Olivia Jade Giannulli has broken her silence regarding her parent’s involvement in Operation Varsity Blues, the college admissions scandal that rocked Hollywood in 2019.
In short, the 21-year-old daughter of Full House’s Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli was embroiled in a controversial cheating ring that bought admission into prestigious colleges and universities. Her parents paid $500,000 to get her and her sister, Bella Rose accepted into the University of Southern California (USC). Loughlin and Mossimo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and were each sentenced to federal prison.
Olivia Jade opted to head to Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook series Red Table Talk to discuss her parent’s impropriety and her privilege. Still, Pinkett Smith’s mother and co-host, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, who is affectionately known as Gammy, made it clear that she didn’t care to hear what Giannulli had to say.
Before the influencer’s appearance, Pinkett Smith, Banfield-Norris and singer/actress Willow Smith sat at the table to discuss the former USC student’s appearance on the show.
A video clip showed the three women discussing the controversy surrounding Giannulli’s presence on the show. Pinkett Smith acknowledged that she would receive flack over her choice to have the socialite on the program.
— Jarett Wieselman (@JarettSays) December 8, 2020
Gammy, ever the obstreperous sexagenarian, was outraged that the privileged woman sought out a Black platform to seek redemption. Pinkett Smith said she young woman called to ask for an appearance on the show.
“I fought this tooth and nail," she said of Olivia Jade being a guest. "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, [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," the 67-year-old said. "Her being here is the epitome of white privilege to me."
Pinkett Smith disclosed that she wanted to show the young woman grace because she didn’t want to display the same behaviors as white women.
“I never want to be the thing that was done to me by white women,” Pinkett Smith said. “People look at us, they say, ‘you’re Black, and you’re female, and they automatically put us in a category.’ So looking at her as being white, young, and privileged, and then putting her in that category, it’s the same thing.’”
Banfield-Norris added that it wasn't the women's responsibility to "raise her consciousness."
"At the end of the day, I really feel like she's going to be OK. And she's going to recover whether her ass was sitting at this table or not," she continued.
During the 30-minute episode, Olivia Jade detailed that she wanted to offer insight into what she and her family were thinking when the scandal happened and how her parent’s prison sentences affected her.
“It’s been hard, I think, for anybody,” Olivia Jade admitted. “No matter what the situation is, you don’t want to see your parents go to prison. But I think it’s necessary for us to move on and move forward.”
She also added that she fully accepted responsibility for the family’s actions and acknowledged her privilege.
“I’m not trying to victimize myself. 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’m 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,” the former Sephora spokesperson explained.
Banfield-Norris was unmoved by the young woman’s words. The outspoken matriarch told Olivia Jade her reasons for not wanting to give her a platform to share her story.
“I think for me, it’s like, there is so much violent dehumanization that the Black community has to go through on a daily basis. Right,” Banfield-Norris said. “There is so much devastation particularly this year, 2020, with the pandemic and everything being brought to the table, just how there’s so much inequality and inequity that when you come to the table with something like this, it’s like, ‘Child, please!’”
“I’m exhausted with everything that we have to deal with as a community, and I just don’t have the energy to put into the fact you lost your endorsements, or you’re not in school right now,” she continued.
“At the end of the day, you’re going to be okay. 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,” she continued. “There are so many of us where that just isn’t going to be our situation. It makes it difficult right now for me to care.”
The defamed social media influencer responded that she understood the matriarch’s sentiment. She also admitted that she wasn’t aware of the privilege she had and the inequities it created.
“I remember thinking, ‘How are people mad about this?’ A lot of kids in that bubble, their parents were donating to schools and doing stuff that, like, so many advantages. It’s not fair, and it’s not right, but it was happening,” Olivia Jade admitted. “This was normal. But I didn’t realize at the time that was privilege.”
Banfield-Norris was unfazed by Olivia Jade’s obtuse response, stating that even though the young woman was far-removed from suffering, she had access to the news.
As the emotionally-charged episode wrapped up, the savvy grandmother softened slightly, though she still didn’t buy what Olivia Jade was selling.
“A year from now, I might feel differently. But right now, in the atmosphere the world is in, it’s very difficult for me to feel compassionate about you,” Banfield-Norris told Olivia Jade.
“I shouldn’t say about you because I don’t want you to take it that personally… It’s not really about you. But what I am hearing from you is that there is an interest and a desire to learn and figure out where you fit in the world and what your role is,” she continued.