Dunlap was born in 1954, in Newark, New Jersey. She started competing in sports with gymnastics at age 10. She later competed in swimming, both speed and synchronized. Dunlap attended the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts on a full scholarship, earning a degree in Advertising Design. She won the gold medal in synchronized swimming in the 1977 Junior National Team Championships, and a bronze medal at the inaugural National Sports Festival in 1978.