The Olivia Jade College Admissions Cheating Scandal: How it Started & How It's Going
It's probably safe to say that in March of 2019, we were all in shock to hear that "Aunt Becky" from the 80's show Full House, also known as Lori Loughlin, and her daughter, Olivia Jade, were the face of a college admissions cheating scandal. It was that month when the FBI reported that parents Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, along with 48 others, were involved in illegally paying their children's way into prestigious universities.
With such a successful acting career from Lori and a rising YouTube platform from Olivia, we were all biting our nails to find out what would happen next for the Giannulli family. Both Olivia Jade, and her sister Bella, were in hot water once the world got word of their deceit. Since there has been a lot that has happened since the initial news was released, we want to share some insight into what's happened since then.
But before we get there, let's start from the beginning.
If you didn't know who Olivia Jade was before this scandal, she was making quite the name for herself on social media. She had 1.4 million Instagram followers and nearly 2 million subscribers on YouTube. Her platforms focused on vlogs of her very high-end life, makeup tutorials, and clothing hauls with endorsements from big brands like Estée Lauder, Princess Polly, Sephora Collection, Amazon Prime Student, and Marc Jacobs Beauty. In addition, her mother, Lori Loughlin, was starring in the Fuller House reboot and a mystery TV-drama named Garage Sale Mysteries. One could say, they were living pretty comfortably.
Their world flipped upside down when news broke out that Olivia's parents had paid $500,000 to get both their daughters, Olivia and Bella Giannulli, into the University of Southern California. The girls' admission was disguised under an acceptance from the school's rowing team. With the help of college counselor William Singer, the man at the heart of the scheme, the Giannullli's put together a faux rowing photoshoot to make it appear that their daughters were active in the sport. However, the two daughters had never in fact participated in rowing. This was all part of a larger college admission scandal called "Operation Varsity Blue" which involved Singer and many others (like actor Felicity Huffman's daughter) getting into elite universities.
Following the scandal, the Giannulli family was put under extreme scrutiny on social media and her parents were facing jail time. Olivia lost her brand deals and partnerships with Sephora Collection and Estée Lauder and began losing thousands of followers and subscribers. She and her sister both decided soon after to no longer attend the university.
The internet pulled up videos of the, at the time, 19-year old, exposing her for being very ungrateful about her education and only wanting to attend college to experience "game days" and "partying".
In her videos, Olivia mentioned school was not really her priority and she has expressed that she was really influenced by her parents to attend college. Fellow YouTube star, Tana Mongeau, even chimed in on the matter saying "It sucks because I feel like she didn’t even wanna go to college”. Not only was the internet in a divide on which side to take, so was the dynamic in the Giannulli family.
Soon after news broke out about the scandal, Lori and Mossimo were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Then on April 9th, 2019, a federal grand jury in Boston added on a charge for conspiracy to commit money laundering, to which they plead not guilty. It wasn't until August of 2020 when the Giannulli's were sentenced. While fellow actor Felicity Huffman was given a light 14-day sentence, Lori was sentenced to two months in prison and her husband was given a five-month sentence. In addition to their sentences, Mossimo was to pay a $250,000 fine along with serving 250 hours of community service.
During this process, Olivia and her sister chose to "lay low" and stay away from the outside world and the vicious online bullying. She spent her early quarantine away from social media with her boyfriend Jackson Guthy. During this time, there were many claims that Olivia and Bella were having a strained relationship with their parents who were on trial. There were few photos seen of the sisters and several media updates on the parent's trial and prison sentences.
On December 1st, 2019, Olivia made her first YouTube video since the scandal and described how she "really, really missed" her platform. While many were quick to bash her for what seemed like the audacity to even exist, many of her fans came to her side to defend her as well.
The Walk of Shame
The scandal fully resurfaced on December 7th, 2020, when Olivia posted a short clip on her Instagram revealing that she had filmed an episode on the Smith family's Red Table Talk. The next day, the world was given half an hour of deep, raw, and honest conversation from Olivia, explaining how she felt during the scandal and what she is doing to correct her behaviors. She described not getting to speak to her parents since their quarantine prison sentence began and why she doesn't seek pity, but just wants a second chance to learn from her ignorance.
Adrienne Banfield-Norris, Jada-Pinkett Smith's mother, was very transparent in the episode speaking on how she felt Olivia was the "epitome of white privilege" and how she didn't deserve a seat on the show. Nonetheless, Olivia took this opportunity to understand her point of view and address exactly what she did wrong and how she is taking measures to ground herself in underprivileged communities.
The now 21-year-old explained how she feels that her parents may have had "tunnel-vision" when sending their daughters to the best schools since neither of her parents went to college. However, she expressed that she will not judge them for their faults, and knows they are good people.
With her mom expected to be released soon and her dad with four months left in prison, we don't think it was an easy holiday season for the Giannulli family, but Olivia left her audience with some hope. Nearing the end of 2020, Olivia posted a TikTok where she responded to a comment requesting her to "please post again on YouTube". Her response? Simply, "okay". This was followed by a huge display of excitement, stating that comments like that make her day.
Although this wasn't Olivia's finest moment, we are glad that she got a chance to learn from her mistakes. Sometimes it takes a college cheating scandal to make you realize your privilege...okay that might just be exclusive to famous rich kids. BUT, we can also use this as a lesson to always widen our perspectives and check our privilege.