On Sunday, Olivia Jade Giannulli, the Gen Z influencer at the center of the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, made an understated return to YouTube after a 9-month hiatus. The 20-year-old daughter of Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli had a thriving side hustle as a vlogger with nearly 2 million subscribers before the scandal (perhaps irreversibly) tarnished her public image. Now, after a few teases of Instagram activity over the summer, Olivia Jade has apparently decided that enough time has passed for her to reclaim her online celebrity.
In the brief two-minute video, Giannulli sits in front of the camera in what appears to be her bedroom, bare-faced—a rare occurrence for the makeup-obsessed beauty guru—and wearing a pink Brandy Melville crop top. Two loose strands of hair frame her face as she gesticulates with freshly manicured hands. “Hi everybody, it’s Olivia Jade,” she begins, a slight smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Welcome back to my YouTube channel.”
Giannulli then provides a half-explanation for her absence, saying, “Obviously I’ve been gone for a really long time and as much as I wish I could talk about all this, it’s really hard for me to say this just because I know that it’s something that needs to be addressed…” Her vocal fry-inflected voice trails off. “It’s just unfortunately—which is also why I didn’t know exactly when I should come back to YouTube—the reason for that is just because I’m legally not allowed to speak on anything going on right now.” The unarticulated “it” and “this” of her jumbly introduction presumably refers to Operation Varsity Blues and her family’s alleged involvement. While Olivia Jade is disappointed that she can’t speak her piece to her followers just yet (probably for the best, given that her parents are each facing up to 45 years in prison), she says she is “just really excited to start filming again and to start uploading.”
Her seemingly simple statements have clearly been carefully considered, as she reluctantly pauses over each sentence and worries aloud about coming across as selfish. The former University of Southern California student emphatically explains, “This is the best I can do, and I want to move on with my life, and not trying to be in a selfish way. It’s so hard because I’m not trying to make this about me, or like how I’ve been, because that’s not the point of this. Although I’m terrified to make this video and to come back, I know that I also want to start taking smaller steps in the right direction.”
It’s hardly convincing to hear a celebrity whose entire career has been built on posting pictures and videos of herself on social media say that she’s not trying to make her own YouTube channel about her, but she does get points for thinking this through longer than she did her since-deleted Instagram post flipping off the news media over the summer.
Giannulli’s parents, Full House star Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, both pleaded not guilty in April to charges of fraud and money laundering. Earlier this month, they also pleaded not guilty to an additional bribery charge. The couple is accused of paying $500,000 to a middleman to designate their two daughters, Olivia Jade and her older sister Bella, as crew recruits at the prestigious University of Southern California. Neither of the girls played the sport. Prior to the college admissions bombshell, Olivia Jade documented her glamorous teenage life in Los Angeles, providing an escapist guilty pleasure akin to watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians through videos like “(LUXURY) WHAT I GOT FOR CHRISTMAS 2018” and “FIJI with a BUNCH of YouTubers.”
Simply titled “hi again,” Olivia Jade’s most recent clip has racked up 1.6 million views and is the No. 1 trending video on YouTube as of press time. Whether the nondescript lowercase title signals apathy (read: a lack of remorse), or the naïve belief that she’ll be able to slip back into the spotlight without any backlash is for viewers to decide. So far, reactions from YouTube users are mixed. At the time of publication, the video has 80,000 likes and 51,000 dislikes. The comments, however, are overwhelmingly negative. One person sarcastically wrote, “Can you post a tutorial on how to get accepted into a prestigious college by bribing the school? Need some pointers.” Another said, “This was like watching a highlight reel of being privileged.”
Many well-meaning commenters also chimed in to urge her to stay offline and out of the public eye for her own sake. But based on her chipper promise of “future vlogs,” Giannulli does not plan to heed this advice anytime soon.