Oliva Jade Giannulli learning from family college ‘mess-up’


CHICAGO (NewsNationNow) — Olivia Jade Giannulli has broken her silence about the college admissions scandal that landed her parents “Full House” actor Lori Laughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli in prison.

The 21-year-old appeared on Tuesday’s episode of Red Table Talk, the Facebook Watch show, to discuss the ordeal. Jada Pinkett Smith, who hosts the show with her mother Adrienne Banfield-Jones, and daughter, Willow Smith, sat with Giannulli to giver her an opportunity to share her side of the story.

“What were some of the repercussions throughout this whole situation?” asked a skeptical Banfield-Jones. “Because you’re a beautiful young white woman who’s been born into privilege, and there would be some people that would feel like, she’ll be fine. I feel that way.”

Giannulli, who admitted to nerves but said she considered the show a safe and open space, denied that she was seeking sympathy. Her parents are behind bars after pleading guilty to paying a half-million dollars to get Olivia Jade and sister Isabella, 22, into the University of Southern California as crew recruits, though neither were rowers.

“I’m not trying to victimize myself. I don’t want pity. I don’t deserve pity,” Giannulli replied to Norris. “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,” said the onetime social influencer, who lost deals with prominent brands and left USC in the scandal’s aftermath.

“What’s so important to me is … to learn from the mistake, not to be shamed and punished and never given a second chance,” said an earnest Giannulli.

The admission scandal energized advocates who push for changes that could alleviate inequalities in the college admission process. College consultant Ivy Coach, which specializes in helping students gain admission into their dream schools, continues to help students strive to the top.

“You don’t need to go to such extraordinary and unlawful lanes to get into these highly selective schools; a lot of it comes down to common sense,” said Brian Taylor, Ivy Coach’s managing director.

Taylor says the best method includes honesty, strategy, and highlighting how a candidate can outshine others in one particular category. He also recommends students work on making themselves more interesting instead of manipulating the system.

Giannulli said she’s trying to overcome her sheltered perspective and find a way to contribute.

“I understand that I, just based off my skin color, I already had my foot in the door and I was already ahead of everybody else. … I can recognize that going forward. I do want to do stuff to change that and to help that,” she said, adding that had worked with children in an afterschool program in the Watts section of Los Angeles recently.

Pinkett Smith, who said she had agreed to bring Giannulli on her show over her mother’s objections, struck an understanding tone with her. So did Pinkett Smith’s daughter, Willow.

Giannulli was asked about seeing both parents incarcerated.

“No matter what the situation is, you don’t want to see your parents go to prison…. But also, I think it’s necessary for us to move on and move forward,” she said. She hasn’t been in touch with either of them since they entered prison, which she said may have to do with COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.

Laughlin began serving her two-month sentence in a federal prison in California on Oct. 30, while her husband’s five-month term, also in the state, began Nov. 19. Plea deals also called for fines and community service for the pair.

They were among some 30 prominent people, including actor Felicity Huffman, to plead guilty in the case federal prosecutors dubbed Operation Varsity Blues. It uncovered hefty bribes to get kids into elite colleges with rigged test scores or fake athletic credentials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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