Lori Loughlin’s beauty influencer daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli has given her first interview since her parents Lori and Mossimo Giannulli were arrested in the college cheating scandal for allegedly paying $500,000 to make it appear that Olivia and her sister Bella were rowing team recruits to guarantee their admission to the University of Southern California. Olivia appeared on Red Table Talk on Facebook Watch with Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and Willow Smith, and it was not some softball redemption interview.
Olivia was asked by Pinkett Smith and her mother Banfield-Norris about her white privilege and how much she understood about people’s outrage over Olivia getting into USC through money and bribery instead of merit. In the middle of the interview, Banfield-Norris told Olivia point blank she hadn’t wanted her to come on the show, and that it was hard for her to have compassion for Olivia’s situation given all that has happened to the Black community this year. Olivia said, “I didn’t come on here to try and win people over, like oh, I really need people to like me. I came here to apologize for contributing to these social inequalities. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, being able to come here and recognize that I am aware.”
Olivia did not go into specifics about her parents’ crimes and talked repeatedly about there being no excuse for them; the family and the people around Olivia were blind to their privilege. “They [my parents] were just in their heads like, ‘Everybody has a college counselor. And I’m just going to donate to a school like all my friends did with their kids,'” Olivia said. “And I think what’s crazier is how so many people in our area like, don’t recognize that it’s wrong. I think although it took a crazy experience for me and my family to realize that, I’m happy that we do. When I have kids, that’ll never happen. I just hope people can see that. I just want to move forward and I totally, totally understand if people aren’t ready to jump on board with me. But I’m here because I want to leave it on the table.”
Here, the biggest takeaways on what Olivia said about everything:
How it’s been with her parents in prison: “It’s been hard. I think for anybody no matter what the situation is, you don’t want to see your parents go to prison. But also I think it’s necessary for us to move on and move forward.”
“I think what hasn’t been super public is there is no justifying or excusing what happened because what happened is wrong, and I think every single person in my family can be like that was messed up. That was a big mistake, but I think what’s so important to me is that like, to learn from the mistake. Not to now be shamed and punished and never given a second chance because I’m 21. I feel like I deserve a second chance to redeem myself, to show I’ve grown.”
Olivia hasn’t spoken to Lori (who she called her “best friend”) or Mossimo since they’ve gone to jail: “I actually haven’t spoken to either of them [since they’ve been in prison]. There’s a quarantine phase, just ’cause of COVID, so I think that is the reason, but I’m not too—I just haven’t heard anything, so I’m just waiting.”
On finding out her parents were arrested while on spring break: “I just remember getting a call, and it was like, ‘Hey, Liv, have you talked to your mom?’ And I was like, ‘No. Why?'” Olivia looked her mother’s name up and saw articles everywhere. “I was sitting with a group of friends and I knew any second, everyone was going to know too if they didn’t already, and I remember just like, freezing and feeling so ashamed, I went home and hid myself for probably like three or four months. And school was still in session. I was technically, after spring break, I was going back to school and I felt so ashamed and embarrassed and although I didn’t really 100 percent understand what just had happened because there was a lot that—when I was applying, I was not fully aware of what was going on. So when I got home, I just felt so ashamed. I was just like, ‘I can’t go back there. This is wrong.’ But I just remember feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and getting the hell home.”
“I never went back [to USC]. I was too embarrassed. You know what? I shouldn’t have been there in the first place clearly, so there was no point in me trying to go back.”
On how her privilege as a young, beautiful, wealthy white woman has made this situation much easier than it would be for others: “That’s why it’s hard because I’m not trying to come across as ‘aw, this situation,’ like I’m not trying to victimize myself. I don’t want pity. I don’t deserve pity. We messed up. I just want a second chance to be like I recognize I messed up. And for so long, I wasn’t able to talk about this because of the legalities behind it. I never got to say, ‘I’m really sorry that this happened’ or ‘I really own that this was a big mess-up on everybody’s part.’ But I think everybody feels that way in my family right now.”
“I really felt most moved by the fact that we did all of this and we’re so ignorant, and 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 was in my own little bubble focusing about my comfortable world that I never had to look outside of that bubble. But I also felt very misunderstood. The picture that has been painted of me I feel like is not who I am. I’m not this bratty girl who doesn’t want to change anything. And also I understand why people are angry and I understand why people say hurtful things and I would too if I wasn’t in my boat. I think I had to go through the backlash and stuff because when you read it, you realize 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. Better late than never.”
