Olivia Jade Giannulli Speaks Out Following College Admissions Scandal: "What Happened Was Wrong"

The daughter of actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli joined 'Red Table Talk' on Tuesday to break her silence on her parents' arrest and reacted to the scandal: "I remember just freezing and feeling so ashamed."

Olivia Jade Giannulli is speaking out for the first time about the college admissions scandal.

In May, Jade’s parents, actress Lori Loughlin and designer Mossimo Giannulli pleaded guilty to paying half a million dollars to get their two daughters (Jade and their 22-year-old daughter Bella) into the University of Southern California as recruits for the crew team, despite neither of them participating in the sport, thereby guaranteeing their admission to the college.

Loughlin is currently serving a two-month sentence, in addition to being sentenced to 100 hours of community service and fined $150,000. Giannulli is serving a five-month sentence for his role in the admissions scandal and was sentenced to 250 hours of community service and fined $250,000.

At the top of Tuesday’s Red Table Talk show on Facebook Watch, co-host Jada Pinkett Smith explained that after Jade reached out to them to join their table, they "had very different feelings about it." Co-host Adrienne Banfield Norris shared that she was against Olivia Jade Giannulli joining the show.

"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 women coming to Black women for support when we don’t get the same from them," she said. "Her being here is the epitome of white privilege to me. It’s not our responsibility to raise her consciousness."

When Giannulli joined Smith, Willow Smith and Banfield Norris, she explained that though she was nervous, she reached out to speak with them because she feels "ready to address some things."

"I think that this has been a really eye-opening experience for me and [the] situation 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 explained. "I also felt like I wanted to be somewhere where I didn’t feel attacked and maybe I could feel more understood. I’ve watched the show and I think you guys are all amazing and it feels really safe but it also feels really honest."

As the scandal has overtaken her world, Giannulli explained what hasn’t been "super public is that there is no justifying or excusing what happened. … What happened was wrong and I think every single person in my family can be like, 'That was messed up. That was a big mistake.' But I think what’s so important is to learn from the mistake not to now be shamed and punished and never given a second chance."

Loughlin, 55, and Mossimo Giannulli, 56, both began their sentences in October following their convictions in the college admission scandal. Jade said due to a "quarantine phase" amid the novel coronavirus, she has yet to speak to them. Of her parents going to prison, she said "it’s been hard" but she knows "it’s necessary for us to move on and move forward."

"I’m super close with my parents, especially my mom. She’s like my best friend. It’s definitely been hard," she said. "She’s in there right now. She gets to really rethink everything that’s happened, kind of figure out when she comes out what she wants to do with, what she’s learned through all of this. I think that hopefully will be a blessing in the end."

Giannulli reflected on the moment she learned her parents were taken into custody while she was on her spring break. "I remember just freezing and feeling so ashamed. I went home and hid myself for probably like three to four months," she said, adding that she wasn’t fully aware of what was going on when she was applying to college.

With school still in session when news of the scandal broke out, Giannulli said she "never went back" to USC because she was "too embarrassed. … I shouldn’t have been there in the first place, clearly, so there was no point in trying to go back."

She also said following the situation, it’s been more embarrassing to see how "ignorant" she was in not realizing the issues with the situation. "I feel a huge part of having privilege is not knowing you have privilege. When it was happening, it didn’t feel wrong … I was in my own little bubble focusing on my comfortable world that I never had to look outside of that bubble."

Prior to the college cheating scandal, Giannulli was recognized as a beauty blogger, social media star and YouTuber with more than 1.9 million subscribers on the video platform and 1.3 million on Instagram. She also secured sponsorship deals with beauty and fashion companies including Too Faced, Smashbox, Marc Jacobs Beauty, Lulus, Boohoo and Dolce & Gabbana beauty, as well as HP Inc. and haircare brand Tresemme. Following the scandal, beauty chain Sephora confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that it dropped Giannulli from its brand partnership, with Tresemme and The Estee Lauder Companies Inc. following suit.

Giannulli briefly made a return to YouTube last December where she explained that she wasn't "legally not allowed to speak on anything going on." But now, a year later, she says she is relieved to finally be able to speak out.

After Smith and Norris mentioned that despite the scandal they believe Giannulli will be fine given she’s a white woman born into privilege, Giannulli noted she had no desire to "victimize" herself. "I don’t want pity. I don’t deserve pity. We messed up. I just want a second chance to say I recognized I messed up. I really own that this was a big mess up on everybody’s fault. But I feel like everybody feels that way in my family right now."

She went on to reiterate that the "picture that has been painted of me is not who I am. … I’m not this bratty girl that doesn’t want to change anything. I understand why people are angry," she said. "I had to go through the backlash and stuff because, when you read it, you realize there is some truth in it."

She admitted that, at first, she questioned why everyone was upset about the situation but realized over time how it exemplified privilege. She also referenced one of her YouTube videos in which she stated she didn’t care about school and was only focused on doing extracurricular activities and partying.

"The fact that you could even say those things shows how fortunate you are," she said of herself. "That you didn’t have to worry about that. That you knew you were going to be OK without it. And that sits with me and makes me cringe and it’s embarrassing that I ever said those types of things."

Despite the situation being bad "on paper," Giannulli said she feels her parents came from a place of love for their kids. "I think they thought it was normal. And I think that there was a college counselor who seemed legitimate."

Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli hired college admissions consultant Rick Singer for help and paid $500,000 to get their daughters enrolled at USC. Prosecutors say they funneled money through a sham charity operated by Singer, who has pleaded guilty to orchestrating the scheme and faces up to 65 years in prison.

Olivia Jade Giannulli said contrary to any assumptions, something that has been frustrating is the fact that no one thinks she was a dedicated student. "I wasn’t slacking in high school … I was always a really involved school. I think I put a lot of trust in someone who claimed their profession was college counselor and it led me to a wrong direction."

"I was definitely confused when this all came out and I went and confronted them about everything," Giannulli said of asking her parents about the controversy. "They didn’t really have much to say except like, 'I’m so sorry. I realized I messed up in trying to give the best to you and your sister.' I know they’re good people. I know that I’m not going to judge them for a mistake they made and although it’s a big one, they’re going to pay the price for it."

Acknowledging that she's "made a million mistakes," Giannulli expressed her hope that she can "move forward."

"I think what was important was for me to come here and say I’m sorry and acknowledge that was wrong. I wasn’t able to say that for so long. I took my privilege and all my blessings for granted and I never thought anything of it and that’s what really rocked me."