21-year-old Olivia Jade Giannulli was already already enrolled at USC when the news broke that her parents, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, had been arrested in connection with a college admissions scam that saw wealthy parents paying bribes and submitting falsified applications to secure their kids attendance at elite colleges. Humiliated, Olivia left USC and never went back, as the press pulled up old YouTube videos of her saying “I don’t care about school” and sponsors for the burgeoning YouTube star pulled out right and left. Now, over a year later, Olivia asked to come on Red Table Talk and share her side of the story, and it’s clear that things have changed drastically since she first got the news.
Olivia’s first reaction, as described on RTT to hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith, and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, was one of mortification as she wondered how quickly her friends would find out. But after that, she’s embarrassed to admit what her next reaction was.
“When all this first happened and it became public, I remember thinking — which my thoughts are completely different now — but I remember thinking, “how are people mad about this?” Olivia admits. “But in the bubble I grew up in, I didn’t know so much outside of it, and a lot of kids in that bubble their parents were donating to school and doing stuff that advantaged them.
“So when it first came out, I thought I don’t really understand what’s wrong with this. I didn’t realize at the time, that’s privilege,” she adds.
Olivia asked the hosts of RTT if she could come on for the express purpose of clarifying that she now understands how wrong it was what her family did, that she’s educated herself on why it was so wrong, and that she’s committed to recognizing and working against social inequities going forward.
“Ok Olivia, the fact that you were on YouTube and you were saying stuff like ‘I don’t care about school,'” Olivia remembers telling herself. “The fact that you even could say those things just proves how fortunate you were. That sits with me and makes me cringe.”
Olivia says that both her parents apologized to her when she confronted them about what they’d done (per court records, that includes paying a $500,000 bribe and pretending their daughters were crew recruits), but she also believes they were lulled into a false sense of what was okay because of the privileged bubble they lived in.
“I really felt most moved by the fact that we did all of this and were so ignorant,” Olivia says. “I feel like a huge part of having privilege is not knowing you have privilege. And so when it was happening it didn’t feel wrong, it didn’t feel like, that’s not fair, a lot of people don’t have that.”
“I understand why people are angry and I understand why people say hurtful things and I think I would too if I wasn’t in my boat,” she continues. “And I think I had to go through the backlash and stuff because when you read it, you realize that there’s some truth in it. I understood that people were upset and angry and maybe it took me a little bit longer to understand what for — but man, am I glad I did realize what for.”
Olivia says explicitly that she doesn’t want pity; but she does want a second chance. Recognizing why her family’s actions were so hurtful was the first step she needed to take, and we’re curious to see if and how her journey continues.
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