April 17, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Olivia Jade spills tea on college scandal on ‘Red Table Talk’

Don’t feel bad for Olivia Jade Giannulli — just give her a second chance to show she has changed.

That’s what the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin and designer Mossimo Giannulli said Tuesday on Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk” Facebook series where the rising social media star broke her silence on the college admissions scandal that sent her parents to prison.

Loughlin and her husband pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud after paying a total of $500,000 to advisor William “Rick” Singer to get their daughters into USC as rowing recruits. She started her two-month sentence in federal prison in Victorville at the end of October, while Giannulli started serving his five-month term in Lompoc Nov. 19.

Olivia Jade Giannulli remembered the moment she first heard her parents were in trouble, while she was on spring break in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. A friend called her asking if she had heard, and her first move was to search her mom’s name online, where the scandal was everywhere.

“I was sitting with a group of friends, and I knew any second everybody 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,” she said.

She said that at the time, she didn’t understand 100% what had happened. But she also never went back to school at USC.

“I was too embarrassed,” Giannulli said. “And 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.”

The question of white privilege was front and center during the “Red Table Talk” chat, having been discussed in advance by cohosts Pinkett Smith, “Gammy” Adrienne Banfield Norris and Willow Smith before Giannulli sat down. Norris stated plainly that she hadn’t wanted Giannulli on the show to use a space with three Black women to help chart her course to redemption.

Willow Smith said she felt like she was in the middle between Norris’ sentiments and those of her mother, who was more open to listening to the influencer, who lost brand deals, social media followers and more when the scandal hit.

“This young girl is reaping the repercussions of some actions of her parents,” Jada said. “When I heard her story, it just reminded me of [my children] Jaden, Willow and Trey.”

But Giannulli didn’t seem to want to escape anything. She was upfront about her journey to realizing how good she’d had it — and how oblivious she’d been to it all.

“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,” Giannulli said.

Actress Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli, left, depart federal court in Boston in 2019 after facing charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal.

(Steven Senne / Associated Press)

What she wants, at 21 years old, is a second chance to restart her life. She wants to redeem herself.

“I’m not trying to victimize myself. 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 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.”

Giannulli said she hasn’t been able to talk to her parents since they went behind bars, which has been particularly difficult because she’s very close with her mom.

“We did all of this and were so ignorant, and I feel like a huge part of having privilege is not knowing you have privilege. So when it was happening, it didn’t feel wrong. … I was in my own little bubble, focusing about my comfortable world, that I didn’t have to look outside that bubble.”

She recalled with some horror the notorious YouTube video where she talked about wanting to experience the party aspects of college but not caring much about getting an education.

“OK, Olivia, the fact that you were on YouTube and you were saying stuff like I don’t wanna go to school, I just wanna go party at school,” Giannulli said. “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 that I ever said those types of things.” And, she noted, she not only said those things for her YouTube video but “edited it, uploaded it and then saw the response,” all before she realized it was wrong.

Still, she said, there was no malicious intent behind anything she said or did. She was just “oblivious.”

Norris, who is Jada Pinkett Smith’s mother, challenged Olivia Jade, asking if she truly knows now what white privilege is.

“I’m trying, I’m starting … it’s taking me a minute to do,” Giannulli said as she talked about working with underprivileged kids at an afterschool program in Watts recently and being so impressed by the fact that they valued little things — like quiet time to do homework — while she had always taken those things for granted.

But Gammy Norris was holding firm. And went hard.

“I’m exhausted,” she said. “I’m exhausted with everything that we have to deal with as a community, and I just don’t have the energy to put into the fact that you lost your endorsements, or you’re not in school right now, because at the end of the day you’re going to be OK. … It makes it very difficult right now for me to care in this atmosphere that we are in right now. A year from now, I might feel differently.”

Norris also noted that while she had emphasized race during the talk, the situation was about more than that.

“The measures that were taken to get you into a college or university doesn’t have to do with race. It’s people who have worked hard to earn the right to be in that college and your parents’ decision to pay somebody … whatever it is that they did. … That doesn’t have to do with race, that just has to do with financial privilege and entitlement,” Norris said.

“I think what’s crazier is how so many people in our area don’t recognize that it’s wrong …,” said Giannulli. “I’m glad we do.”

Pinkett Smith called Giannulli “brave” for coming to the Red Table for what Olivia Jade revealed was her first interview.

“I don’t know too many young women in your position that would come and sit with the three of us!,” she said.

The wrath of Gam is no joke!,” added daughter Willow.

The Olivia Jade Giannulli episode of “Red Table Talk” is available now on Facebook.