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All Hail Erica Sullivan, Olympic Silver Medalist, Swiftie, and Queer Icon

Photo: Patrick B Kraemer/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

On Tuesday, Olympic newcomer Erica Sullivan made history in the Olympics’ first ever women’s swimming 1,500m freestyle race, bringing home the silver medal for America. Yes, she was the first ever woman to win a silver medal in the Olympic event — the 20-year-old’s first medal — but Sullivan made history in other ways too. Representation matters: Erica is representing America as an Asian American, an out and proud queer woman, and, yes … a Swiftie.

Since her win, queer female fans have been flocking to Erica’s Twitter page, where many — myself included — have discovered that Erica is truly one of us. The Las Vegas native is seemingly a part of every queer-girl fandom, spanning the Swifties to the Harmonizers, the Cazzie shippers to Shoni shippers (if you know, you know). But now that she’s become a beacon of inspiration as a loudly gay Olympian, she’s sprouted her own fandom; people have already fan-cammed her win (set to “Wonderland” by Taylor Swift). And she’s decided to spend her newfound silver-medal clout on DMing her faves, like Mia Healey and Erana James of The Wilds, and shooting her shot.

I called Erica and talked to her about her medal, begged for Olympic Village tea, and shrieked with her about hot girls.

Because I’ve never talked to an Olympian, and I’m gooped, can you tell me: Literally what do you do after you win a medal?

I hug my coach. I do the whole medal stand, the media, the press conference, all that stuff. And then you go to drug testing. Like as soon as you get out of the water, there’s a drug tester waiting and like, they will follow you until you have to pee. Like, you get out of the water and they follow you to the podium.

Olympic Village TikTok is popping off. What’s it like there? Spill the tea on the USWNT.

So the soccer team was not in the Village. Very disappointing. It’s like a bunch of apartment complexes and Team USA has their own building. Swimming is on the fourth floor. But if I found out the women’s national soccer team was here, I’d be trick-or-treating down these halls just waiting for Tobin Heath, Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, or any of those queens to open their doors.

Tobin, wake UP.

Like, excuse me! But yeah, it’s basically like summer camp. My [Olympic Village] apartment complex is a bunch of my friends who I’ve been on Team USA trips with since I was 17. We pretty much just hang out in our apartment and just do a bunch of stupid shit that 20- and 19-year-olds would do. The only difference is that we’re bringing home a bunch of medals. We have a total of six medals in this room right now.

Crazy. So you DMed Mia Healey and Erana James. How did that go?

I DMed them when I first got verified. When I was packing for Olympic trials, I was watching The Wilds. So the minute I got the blue check mark, I hit them up. Honestly, I was so sleep-deprived after [doing] media, it was like 2 a.m. I decided to do a follow-up message to be like, “Hi queen, I won a silver medal today, so like, can you notice me?” Just YOLO it, whatever. Then I went to bed, woke up, and it had exploded. Mia had responded, later that day Erana responded, the whole cast and crew — Shannon [Berry] has since responded — it’s been insane. I don’t think it’s real. Like, I just shitpost on Twitter, and now they’re all paying attention to me?!

You have silver medal clout. Who are you going to shoot your shot with next?

So many people have asked me if I’m single. I’m like, I am still the same gay girl I was before all this. I’ve had a crush on the same girl for three years now. The yearning gets you every time.

Okay, I’m going to rapid-fire ask you about fandoms. Let’s start with the most chaotic one: Harmonizers. Fifth Harmony.

Oh man, that was a phase. I joined the fandom straight and I left gay. We’ll just leave it at that. I cried when Camila [Cabello] left Fifth Harmony. I had a swim meet that day and I spent the whole morning sobbing my eyes out.

Cazzie shippers/Atypical.

Oh my God, I love Fivel Stewart. But my person, Brigette Lundy-Paine, they are an icon. If Brigette Lundy-Paine would like to reach out to me, that would be awesome too. But I can’t DM them ’cause they don’t have Instagram.

That’s hurtful. Clexa/The 100.

That ship really sailed — it ended horribly! But I have their Funko Pops in my room, which is embarrassing and so nerdy.

Ellie Chu and Aster Flores.

[The Half of It] was such a wholesome movie and it got me through quarantine. Also, Alexxis Lemire and Leah Lewis are SO fine.

Taylor Swift. Let’s get into it.

Love my queen Taylor Swift. She’s been releasing bops all year. She’s been feeding us. I feel fed from her. She is friends with everyone I want to be friends with, like Cara Delevingne or Camila Cabello. You know how she sang the song “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” because like, people stab you in the back? Girl, I am nothing but a mere weasel compared to you. I will not stab you in the back. I will be the bestest friend ever! And my apartment-mate, Emma Weyant, is also a Swiftie. We’ve been talking about her music and her merch drops.

Favorite album?

1989. I love 1989. I’m a reputation stan. I think people hate on the album for no good reason. And folklore. I love folklore, more than evermore.

Favorite Taylor song?

The girl I like, her favorite song was “All Too Well,” so I became very attached to that one by association. But my personal favorite is “Story of Us.”

Justice for “Story of Us”! What other pop stars or music fandoms are you into?

Love me some Clairo. Respect the Harry Styles. I do a lot of indie. I love the gay yearning. Gay yearning music is my jam. So a lot of the Japanese House. Also Olivia Rodrigo … queen.

Who’s your ultimate ship?

Me and Hailee Steinfeld.

Nice. Favorite woman in a suit?

Victoria Pedretti at the 2019 MTV Movie Awards.

Perfect, thank you for humoring me through all of that. What’s next for you? You’ve said on Twitter you’re writing a movie.

I deferred college for three years to train for these games. So I’m going to Austin to continue my film career, my educational career, and my swim career. I’m gonna go another quad, I’m gonna try and go for 2024, that’s the plan. But hopefully after that I can focus on my film career.

Finally, how does it feel to represent America in this way, as an out and proud queer woman?

So many people have been reaching out and being like, “You’re an inspiration!” And it’s very humbling because at the end of the day, I’m just the gay weirdo on stan Twitter. But it’s always an honor to put those stars and stripes on my head because I think in the last year, the American flag has kind of brought a negative connotation, and I feel like people who wave it proud are, you know, people who don’t really represent America well. I want to change the narrative to be like, no, the American flag is a good thing and it doesn’t just represent the people who don’t approve of us and approve of our lifestyles, but more so, it’s the fact that we are all universally unique, and it’s for the gays. It’s for the queer people. It’s for the woman. It’s for everyone of different ethnicities. It’s meant for everyone. I think it’s time that we claim that narrative again.

Fangirling With Silver Medalist and Swiftie Erica Sullivan