Olivia Jade Giannulli, the social media influencer and daughter of actor Lori Loughlin and designer Mossimo Giannulli, appeared on Facebook Watch’s Red Table Talk to finally break her silence on the 2019 college admissions scandal that landed her parents in federal prison.
Giannulli uploaded a video to her YouTube channel last December touching on what was then a nationwide investigation into her parents and other prominent parents, including actor Felicity Huffman. But in the video, Giannulli said she wasn’t “legally allowed” to go into details at the time. She’s now telling her side of the story and chose Red Table Talk to do so—a show that has partly become a mecca for celebrities seeking a redemptive arc, à la Snoop Dogg after he railed against Gayle King for her controversial interview involving the late Kobe Bryant’s legacy, or Jordyn Woods after a Kardashian family cheating drama came to light.
“I wanted to be somewhere where I didn’t feel attacked and maybe I could feel more understood,” Giannulli said to hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield Norris, and Willow Smith.
Last March, federal prosecutors identified Rick Singer at the center of a scam where businesspeople and celebrities would pay him to get their kids into leading universities by falsifying applications, bribing admission officials, and having third parties take entrance exams. Giannulli, who was admitted to the University of Southern California under such falsities, lost a number of endorsement deals from major brands including Sephora and TRESemmé and eventually dropped out of USC.
“I shouldn’t have been there in the first place, clearly,” Giannulli said in the Red Table Talk episode. “So there was no point in me trying to go back.”
Throughout the episode, Giannulli admitted to not understanding the immediate backlash she and her family received because in her mind (and in her bubble), making massive donations to universities is what every parent did.
“That’s embarrassing to admit,” Giannulli said. “That’s embarrassing within itself that I walked around my whole 20 years of life not realizing you have insane privilege: You are the poster child of white privilege.”
‘Contributing to these social inequalities’
The topic of privilege largely dominated the conversation—even to the point of why Giannulli should be given the opportunity to speak her truth through a massive platform like Red Table Talk.
“I fought it tooth and nail,” said Norris before Giannulli joined them at the table. “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 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.”
And Norris certainly didn’t pull any punches when Giannulli arrived.
“I just don’t have the energy to put into the fact that you lost your endorsement. Or you’re not in school right now. Because at the end of the day, you’re going to be OK,” Norris said. “Your parents are going to go in and they’re going to do their 60 days and they’re going to pay their fine and you guys will go on and you’ll be okay and you will live your life. And there are so many of us that it is not going to be that situation. It just makes it very difficult right now for me to care.”
Giannulli accepted the frank criticism, acknowledging that she didn’t come on Red Table Talk “to try and win people over,” she said. “I just want to apologize for contributing to these social inequalities.”
As part of her personal growth, Giannulli said she’s been figuring out ways to give back, like volunteering at an after school program in the largely Black community of Watts, California. Or even redirecting the focus of her YouTube presence.
“When I was on YouTube, it was so, ‘come along with my world! See where I’m at! Let’s just go with my journey!’ And now when I go back [to uploading videos on YouTube] I just want to make it very clear and very aware like, ‘oh shit—there are big problems going on in the world that are outside my bubble,'” Giannulli said. “So it’s making that change of like, you could sit where you are and it wouldn’t affect you. But how much better of a person would you be if you used your blessings to help somebody else?”