a career and that, , they can live comfortably, especially in those niche sports. where they can’t make it. I think Allison Felix is doing a good job also with, being able to have a child and still play sports. That hasn’t really been done on my team before.

[00:54:25] We haven’t had anyone, anyone who’s had a child, it’s been a very tough time. Or like people have like quit cuz they’ve had childs or they’ve like had the child and haven’t come back from it. So that is something like, that’s, I would love to have a kid just to show people like , no, you can do this.

[00:54:39] I look at the men’s team and some of these men’s players have three kids and they can just do what they wanna do. Whereas us like women, we can’t really do that. You couldn’t have three kids and do what we do.

[00:54:49] Tori Dunlap: Well, and just beyond, you know, the, the actual parenting of a child, the physical

[00:54:58] expecta or the physical commitment to having children alters your body in a way that you can’t really come back from.

[00:55:06] Ilona Maher: Just rip your abs in half, you

[00:55:07] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. Right. Well, and even if you have like a relatively, you know, traumatic free pregnancy, like you’re still, you’re literally birthing another person.

[00:55:19] So I, yeah. Right, right.

[00:55:22] Ilona Maher: Yep.

[00:55:24] Tori Dunlap: So I think I, I hope that too, . I hope that you’re able to, yeah. To, to celebrate all of the things you want to do as, you know, a woman while also being able to be an athlete, you know, and having, having both of those things or

[00:55:36] all of those

[00:55:37] Ilona Maher: sure.

[00:55:38] Tori Dunlap: Thank you for being here. Where can people

[00:55:40] Ilona Maher: Thank you

[00:55:40] Tori Dunlap: with?

[00:55:42] Ilona Maher: Um, on TikTok, as you know, they may have heard or not. I do a little on TikTok, uh, it’s @ilonamaher, and then I do, Instagram of course @ilonamaher. I sometimes say funny things on Twitter, but not often. And then I think one thing is just like, if you can check out rugby, whenever we play, it’s sometimes hard to watch, but if there’s rugby, amen.

[00:56:03] Check it out. If we’re playing a tournament, tune in. If you can. Like, I think if more people got to see what this sport is like, they’d be like, this is.

[00:56:10] Tori Dunlap: Yeah,

[00:56:11] Ilona Maher: And I’ll keep doing my thing. You know, the Olympics is in two years, so maybe I’ll do a little bit there as well.

[00:56:17] Tori Dunlap: I love it. Thanks for being here.

[00:56:19] Ilona Maher: Thank you so much. This is great.

Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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