Dami Olonisakin wrote her first blogpost in 2008. That morning she’d been to church with her mum and younger sister, where the sermon had focused on abortion and why worshippers shouldn’t terminate a pregnancy – and the 18 year old was angry. So she went to her bedroom and took to her keyboard.
Today, she shares her views with 110,000 Twitter followers, 58,000 Instagram fans, and 50,000 podcast listeners, who know her better as Oloni. She tries to create a safe space in which women can feel comfortable talking about their sexuality; a digital version of the women’s toilets. “Where one girl is crying her eyes out because she doesn’t know what to do about her ex and strangers are giving her compliments and telling her she’s great.”
Her digital ambitions have also caught the attention of producers keen to bring them to television – earlier this year, she was rumoured to be in touch with the Love Island team. But she won’t be heading to the villa: “Love Island is a great show,” she says. ”[But] if I went on Love Island it’d be to be an expert not a contestant as that role would suit me more.”
Does she think the criticisms of the show’s diversity are valid? ”[It] is doing what it needs to do in terms of love for young singles. I think they have a great mix of diversity this year and hope it remains so.”
“Straight men can’t stand me, they hate that I celebrate my sexuality."”
Opinions are what make Oloni a brand, rather than another social media star: she estimates she spends between five and six hours a day updating her social platforms – from the kind of threads about dating apps and oral sex, cheating, and ‘situationships’ that have made her name, to thoughts on Greggs pasties, skincare, and who is the greater pop princess - Britney or Rihanna? (Oloni’s backing Britney).
Her advice is so trusted, that fans now pay £90 for an hour-long phone consultation to help fix their problems, and are helping crowdfund her first book: a relationships bible. Sexual health charity Brook this year chose her as an ambassador for their work. She seems the perfect modern agony aunt.
But she also regularly gets trolled. “My platform is dedicated to women [but] I’ve come across a lot of guys who don’t like me in their girlfriend’s ears telling her: ‘Sis you can do better. Sis break up with him’. Straight men can’t stand me.” She doesn’t back down in the face of their aggression because she wants the women these men are dating to think about why their partner is so enraged. “They hate that I celebrate my sexuality,” she says.
Oloni was doing a work experience stint at Cosmopolitan when she first realised that black women were underserved in coverage of sex and relationships. “I felt the culture of dating and hook-up culture for a black woman and a white woman were different. Black women were being quiet about sex but it didn’t mean we weren’t having it,” she says.
So she decided to fill the gap in the market. “People started sending me emails every day presuming I had the answers to their problems when I was just as clueless as they were,” she laughs. Whether she felt qualified or not – she has no formal counselling qualifications – the numbers following and listening to her started growing, and didn’t stop.
Oloni’s background didn’t point towards a future as figurehead for the female sex positivity movement – her family didn’t even speak openly about the female anatomy, let alone sex. Aged eight, she asked her mum about sanitary towels after seeing an advert; her mum said she would work it out herself when she was older. When, as a teenager, Oloni came home with condoms after sexual health workers visited her school, her mum, a Christian, confiscated the packet because “she wouldn’t need to use them”.
Now it’s Oloni that works in schools, where she talks to students about consent. The sexual landscape has changed since she wrote her first blogpost, but many of the same issues persist, she argues – women are still fighting for abortion rights, and there remains a lack of understanding about the importance of consent, where #MeToo has helped, but the problem is far from solved.
In school she tells students: “A girl doesn’t want you to be pulling on her bra strap in the playground. That same culture moves into nightclubs where men are touching women. They need to know as kids.”
Children are now more ‘woke’ than her generation, she notes – “Even if they’re learning this from a meme page they see the stories of Harvey Weinstein, R Kelly, Bill Cosby, they know what’s right.” – but they’re also living in a more sexualised world. “To watch porn [in the nineties] you’d have to go downstairs, use the family computer, use a dial up landline connection that would cut out, download something from LimeWire,” she says. “Now they have a laptop in their bedroom and can watch anything.” For the first time in our conversation she sounds worried.
It’s not just children who worry her. Two days ago, a woman posted an anecdote on a Twitter thread of lighthearted tales of dating mishaps, which sounded a lot like sexual assault. When Oloni messaged her privately, she explained that she knew a man had spiked her drink when she went to the loo – it tasted weird and she’d seen the pills in his bag – but that she’d still had sex with him because she felt compelled to do so. Other women have shared stories of men ‘stealthing’ (taking off a condom mid-way through sex); men pulling up their skirts and trying to and touch their vagina; even rape.
The easy familiarity, and impression of closeness, the ‘girl’s toilets’ atmosphere means women offload on Oloni in a way she’s not always be prepared for. People trust she will offer sincere advice because they’ve seen thousands of others going to her with problems. That longevity is part of what makes her brand so successful. But also, she is just nice. In a world of hot takes, Twitter takedowns and people being cancelled, this is important.
Does she feel overwhelmed? “I do have to be careful. It opens my eyes to these experiences, I hear a lot more than the average joe. But the fact people are able to trust me and continue trusting me - it makes me feel special.” Special indeed.