Former University of Southern California student and beauty influencer Olivia Jade Giannulli — daughter of Hollywood star Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli — spoke out for the first time Tuesday since the college admission scandal rocked the nation in 2019.
On the Facebook web series “Red Table Talk” hosted by actress Jada Pinkett Smith, her mother Adrienne Banfield Norris and daughter Willow, Giannulli said it was time to open up about the experience and how it shaped her path on becoming a more “aware” person who was in a “bubble” from birth.
“This has been a really eye-opening experience for me. It’s led me to have a completely different outlook on a lot of situations. What happened was wrong. I think every single person in my family can be like, ‘that was messed up, that was a big mistake.’ I understand why people are angry. I understand why people say hurtful things. I would too if I wasn't in my boat. I think I had to go through the backlash, and the stuff, because when you read it you realize there’s like some truth in it,” Olivia Jade Giannulli said.
Federal prosecutors indicted more than 50 people in the “Operation Varsity Blues” college admissions cheating scheme, the largest college admittance scam ever charged by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Laughlin is serving a two-month sentence and Mossimo Giannulli is serving five months. College counselor Rick Singer — the mastermind behind the scam — says he helped more than 750 families. He pleaded guilty to money laundering, obstructing justice, racketeering and tax evasion. He faces up to 65 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.
The show’s co-host, Banfield Norris, wasn’t sold on the idea of giving Giannulli a platform.
“I just found it really ironic that she chose three Black women to reach out to for her redemption story. I feel like here we are … white woman coming to Black women. What’s the point when we don’t get the same from them. It’s bothersome to me on so many levels. Her being here is the epitome of white privilege to me,” stressed Banfield Norris.
Pinkett Smith had more empathy for the 21-year old.
“This is a practice of compassion. To me, this young girl is reaping the repercussions of some actions of her parents. When I heard her story, it just reminded me of Jaden, Willow and Trey,” she said.
Giannulli understood Banfield Norris’ sentiments and made no excuses.
“I understand that I, just based on my skin color, I already had my foot in the door and I was already ahead of everybody else. I think i can 100% recognize that. … When it first happened, I was like, ‘why is everybody complaining, I’m confused about what we did.’ ... I was in my own little bubble focusing on my comfortable world. I never had to look outside of that bubble. ... And that’s embarrassing to admit. I walked around my whole 20 years of life not realizing like, ‘you have insane privilege. You’re like the poster child of white privilege and you had no idea.’ … I understand that people are upset and angry, and maybe it took me a little bit longer to realize what for, but man am I glad I did realize what for. ... I totally, totally understand if people aren’t ready to jump on board with me,” she said.
Giannulli said she’s been unable to talk about it over the last year for legal reasons, and now was the time for a public apology.
“I think what’s so important to me is to learn from the mistake, not to now be shamed and punished and never given a second chance. I’m 21, I feel like I deserve a second chance to redeem myself, to show I’ve grown. … I didn’t come on here to like win people over. I just want to apologize for contributing to these social inequalities, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, she said.