Olivia Jade Giannulli has broken her silence on the infamous college admissions scandal.
The 21-year-old influencer, who is the daughter of Mossimo Giannulli and Lori Loughlin, addressed the scandal during a new episode of Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch show “Red Table Talk” released Tuesday where she took the time to apologize for the scandal and acknowledge how her white privilege played a major role in the controversy.
“What hasn’t been super public is that there is no justifying or excusing what happened because it was wrong and I think every single person in my family can be like, ‘that was messed up,’” she said. “It was a big mistake, but I think what’s so important is to learn from the mistake, to not be shamed and punished and never be given a second chance.”
Smith, along with her daughter Willow Smith and mother Adrienne Banfield-Jones, spent the 30-minute interview asking Giannulli about how she’s reflected on the scandal, from when it broke to now that both of her parents are serving their prison sentences.
“I felt most moved by the fact that [my family] did all of this and we were so ignorant,” Giannulli said. “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. It didn’t feel like that’s not fair. I was in my own little bubble and I never had to look outside of that bubble.”
Giannulli went on to explain that in her “bubble” it was considered normal for parents to make lofty donations to schools, so she initially was confused at what was wrong about her parents’ actions. She said it was the immense backlash that she received that made her understand she has white privilege and that what her family did was wrong.
“I didn’t realize at the time that was privilege. I didn’t put those two together,” she continued. “I’m grateful for the situation to see that big change and difference in my own mind to know like, ‘OK 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 party at school,’ the fact that you could even say those things shows you how fortunate you were that you didn’t have to worry about that.”
The YouTube video Giannulli references is from August 2018, well before the scandal broke. She faced backlash for her indifference toward getting an education and later issued an apology and deleted the video.
Loughlin and Giannulli are serving a two-month and five-month prison sentence, respectively, for their involvement in the college admissions scandal. They pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and honest services wire fraud in May after paying $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as crew recruits. They were among 50 other parents involved in the scandal, including actress Felicity Huffman, who served 11 days in prison in October 2019.
Giannulli said she has not spoken to both of her parents since they began their prison sentences, stating that they were in a quarantine period because of the COVID-19 pandemic and she is unsure of when she can speak to them.
Prior to the start of her interview, Banfield-Jones revealed her frustration over having Giannulli as their guest, stating: “I fought it tooth and nail. 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. It’s bothersome to me on so many levels. Her being here is the epitome of white privilege to me.”
She asked Giannulli if she knows what white privilege is and acknowledges that she has it.
“I understand that just based off the color of my skin, I already had my foot in the door and I was already ahead of everybody else,” Giannulli responded. “Looking forward I want to do stuff to change that.”
Giannulli explained that she started working at an after-school program in an underserved community and is making an effort to give back following the scandal.
When asked why her parents committed these crimes, Giannulli states that her parents just wanted to provide the best for their two daughters. She again reiterated that making lofty donations to schools was a normal practice in their “bubble” and that they were oblivious to how problematic their actions were. She also stated that her parents were set on USC because they wanted their daughters to stay close to home and that because they both did not attend college, they wanted to provide them with the best education they could.
“They’re my family and I’ve known them since I was out of the womb,” she said. “I know they’re good people and 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.”
She ends the interview by again apologizing for the scandal and stating she’s committed to changing her actions in the future.
“What was important for me was to come on here and say I’m sorry,” she said. “I acknowledge what was wrong. I wasn’t able to say that for so long and I think people almost thought, ‘well she must not care and it must not have affected her.’ I took my privilege and all my blessings for granted and never thought anything of it. That’s what really rocked me. Like, this is wrong and I need to talk about it and I need to do it publicly because this situation was public. I need to move forward and do better.”
Watch the full “Red Table Talk” interview here:
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