How problematic influencers bounce back from controversy.
by Angelina Zervos
Olivia Jade Giannulli has become the face of the college admissions scandal, and she’s fed up! Rightly so? Let’s find out. A quick recap:
Olivia Jade Giannulli, daughter of Lori Loughlin, Aunt Becky from Full House, and Mossimo Giannulli, a guy who designed clothes for Target, had been steadily growing her social media influencer career, and her YouTube and Instagram accounts had each amassed over one million followers. Despite her light-hearted daily vlogs and beauty videos, she quickly became the antagonistic mascot of the college admission scandal once news surfaced that her parents had paid around $500,000 for her to attend the University of Southern California under the guise of a sports scholarship. Olivia Jade was immediately dropped from advertisement campaigns and brand deals with various beauty and fashion brands. Her follower count dropped significantly as more details surrounding the mysterious circumstances of her “rowing” experience came to light. Back in March of this year, Loughlin and Giannulli were charged and arrested with conspiracy to commit mail and honest services fraud regarding Olivia and her sister Isabella’s admission to USC. They now face up to forty years of jail time and have plead not guilty.
Although the Giannullis were some of fifty others who were charged with crimes regarding college admissions, this family easily became the target of nationwide reprimand. The name Olivia Jade is now synonymous with a problem that has plagued this country’s college education system for generations. The nineteen-year-old’s reputation is most definitely tarnished, and her dream of becoming a full-time lifestyle and beauty vlogger has been stunted…or has it?
After months of media silence across all her social platforms, Olivia Jade took to Instagram voice her opinion. In the post, Olivia Jade can be seen flipping the bird at none other than “the media.” In her caption, she mentions the Daily Mail, Star Magazine, People Magazine, Perez Hilton, and “every other media outlet,” along with the hashtags “#close #source #says.” She tagged several other magazines, blogs, and publications in the picture. Most shockingly, the comment section of the image was filled with nothing but supportive comments. “this is iconic,” “go OFF!! my queen,” and “F**k em allllll” was some feedback she received. The post has a clear disproportionate like-to-comment ratio, a tell-tale sign of censorship. Most of the comments were made by fellow YouTubers, influencers, and internet celebrities; it’s pretty obvious that the general public isn’t ready to receive Olivia Jade back into their lives as the sweet, relatable teen she personified online.
It’s important to consider culpability when analyzing her vulgar response. Is Olivia Jade the victim, an unknowing object of her parents’ deceitful actions? Or is she the accomplice, a willing player in a scheme to cheat the system? This may not be a matter of black and white. Yes, it’s impossible to be admitted into a prestigious school with a sports scholarship for a sport you’ve never played without knowingly doing so. On the other hand, Olivia Jade may have been forced to fulfill her parents’ expectations of receiving a college education. By this point, many people have seen the infamous clip from one of Olivia’s YouTube videos where she states: “I don’t know how much school I’m going to attend…but I do want the experience of like, game days, partying…I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.” She was (is) an aspiring model who wanted to take the less traditional route to a successful career; she also happens to be the child of wealthy celebrities who want their children to receive one of the best college educations this country has to offer. It’s unfortunate that a single face, a teenager barely passed the brink of adulthood, has become the headliner of tabloids, the subject of drama channels, and even the antagonist of mainstream media. However, it’s very unlikely that, if Olivia Jade were to never again get a job or continue her YouTube and modeling career (even more unlikely), she would fall on hard times. She would surely maintain her financial stability, which we can only imagine is more than comfortable. This recent post is illustrative of an issue posed by problematic celebrities, more specifically influencers.
The careers of influencers are no longer halted by controversy. As we’ve seen time and time again by figures like Kylie Jenner and Tana Mongeau, who have each capitalized off of their controversial actions, it’s trendy to be scandalous. The main difference for Olivia Jade, however, is that her controversy also happens to be a federal offense, which may need more time to heal than poorly made beauty products or a failed convention. Internet personalities have an added layer of relatability that tends to allow audiences to show more sympathy towards them. As the trial against her parents ensues, we’ll see how well this strategy works for Olivia Jade.