Olivia Jade Giannulli, the 21-year-old daughter of Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, has finally broken her silence on the college admissions scandal.
“I felt so ashamed and embarrassed … although I didn’t really 100 percent understand what had just happened because there was a lot that, when I was applying, I was not fully aware of what was going on,” she told co-hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris. “When I got home [from spring break] I just felt so ashamed.”
Olivia said she was “too embarrassed” to return to the University of Southern California, where she and her sister, Isabella Rose, had been enrolled after being accepted as rowing recruits despite having never participated in the sport.
“I shouldn’t have been there in the first place, clearly,” she said.
Olivia, who hasn’t spoken to her parents since they’ve entered prison this fall because of a COVID-19 quarantine rule, said she doesn’t deserve pity and only wants a chance to own her mistakes publicly. Her ignorance, she said, explained why she didn’t understand how her family’s decisions were so offensive to many.
“A huge part of having privilege is not knowing you have privilege, so when it was happening it didn’t feel wrong,” she said. “It didn’t feel like, ‘That’s not fair. A lot of people don’t have that.’ … I was in my own little bubble. Focusing on my comfortable world.”
As part of the widespread college admissions scandal, Loughlin and her husband earlier this year pleaded guilty to paying $500,000 to William “Rick” Singer to secure their daughters’ admission to USC.
“Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman served 11 days of a two-week jail sentence in 2019 for her role in the college admissions scandal.
To Olivia and her friends in their wealthy “bubble,” donating money as a means to gain admissions was “normal.”
“It really can’t be excused,” Olivia said.
Banfield-Norris wasn’t willing to excuse the family’s behavior either.
“At the end of the day you’re going to be OK,” Banfield-Norris said. “…There’s so many of us that it is not going to be that situation. It makes it difficult right now for me to care.”
The entire ordeal forced Olivia and her sister to reframe their perspective.
“This has been a really eye-opening experience for me … and although there’s a lot of negative around it and there’s a lot of mistakes and wrongdoings, it’s led me to have a completely different outlook on a lot of situations,” she said.
Despite acknowledging she may not have deserved a spot at USC, she did defend her work ethic when she was a student.
“I worked my ass off in high school,” Olivia said. “I wasn’t slacking in high school. I don’t want to discredit myself … I put a lot of trust into a person who claimed their profession was college counseling.”
That being said, she knows she has far to go in the court of public opinion.
“I totally understand if people aren’t ready to jump onboard with me,” she said.