"It's just really shitty to feel like this," says a devastated high-schooler in Netflix's Operation Varsity Blues (OVB).
She's just one of a number of teens in the documentary, and thousands of others across the country, who have experienced rejection from their college (or university, depending on where you're from) of choice.
The heartbreak is palpable. Their dreams of attending Stanford or Harvard or USC died a death as the path they envisaged they'd take was ripped up and chucked in the proverbial skip.
"And I know that people who got in are super deserving," she adds, in an attempt to soften the blow.
In her mind, at least those sitting where she would have sat, attending the classes she had already circled in the prospectus, throwing themselves into the student clubs she'd been eyeing up for the best part of two years, were worthy of their spots. They had earned their places by academic brilliance and diligence, or by tearing it up on the football field or in the pool. At least that's what she thought. That's what many of us would have assumed to be the case.
But while a portion of the various student bodies had made it to the promised land on their own merit, there were a number who were there because of their parents' deep pockets, facilitated by Rick Singer and his "side door".
The college admissions counsellor accepted bribes, which he wired to college sports coaches and exam administrators as "charitable donations" in exchange for guaranteed spots at the most prestigious US universities.
Olivia Jade sits in the latter category. She is the daughter of Lori Loughlin, a US actor who is best known for sitcom Full House and its sequel Fuller House, 90210 and When Calls the Heart, among others. Her father is fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli.
In the documentary, we learn that neither Loughlin nor Giannulli went to university, but they felt it was important that their children did, which certainly isn't uncommon. But Olivia Jade wasn't your average teenager. She was a successful influencer, with a huge following across her social media platforms and her own fashion and beauty collections with the likes of Princess Polly and Sephora, as well as countless other paid partnerships.
As Naomi Fry, staff writer at The New Yorker notes, "she was very successful in what she was doing".
What's also evidently clear was her lack of interest in academia. She wanted to drop out of high school and she certainly didn't want to go to college. But as one of the talking heads in OVB acknowledges, for many of those involved in the scandal, it was about living out their untapped dreams of college life through their children.
Both Olivia Jade and her sister Isabella Rose had been accepted into USC as accomplished coxswains, despite zero experience in the sport of rowing.
In the documentary, there is a photo of Olivia Jade on a rowing machine. It was included in her academic profile, which was sent to USC. But when it was spotted by the guidance counsellor at her high school, he became suspicious after witnessing no evidence of Olivia Jade's involvement in rowing prior to that.
The same tactic was also used for her sister.
More than 50 people were charged with participating in the scheme and a number, including Loughlin and Giannulli, and Desperate Housewives' Felicity Huffman, have since been found guilty.
According to prosecutors, Olivia Jade's parents forked out $500,000 for their children's admission into USC. After initially denying the charges, they were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.
Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison, two years of supervised release, a $150,000 fine and 100 hours of community service.
Giannulli received a five-month prison sentence, two years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and 250 hours of community service.
Olivia Jade's public image took a beating once the news hit headlines. She lost a lot of her sponsorships, and her make-up palette with Sephora was discontinued.
She was regularly ambushed by the paparazzi and was lambasted online, which explains why comments on her Instagram account are now limited.
Her output on YouTube also decreased heavily. Olivia Jade shared a video on December 1, 2019 after more than eight months of silence on the platform. In 'Hi Again', which is just two minutes long, she said that she wasn't legally allowed to talk about the case, which would have been a disappointment to those behind the 6.2 million views it has amassed. She still continues to film vlogs, but isn't uploading as regularly as she once was.
But while her audience remains sizeable – she has more than 1.2 million followers on Instagram and over 1.86 million subscribers on YouTube, working with big brands feels like a bridge too far, certainly at the moment, and OVB is unlikely to help her cause. But people have been forgiven for much worse.
In March 2019, it was reported that both Olivia Jade and her sister were still enrolled at USC (via Vox).
"USC is conducting a case-by-case review for current students and graduates that may be connected to the scheme alleged by the government and will make informed decisions as those reviews are completed," said the college in a statement.
But in August, a source told ET Online that she had "no plans to return to USC. 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."
Olivia Jade appeared on Red Table Talk in December 2020 with hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow and her mother Gammy.
When asked if she had known about the scam, this is what she had to say: "There was a lot that, when I was applying [to college], I was not fully aware of what was going on. 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."
Olivia Jade also said that she remains "super close" with her parents, adding: "Especially my mum. She's my best friend. It's definitely hard not being able to talk to her."
Loughlin was in prison at that time, but has since been released.
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