Olivia Giannulli, known to the public as Olivia Jade, is the daughter of Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli. Laughlin is an actress made famous by the television show Full House and Giannulli is a fashion designer. Jade is well known as a social media influencer with millions of followers between her Instagram and YouTube accounts, and she has rose to a modest fame by producing vlogs about her day to day life. Earlier this year, Jade added another aspect to her personal brand: college. Jade had been accepted as a freshman at University of Southern California. Multiple companies reached out to help outfit Jade for her college experience. Most notably, Amazon supplied all of her furniture and supplies, as shown in a vlog touring her dorm. The benefits of her new persona were clear, with her college themed videos regularly racking up hundreds of thousands of views. When it was discovered that Jade’s college admission was less than credible, however, Jade’s career as an influencer began to crumble down around her. While I do believe that Jade needs to be held accountable for her involvement in unethical admissions practices and the continued profit off of her situation, she is still a young adult and her parent’s decisions shouldn’t blacklist her from the business she has built herself up in.
When the scandal first broke, the public found out that Jade’s enormously wealthy parents had paid half a million dollars to get both Jade and her sister into USC. The sisters had been admitted through the school crew team despite neither of them having ever rowed before. Along with Jade’s damaged career, her integrity as a person was also called into question as evidence of her disregard for college began to surface. She was called fake, entitled, and was accused of taking the privilege of an education for granted. These claims were not entirely unfounded, as some of Jade’s vlogs feature her expressing disinterest in her education. “I’m never at school,” says Jade during one such video. “Maybe they forget I go there.” On the other hand, Jade has also shown some awareness of her situation and has made some moves to express gratitude for where she is. In one tweet she apologized to her fans for prioritizing school over daily vlogs. “I’d way rather be filming 24/7 than sitting for 6 hours of classes straight but an education is also super important to me so thank [you] for [your] patience and letting me figure out time management.” These contradictory statements are some of many that Jade has made and add to the complexity of her situation. More recently, Jade has apologized for her statements, calling them “stupid and ignorant.” This is a step in the right direction but comes off as inauthentic until she takes action to right the damage done. Action against the college admission system by someone as influential as Jade could be a massive step forward in fixing the underlying unfairness.
Many have also been quick to point out the damage done when the sisters took recruitment spots on the crew team with no intention of participating. “If they took somebody else’s spot on the crew team [then] that’s extremely upsetting because of just how much work it takes to get to that level, get on a team, and earn scholarship money,” says Kylie Dennison, a former division one soccer player at University of Iowa. For athletes like Dennison, to participate in a division one league is to structure their life around a sport. To secure a spot on a team at USC is an immensely difficult task, and to see an undeserving student fill a spot on the roster is a rejection of all the time and effort prospective athletes have dedicated to being the best. Often, college athletes have made immense sacrifices in their personal lives to carve out the time required.
Jade’s primary grievance after the scandal broke was the blow her career as an influencer took. She blamed her parents for what had happened and while they do carry most of the responsibility, Jade would have realized something was amiss when she got into a college without even filling out her own application. She has paid the price for her mistakes. Being removed from school and damaging her career is a significant loss, especially for such a young person at an age where consequences are often harder to grasp. To continue to punish Jade for the actions of her parents is unfair and unnecessary. Additionally, as an influencer, she is used to having strict control of how she presents herself and her life to the public. With the weight of the scandal on her shoulders, she’s lost control of what aspects of her life are made public. For someone who is still a young adult, that can be devastating. What I believe to be a better use of time and energy is to question the system and people who allow this sort of behavior to take place. Changing the expectations about college admissions will solve the problem faster than solely attacking those who manage to get caught.