On those videos where she said she hated school and not understanding her privilege initially: “A lot of kids in that bubble [I grew up in], their parents were donating to schools and doing stuff that advantaged their—so many advantages. It’s not fair, and it’s not right, but it was happening. And so when this first came out, I was like, I don’t really understand what’s wrong with this. I didn’t realize at the time that that’s privilege. I didn’t put those two and two together. I was like, well, this is what everybody does, and my parents worked really hard, so I don’t understand. But that’s not how it should be but unfortunately, that’s how it was. And I’m grateful for the situation to see that big change and that big difference in my own mind to know, okay, Olivia, the fact that you were on YouTube, and you were saying stuff like ‘I don’t want to go to school. I just want to go party at school.’ Like the fact that you could even say those things just shows how fortunate you were, that you didn’t have to worry about that, that you knew you were going to be ok without it. And that sits with me and makes me cringe, and it’s embarrassing I ever said those types of things and not only said them but edited, uploaded it, and then saw the response to realize it was wrong. There was no malicious intent behind it….I was just oblivious. ”
On how she felt about what happened to her parents initially and confronting them: “To be honest, I wasn’t angry [when this happened to my parents]. And I think it’s because I didn’t have a good understanding of what just happened. I didn’t see the wrong in it. I 100 percent honestly when it first happened, I didn’t look at it and say ‘oh my god, like how dare we do this?’ I was like ‘why is everybody complaining? I’m confused by what we did.’ And that’s embarrassing to admit. That’s embarrassing within itself that I walked around my whole 20 years of life not realizing you have insane privilege. You’re like the poster child of white privilege. You had no idea. And so I think that although I’ve had a really strong relationship with my mom and dad my whole life, I was definitely confused when this all came out and I went and confronted them about everything. They didn’t have that much to say other than ‘I’m so sorry. I really messed up in trying to give the best to you and your sister.’ And they’re my family and I’ve known them since I was out the womb so I know they’re good people and that I’m not going to judge them for a mistake they made and although it’s a big one, they’re going to pay the price for it and regardless of what people say, I’ve seen them day in and day out and how they’ve received all of this and I know that they’ve struggled.
On why was it so important for Bella and Olivia to go to USC: “I really believe my dad has attachment issues and didn’t want us to leave California for starters. I think he just loves his kids and we’re his two daughters and wanted them close. My mom really for most the time when I was applying to schools was in Canada shooting a movie. She was involved in my whole childhood but when it came to that, she was like, ‘Moss, you handle it, I’m out. I’m going to work now,’ because she put off so much work to raise us. So she felt like she got us to an age where we can handle ourselves and then she went back to working. So I think having us close to home was a big one. I think knowing that he knew a lot of people that went there and had all these amazing experiences. he was so tunnel vision on the college experience, and ‘I just want them to have an amazing education, and I can give that to them.’ Neither of them went to college. So I think it was important to them: ‘We didn’t get to have that, so I want to give it to you.’ But they wanted to give it to us a little too much.”
On how her sister Bella is doing: “She’s also learned a lot. She’s kind of more laidback and relaxed. So she’s a little bit calmer than I am throughout this in terms of just feeling emotional with like my parents being away or whatever, is although—it’s hard because I don’t want to come across like woe is me. I know people go through way worse. I’m just speaking from my personal experience. I’m still a human with feelings.”
On her getting into USC over people who actually earned a place there: “I think what was hard for me too is I worked my ass off in high school. I wasn’t slacking. I don’t want to discredit myself to the point where I was like I have all this and then also I didn’t care. I really did care. I was always a very involved student. I think I put a lot of trust into a person who claimed their profession was college counseling [Rick Singer, who pled guilty to pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and obstruction of justice; he now faces a maximum of 65 years in prison but hasn’t yet been sentenced] and it’s not to shift blame, it’s just to explain that I wasn’t aware of what was going on. But I did work hard and when this did come out, I was a little confused when I saw stuff about what I had written on my application, and I remember writing on my application about my YouTube channel and VidCon, and they were two very different things. And so there was a lot of it where I was like, ‘Whoa.’ I’m sitting, reading things online and I’m like if only people knew how bad I feel that this happened.”
You can watch Olivia’s full interview here and below:
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