It's been two years since the "Operation Varsity Blues" college admissions scandal—a conspiracy unearthed by the FBI in which extremely wealthy parents, some of them famous actors, would pay college counselor Rick Singer to bribe admissions officials to get their kids into prestigious universities—became headline news. Quite frankly, we're still not over it and, thankfully, neither is Netflix: The streamer is behind a new documentary about the scandal, out March 17, which dives deep into the inner workings of the conspiracy through interviews with key players and reenactments of Singer's actual wiretapped phone conversations.
Though the doc's filmmakers weren't able to get any of the parents or students involved to agree to on-camera interviews, they're still very present in the film, and perhaps none as much as Olivia Jade Giannulli, the now-21-year-old daughter of Full House star Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli. At the time the scandal broke, she was a popular YouTube star and a student at the University of Southern California—where her admission was ultimately found to have been secured by her parents with a sizable bribe.
As writer and producer Jon Karmen explained in a Netflix release, "Both Lori and Olivia are beloved public figures, and I think people saw their association with this scandal as a betrayal of trust. With regards to Olivia, we wanted to give people a better understanding of her life by examining parts of her vlogs. ... By showing little details like these, we hoped to give her family's story more nuance than the splashy headlines that came out in the early days of the scandal."
After the scandal first surfaced, resulting in both of her parents being sentenced to short stints in prison, Giannulli initially went off the grid, but has recently begun easing her way back into the public eye. Here's what she's up to now.
Is Olivia Jade still a USC student?
As you can probably guess, Giannulli and her older sister Isabella are no longer enrolled at USC, which maybe, possibly has something to do with the fact that their acceptances were falsely secured through a $500,000 "donation" by their parents and predicated on a promise that both sisters would join the school's women's rowing team, a sport in which neither had any experience whatsoever. Just a theory.
In March 2019, less than a week after the FBI's investigation into the scandal were made public, USC announced that it had "placed holds on the accounts of students who may be associated with the alleged admissions scheme; this prevents the students from registering for classes or acquiring transcripts while their cases are under review." Even so, the sisters were permitted to complete the semester.
And though initial tabloid reports that summer claimed that Giannulli, who was wrapping up her freshman year when news of the scandal arose, was hoping the hold would be lifted so she could continue her schooling, by that August, a source close to her told Entertainment Tonight that she had "no plans to return to USC." They added, "She never wanted to attend USC to begin with, and now she is sure that USC isn't the place for her. Right now her goal is to rebuild her brand and her business."
In an October 2019 statement, the university confirmed that the Giannullis were Trojans no more, but stopped short of noting whether they had voluntarily withdrawn or been expelled. "Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli are not currently enrolled. We are unable to provide additional information because of student privacy laws," the statement read.
Is Olivia Jade still a YouTube influencer?
Another consequence of Giannulli's involvement in the college admissions scandal (knowing or otherwise) was the cancellation of many of her lucrative sponsorship deals. As a YouTuber, she'd racked up partnerships with major companies including Sephora and TRESemmé; both severed ties with her within days of the scandal's surfacing.
Giannulli also immediately stopped posting content on her YouTube and social media pages. Though she briefly returned with two videos in December 2019—mentioning in the first that she wasn't allowed to speak about the ongoing investigation—she seemed to realize after posting the second that the world was absolutely not ready for her to return to her regularly scheduled programming as if everything was normal.
A little over a year later, however, she appears to have decided the time is right for her to attempt to revive her latent influencing career; she began regularly posting Instagram content at the end of last year and returned to YouTubing at the end of January, though, in contrast to her pre-scandal career, none of her content appears to be sponsored.
What has Olivia Jade said about the college admissions scandal?
After being legally unable and/or choosing not to publicly discuss her involvement in the investigation for quite some time, Giannulli broke her silence in December 2020 with an interview on Red Table Talk, hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow, and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris. In the interview, Giannulli said she was "ashamed" to have been part of the scandal and said she understood she was "the poster child of white privilege."
While it was certainly somewhat gratifying to hear her admit it, it's equally frustrating to realize that, as the show's hosts repeatedly pointed out, that exact privilege will also ensure Giannulli lands on her feet and secures the "second chance" she's looking for—opportunities that are all too often unavailable to anyone without Giannulli's immense privilege. Ideally, Giannulli would proceed to use her platform as an influencer to empower those without her privilege but, so far, she seems content to return to business as usual, with a feed full of YouTube videos detailing such hard-hitting updates as her "MAJOR HAIR TRANSFORMATION," which, in actuality, is just a slight trim.
In a TikTok video posted on March 26, she opened up about the words of wisdom that helped her cope with the public shaming she faced in the wake of the scandal.
"We were talking about 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.' And she looked at me and 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,'" Giannulli explained, per ET Online. "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 quick to judge. I think we're all very quick to put people down. I just want people to remember, if your feelings are hurting, if they're valid to you, they're valid. It doesn't matter if someone is going through worse."