Appearing on Facebook Watch’s Red Table Talk on Tuesday, December 8, Olivia Jade Giannulli addressed for the first time the college admissions scandal that ensconced her parents.
The daughter of Full House star Lori Loughlin and designer Mossimo Giannulli told hosts Jada Pinkett-Smith, Adrienne Banfield Norris and Willow Smith that she was ashamed of what had happened but didn’t want, nor feel she deserved, pity.
Loughlin and Giannulli are currently serving prison sentences after pleading guilty to paying $500,000 to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as recruits for the rowing team, even though neither child were participants in the sport.
Recalling being on spring break in March 2019 when she learned that her parents had been taken into custody, Jade said, “I remember just freezing and feeling so ashamed. I went home and hid myself for probably like three to four months.”
Jade maintains that she wasn’t aware of her parents’ crime when she was applying to college and did not return once the scandal broke because she was too “embarrassed”.
“I shouldn’t have been there in the first place, clearly, so there was no point in trying to go back,” said Jade.
The fact that she chose Red Table Talk on which to break her silence was a curious choice and one which has been met with much derision and skepticism even, initially, by one of the show’s hosts.
Banfield Norris expressed her reticence at Jade’s appearance saying, “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 women coming to Black women for support when we don’t get the same from them. Her being here is the epitome of white privilege to me. It’s not our responsibility to raise her consciousness”.
Jade acknowledged this and conceded that she had been “ignorant” and admitted to feeling embarrassed by living inside her “bubble” for so long.
“I feel a huge part of having privilege is not knowing you have privilege,” the former beauty blogger said. “When it was happening, it didn’t feel wrong… That’s embarrassing within itself, that I walked around my whole 20 years of life not realising, ‘You have insane privilege.’”
That privilege has also benefited her famous parents whose prison sentences amount to just seven months between them. Compared to the disproportionately harsh sentencing Black Americans receive for minor misdemeanours, not to mention the horrifying number of them languishing in prisons across the country as they have no choice but to await trial due to being unable to afford decent legal representation or bail, it paints a depressingly revealing picture of “justice” in America.
It was a hypocrisy not lost on members of the Black community who shared their thoughts on Twitter when Loughlin’s sentence was handed down.
Referencing the plight of Kelley Williams-Bolar, one user wrote: “Reminder that a black woman was sentenced to three years in prison for using her ex’s address to enroll her kids in a better school district. Aunt Becky here will probably get house arrest for like a week.”
Another post reminded readers that, “Crystal Mason, a Black mother of three, is currently serving five years in prison because she cast a vote in Texas in 2016 without knowing those with a prior felony are ineligible. Lori Loughlin just got two months for intentionally conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud.”
And yet another mused, “Remember Tanya McDowell? She got 12 yrs for sending her 6 yr old son to Norwalk CT’s Brookside Elementary School while she ‘lived’ in Bridgeport, even though she was homeless. She was convicted of 1st-degree larceny for “stealing“ an education.”
Whether or not Jade truly realises the weight of this disparity is unclear, but she explained her reasons for wanting the three women of Red Table Talk to be the ones to share her story.
“I also felt like I wanted to be somewhere where I didn’t feel attacked and maybe I could feel more understood. I’ve watched the show and I think you guys are all amazing and it feels really safe but it also feels really honest.”
Incidentally, Jade received plenty of backlash for her digital appearance, as did the show itself.
The comment section of a post on the Red Table Talk Instagram account, in which a teaser for the interview was shared, was flooded with people expressing their dismay at the decision.
“OMG Lori Laughlin got two f***ing months in prison for being an entitled white woman who felt that her privileged and undeserving child should be moved to the head of the line. She even got to choose which prison she wanted to serve her term. Why are you highlighting this???” one person wrote.
Said another, “I get what she’s saying but a black or brown person wouldn’t get a second chance. We’d be in jail. Privileged people get fined and jailed for less than a year. I respect her but nah (sic).”
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Jade, who lost major brand deals with several cosmetics companies in the fallout, but she is adamant she should be allowed to move on.
“I think what was important was for me to come here and say I’m sorry and acknowledge that was wrong,” she said. “I wasn’t able to say that for so long. I took my privilege and all my blessings for granted and I never thought anything of it and that’s what really rocked me.”
Ultimately, Norris (who seemed to remain sceptical for the duration of the interview) and Smith expressed their belief that Jade will be just fine, given that she is, as discussed, white and privileged.
No doubt, she absolutely will be but here’s hoping she takes both her impressive platform — including nearly two million YouTube subscribers — and the lessons she claims to have learned and uses them to enact some positive change.