What Happens When Your Famous Parents Ruin Your Perfect Life?

Olivia Ovenden
·5-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Esquire

If a week is a long time in politics then it's a lifetime for an influencer, as one abrupt cancellation can bring all of those carefully crafted #spon deals crashing down around you. In Operation Varsity Blues, the new Netflix documentary about the college bribery scandal which imploded in 2019, Olivia Jade Giannulli is cast as one of the many villains in a tale of greed and shame.

The daughter of Full House actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, Olivia Jade had secured partnerships with brands like Sephora and Amazon Prime, her vlogs showing her doing make-up tutorials and complaining about how much she hated school. When both her and her sister got into ultra-competitive college USC with middling grades, suspicions were raised by staff at their school, who then discovered Olivia Jade had got in because of her talents at rowing crew despite the school being unaware she participated in any sports.

The doctored images of Olivia Jade on a rowing machine which emerged were part of a scheme run by Rick Singer, a nefarious hustler who bribed directors of college sports programs to vouch for applicants as part of their intake of athletes. Loughlin and Giannulli gave Singer $500,000 in order to get both of their daughters into USC through his 'side door' access into the school. This route was a "done deal" according to Singer, and a fraction of the cost of a mega donation direct to the college.

When the news broke, Olivia Jade was ridiculed with the same venom as people gave the influencers who sold their followers the allusion of paradise by posting about Fyre Festival. Her social media accounts were trolled and brands distanced themselves from her, meanwhile talkshow hosts declared she was fair game and a photograph of her giving a middle finger to the press didn't help matters. These days, everyone hates influencers, and Olivia Jade – who once crashed her car while filming herself singing along to a Stevie Wonder song, and whose cosmetics patent application was rejected, reportedly due to "poor punctuation" – is an easy target.

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Although it was reported that Olivia Jade had immediately dropped out, she in fact left USC after a hearing in March 2019, though the university didn't comment on whether she was expelled. After a long social media hiatus she staged a comeback with a video titled 'hi again', which explained that legally she was unable to go into what had happened. The comments beneath, suggesting she knows "the price of everything and the value of nothing", and that the more she talks the clearer it is why her parents had to bribe her way in, show that Olivia Jade has become a symbol of the greed and corruption that the scandal exposed.

Before the incident she was forging a career which is now often listed as the number one job aspiration for teenagers. You can see from her vocal hatred of school that this wasn't someone that should have gone to college, and yet her parents' obsession with the status it would bring subsumed reality. The vitriol which Olivia Jade was subjected to would have been far better directed at her adult parents – you know, the ones who actually broke the law – and yet she became the target. Her father even aggressively confronted a college counsellor when they flagged their suspicions about Olivia Jade's application, demanding to know why he was interfering in a tense exchange, according to the documentary. What hope do kids have when their model for how to behave is lying and bullying your way to what you want?

Those hoping for soul-searching from Olivia Jade won't find much. The posts on her Instagram account these days are arty selfies with bland, non-specific captions, while her most recent YouTube upload was a moving day video of her in which she admits she "didn't really get moving boxes or think this through".

Really, the more you watch of Olivia Jade, the harder it is to feel anything but sorry for this clueless person who grew up in a family environment obsessed with fame and status. It's not known how aware she was of what her parents had arranged with Singer, but even if she knew every detail it shouldn't be on her to set her mother and father's morals straight. If your parents tell you they've got your college application sorted, you don't expect them to turn around and ruin your perfect life.

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In reality, Olivia Jade's followers haven't been dented too badly, with her Instagram down from 1.3 million in 2019 to 1.2 million now, and her YouTube channel dropping from 1.94 million to 1.68 million, but followers are worthless if you can't sell them to anyone, and she'll likely stay too toxic to ever make a real career out of her internet fame.

There's a mark against her name which could stop her from getting a real job or into another college in ten years time when she might really need it. How will her parents stupidity look then? Olivia Jade's story is a cautionary tale, and yet it's one she hasn't learned from because the people who were meant to be teaching her gave her all the wrong lessons.

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