Olivia Jade Giannulli may have had her moment of reckoning at the iconic red table, but the influencer isn’t quite done dealing with the consequences of her involvement in the high profile federal case better known as Operation Varsity Blues. The drama continues years later, and this time, TikTok is getting involved.
Two years ago, Olivia Jade's parents Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli and many more were named in a massive college admissions scandal. The Giannullis had teamed up with admissions expert Rick Singer to finesse their children’s way into top universities by doctoring SAT and ACT scores, faking sports participation, and “donating” lump sums to the institutions en masse. The FBI found about the scheme in no time, and many of the parents were quickly taken into police custody and charged with felonies like conspiracy to commit mail fraud; Lori has since been released from prison, and Mossimo is wrapping up his final few days behind bars.
Their daughters Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose have since reintegrated themselves back into society (and YouTube) after the stigma of the scandal faded over time, but Operation Varsity Blues is once again the topic of conversation thanks to a revealing new Netflix documentary detailing just how deep the scam went. Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal provided a behind-the-scenes look at Singer’s million-dollar scheme, featuring real conversations between the admissions expert and his clients. The popularity of the film (which was so popular that it hit the Netflix Top 10 last week) has led people to once again discuss the privilege and audacity of everyone involved in the scandal.
Olivia Jade probably didn’t watch Operation Varsity Blues herself, but over the weekend, she made a casual reference to the ongoing dialogue about the documentary on TikTok, talking about what it felt like to be “publicly shamed.” She told her millions of followers that a during a conversation with an unnamed “inspirational woman,” she’d gotten some very important advice.
"We were talking about being in the public, and being publicly shamed, and I was like, 'Well, my situation doesn't even compare, I'm not even going to start to compare it to yours,'" Olivia explained.
“She looked at me, and she said, 'Olivia, it doesn't matter if I'm drowning in 60 feet of water, and you're drowning in 30 — we're both still drowning.' And I think about that quote every day because I think it's so true, and it's such a bigger message to our world right now."
"I think we're all very judgey, to put people down," she continued. "I just want people to remember...if your feelings are hurting, if they're valid to you, they're valid. And it doesn't matter if someone is going through worse. You're allowed to have a hard time in this world."
Of course, several people swiftly entered the comments, pointing out that Olivia’s current situation is less about “public shaming” than it is about accountability.
“Babe sorry to break it to you but...you did something illegal and bad when you were already ahead in life,” commented one TikTok user. “You deserve the criticism.”
“You were literally on a billionaire’s yacht when you found out about the scandal,” wrote another. “Maybe you’ll never see the irony but you are queen white privilege.”
The comments were also full of jokes about rowing, a nod to the fact that Olivia Jade’s parents had her and her sister pose on rowing machines as part of the ruse; despite not being athletes, the sisters were admitted to the University of Southern California on the basis of being crew members.
At the end of the day, it's been years since the news of the scandal broke, and the Giannulli family has technically paid for their crimes — however short their sentences and small their fines were. But for someone who told Jada Pinkett-Smith that she was trying to grow from her experience and take responsibility for her part in the scheme, this TikTok feels like maybe Olivia Jade still doesn't quite get the point even after all this time.