It feels like the college admissions scandal was both yesterday and a million years ago. Believe it or not, enough time has passed since then (March 2019) for Netflix to make a documentary about it. Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal premiered on Netflix on March 17.
The scandal exposed that dozens of parents paid a man named William Rick Singer more than $25 million to help get their kids into college. Two of the most high-profile offenders? Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli.
Ah, yes, it’s all coming back to us now. Lori and Mossimo paid more than $500,000 to get their daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli, into the University of Southern California. Singer made it look like they were members of the crew team—a lie so not believable, I’m not sure how it made the top 10 list of suggestions, let alone the one they all went with.
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Which begs the question: What did Olivia Jade know? And when did she know it?
Two months after the scandal broke, in May 2019, it was reported that she allegedly knew everything. “Olivia fully knew what her parents did to get her into USC but didn’t think there was anything wrong with it,” an insider told Us Weekly. “She didn’t get into any other California schools.”
The charging documents from the case reveal that Olivia Jade had to pose for a photo in an ergometer, an indoor rowing machine. So if you ask me, it’s not like she had no idea. I know rich people are weird, but they’re not “casual photo shoot with a rowing machine just for funzies” weird. Olivia Jade was also CC’d on emails between her parents and Singer. Honestly, they left a paper trail? What did they expect?
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In December 2020, just a few weeks after both of her parents began serving their prison sentences, Olivia Jade gave her first interview about the college admissions scandal. She sat down with Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, and Willow Smith on their Facebook Watch series, Red Table Talk. When asked how much she knew, she kept it vague.
“There was a lot that, when I was applying [to college], I was not fully aware of what was going on,” Olivia Jade told the hosts. “When I got home [from spring break in 2019], I just felt so ashamed. I was like, I can’t go back [to school].…I never went back. I was too embarrassed. I shouldn’t have been there in the first place, clearly.”
I know what you might be thinking: Who cares? Does this really matter?
And I’ll tell you why it does: The college admissions scandal is yet more proof of how easy it is for rich white individuals to cheat the system and get away with it for years. There are way better things to do with $500,000 than use it to buy a teenager who doesn’t prioritize their education the best one that money can buy. Lori Loughlin wasn’t just buying Olivia Jade a degree—she was leveling up her privilege and place in the world. And it backfired big time.
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Olivia Jade commented about her privilege during the Red Table Talk interview.
“I really felt most moved by the fact that we did all of this and were so ignorant. I feel like a huge part of having privilege is not knowing that you have privilege,” she said. “When it was happening, it didn’t feel wrong. 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 about my comfortable world. I never had to look outside of that bubble.”
If she really believes that’s true, she’s on her way to learning more than she would have at USC.
Want all the deets on the college admissions scandal? Yeah. We know you do. You can find all of our coverage here.
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