Olivia Jade Giannulli isn’t making excuses for her headline-making college admissions scandal. The 21-year-old daughter of Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli appeared on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk on Tuesday and candidly talked about recognizing her privilege and learning from the experience.
Both of Olivia Jade’s parents are currently serving their prison sentences after pleading guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud. Giannulli and Loughlin paid $500,000 in bribes to get both Olivia Jade and their eldest daughter, 22-year-old Bella, admitted to the University of Southern California as recruits for the crew team, though neither of them had ever participated in the sport. They initially pleaded not guilty to all charges leveled against them, claiming their payments were donations to the school and not bribes.
“I think that what hasn’t been super public is that there is no justifying or excusing what happened,” Olivia Jade said bluntly at the red table. “Because what happened was 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 is so important to me is to learn from the mistake, not to now be shamed and punished and never given a second chance, because I am 21. I feel like I deserve a second chance to redeem myself, to show I have grown.”
“That’s why it’s hard because I’m not trying to come off like … I am not trying to victimize myself,” she continued. “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 am 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.”
Olivia Jade admitted on Red Table Talk that she didn’t initially understand that what her parents did was wrong, given that many people in her community did similar actions.
“When all of 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?'” she recalled. “I know that sounds so silly 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 kids were donating to schools and doing stuff …. so many advantages, it’s not fair and its not right, but it was happening. And so when this first came out I was like, ‘I don’t really understand, what is wrong with this?'”
She implied that her parents had a similar mindset.
“I just want people to know, they were just, like, in their heads,” she said. “It was like, ‘Everybody has a college counselor and I will just donate to a school like all my friends did with their kids,’ and I think what is crazier is how so many people in our area don’t recognize that it’s wrong. I think although it took a crazy experience for me and my family to realize that, I am happy that we do. That will never happen when I have kids — that will never happen.”
Olivia Jade said she now specifically regrets the YouTube video she posted in August 2018 that later went viral after the college admissions scandal hit the news, in which she said she didn’t even want to go to school but just wanted the partying experience.
“I didn’t realize at the time that this was privilege,” she noted. “I didn’t put those two together. I was like, ‘This is what everybody does and my parents worked really hard and I don’t understand.’ That’s not how it should be and unfortunately, that’s how it was. I am grateful to the situation to see that big difference and change in my own mind. … It’s embarrassing that I ever said those types of things. Not only said them, but edited it, uploaded it and then saw the response to realize it was wrong. There was no malicious intent behind it. I was never trying to hurt anybody or say those things to brag about my life. I was just oblivious.”
Olivia Jade also tried to explain where her parents were coming from when it came to their actions.
“I can understand how wrong it is and we had the means to do something and we completely took it and ran with it and it’s something that was wrong,” she said. “It really can’t be excused, like on paper it’s bad, it’s really bad. But I think what a lot of people don’t know is my parents came from a place of, ‘I love my kids, I just want to help my kids, whatever is best for them. I have worked my whole life to provide for my family.’ I think they thought it was normal. And I think that there was a college counselor involved who seemed legitimate and ended up not being legitimate, and in that community, it was not out of the ordinary, and it’s embarrassing to say that I didn’t know.”
Olivia Jade said she hasn’t spoken to either of her parents since they began serving their prison sentences. Loughlin began her two-month prison sentence on Oct. 30 at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California, while Giannulli began his five-month prison sentence on Nov. 19 at USP Lompoc in Santa Barbara, California.
“There’s a quarantine phase just because of COVID, so I think that is the reason but I am not too sure, I just haven’t heard anything so I am just waiting,” she said. “I have never gone that long without … I am super close with my parents, especially my mom, she is like my best friend. It definitely has been really hard not being able to talk to her and I know she is strong and I know it is a good reflection period. I’m trying to look at the positives in situations. I know that it’s a positive. She is there right now, she gets to rethink everything that happened, kind of figure out when she comes out what she wants to do with what she’s learned from all of this. I think that hopefully will be a blessing in the end.”
At the very top of the Red Table Talk episode, Jada’s mother, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, expressed that she was very much against giving Olivia Jade a platform to speak.
“I found it really ironic that she chose three Black women to reach out to for her redemption story,” she said. “I feel like here we are, a white woman coming to Black women for support 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.”
Meanwhile, Jada and her 20-year-old daughter, Willow, took a softer stance and welcomed her on the show. Olivia Jade was nervous as she came to the table, and said she wasn’t there to justify her parents’ actions and in fact welcomed Adrienne’s criticism. She stressed that she herself has definitely learned from the experience and explained her reasons for wanting to appear on Red Table Talk.
“I think what was important was for me to come here and say I am sorry,” she said. “I acknowledge what was wrong and I wasn’t able to say that for so long, so I think people almost thought, ‘Oh, she must not care, that must have not affected her and she was not moved by that.’ I took my privilege and all my blessings for granted and I never thought anything of it and that’s what really wrecked me. This is wrong, you need to talk about this, you need to do it publicly because the situation was public and then you need to move forward and do better.”
“I didn’t come on here to, like, try and win people over and say I really need people to like me,” she also said. “I just want to apologize for contributing to these social inequalities …. even though I didn’t realize it at the time, but being able to come here and recognize that I am aware.”
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