Another central character who quickly emerged in the saga was her daughter, YouTuber and lifestyle influencer Olivia Jade. Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were accused of paying $500,000 to get Olivia Jade and her older sister, Isabella, into the University of Southern California designated as crew team recruits — even though neither of them rowed crew. Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and recently started serving their two- and five-month prison sentences, respectively.
Olivia Jade, in particular, came under fire as a high-profile YouTube personality who had already received backlash the previous year for saying she was more into “game days” and “partying” than her college classes. After the admissions scandal broke, she lost sponsors and endorsement deals, dropped out of school and mostly disappeared from public view.
On Tuesday, she decided to break her silence and kick off her inevitable redemption tour with an interview on Facebook Watch’s “Red Table Talk,” the hit talk show known for difficult conversations and hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith; her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris; and her daughter, Willow Smith.
Here are the five takeaways from the 30-minute interview with Olivia Jade, which can be seen in full here.
1) Olivia Jade asked to be on “Red Table Talk,” but the hosts almost said no.
Before Olivia Jade came to the table, the hosts had a candid conversation about the fact that she was there in the first place. They revealed she had reached out to the show, and Banfield-Norris admitted she fought “tooth and nail” against 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,” Banfield-Norris said. “Her being here is the epitome of White privilege to me.”
Pinkett Smith said she understood and that plenty of people would agree with her mother. While she fully expected to “get heat” for airing the interview, she viewed sitting down with Olivia Jade as a “practice of compassion” for a daughter reaping the consequences of her parents’ actions. And given that Pinkett Smith herself had faced so many stereotypes as a Black woman, she said, she didn’t want to make assumptions about Olivia Jade just because she was White, young and privileged. “I never want to be the thing that was done to me by White women,” Pinkett Smith said.
2) She knows her family did something very wrong, but feels she deserves a second chance.
As Olivia Jade arrived, she confessed she was nervous but also excited to finally share her perspective on the situation; until now, she was barred from speaking because of her parents’ legal situation. “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,” she said. She wanted to go on “Red Table Talk” because she likes the show and thought it could be a place to have an open conversation but not feel “attacked.”
After acknowledging it was very difficult to see her parents go to prison, Olivia Jade segued into one of her main talking points for the interview: She is aware that her family did something very wrong.
“I think what hasn’t been super-public is that there is no justifying or excusing what happened, because 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,” she said. “But I think what’s important to me is to learn from the mistake, not to now be shamed and punished and never given a second chance. 'Cause I’m 21, I feel like I deserve a second chance to redeem myself, to show I’ve grown.”
“I’m not trying to victimize myself,” she added. “I don’t want pity, I don’t deserve pity.”
3) She’s “embarrassed and ashamed” about the whole situation.
Olivia Jade found out about her parents’ arrest while she was on spring break with her friends. Someone called and asked if she had talked to her mom, who was filming a movie in Vancouver. She had not, but she Googled Loughlin’s name and immediately saw the stories about the indictment.
“I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. And although I didn’t really 100 percent understand what just had happened — 'cause there was a lot that, when I was applying, I was not fully aware of going on,” she said, adding that Rick Singer (the architect of the scam who is now facing 65 years in prison for money laundering and racketeering, among other charges) seemed to present himself as a legitimate college counselor.
Olivia Jade insisted she was unaware about Singer’s involvement in her application. (Court documents revealed photos that showed her on a rowing machine, allegedly submitted to USC to prove she was a crew athlete, but that detail did not come up during the interview.)
Olivia Jade repeatedly talked about her shame and embarrassment over the whole situation. When she learned about the details of Singer and the bribery scheme, Olivia Jade said, she was too embarrassed to return to college for the final months of her freshman year. “I shouldn’t have been there in the first place, clearly, so there was no point in me trying to go back,” she said dryly.
4) She recognizes her privilege and regrets living in a “bubble” for so long.
Olivia Jade explained that her parents probably thought nothing of the pay-for-admissions scheme because those type of advantages are a common ploy in their wealthy community. When news of the scam first broke, Olivia Jade said, she genuinely didn’t understand why everyone was so upset. Didn’t rich parents donate lots of money to get their kids into school all the time? Wasn’t that just how the world worked?
Now, she said, she’s mortified that was her initial reaction — and eventually realized she was the “poster child of White privilege.” “We did all of this and were so ignorant, and I feel like a huge part of having privilege is not knowing you have privilege,” she said. “I was in my own little bubble focusing about my comfortable world, that I never had to look outside of that bubble.”
After internalizing the criticism, Olivia Jade realized there was a lot of truth to it. As the hosts asked what she had learned about White privilege, Banfield-Norris elaborated on why she resisted having Olivia Jade on the show in the first place.
“There is so much violent dehumanization the Black community has to go through on a daily basis. There is so much devastation, particularly this year, 2020, with the pandemic … there’s so much inequality and inequity that when you come to the table with something like this, it’s like, ‘Child please,’” Banfield-Norris said. “You guys are going to go on and be okay and live your life, and there are so many of us that are not going to be in that situation. It just makes it really difficult right now for me to care.”
Pinkett Smith said she was glad that Olivia Jade at least wanted to learn from her mistakes. “It makes me very hopeful in the sense that you are in the space and have a really beautiful opportunity to come outside of that bubble, and use your know-how and your resources to serve.”
Olivia Jade reiterated that she hopes to give back to those less fortunate. “I didn’t come on here to like, win people over,” she said. “I just wanted to apologize for contributing to these social inequalities, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.”
5) She still believes her parents are good people.
So, the $500,000 question: Why exactly did her parents want their daughters to go to USC so badly that they wound up entangled in an illegal scheme that sent them to prison? Olivia Jade theorized that her parents had “tunnel vision” when it came to their college admissions, because (a) Her dad had attachment issues and didn’t want his kids to leave California and (b) Neither he nor Loughlin went to college, so they wanted to give their daughters the experiences they didn’t get to have.
“They wanted to give it to us a little too much,” she said.
“I know they’re good people, and I know I’m not going to judge them for a mistake they made,” she added. “Although it’s a big one, they’re going to pay the price for it.”