Further establishing itself as the go-to venue for celebrity redemptions, Facebook Watch’s Red Table Talk welcomes Olivia Jade to Tuesday’s episode for a candid chat about her family’s involvement in the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Jade’s parents, actress Lori Loughlin (aka Full House‘s Aunt Becky) and designer Mossimo Giannulli, paid more than $500,000 to disgraced counselor Rick Singer to get Jade and her sister into college. The news broke in March 2019, but Jade has not given an interview about it until now.
Before the interview even began, Jada Pinkett Smith makes it clear that she and her co-hosts — mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris and daughter Willow Smith — have “very different feelings” about welcoming Jade to the table.
“I fought it tooth and nail,” Banfield-Norris says, explaining that it doesn’t feel right for a white woman to come to a group of Black women for support when the same couldn’t be guaranteed if their roles were reversed. “Her being here is the epitome of white privilege. She’s going to recover whether her ass is sitting at this table or not.”
Smith chooses to look at the situation as a “practice in compassion.” Because of what she and Will have put their children through publicly, she understands what it means for someone to face the repercussions of their parents’ actions.
The trio then welcomes Jade, who is “nervous but excited” and “definitely ready to address some things.” Jade says she chose Red Table Talk for her first interview about the scandal (and first interview ever, according to her!) because it “feels safe and honest.” After watching the show, she felt that she could sit down with the women and “wouldn’t feel attacked.” (If it wasn’t already clear, Jade exhibits a stunning inability to read the room throughout much of the interview.)
On the topic of her parents now being in prison, Jade says, “It’s been hard. No matter what the situation is, you don’t want to see your parents go to prison. But it’s necessary for us to move on and move forward. … I’m trying to look at the positives in situations, you know? I know it’s a positive that she’s in there right now. She gets to really rethink everything that happened, kind of figure out when she comes out [she can] kind of figure out what she wants to do with what she’s learned from all of this. Hopefully that will be a blessing in the end.”
“What hasn’t been super public is that there’s no justifying or excusing what happened,” she continues. “Every single person in my family can be like, ‘That was messed up. That was a big mistake.’ But what’s important for me is to learn from the mistake, not to now be shamed and punished and never given a second chance. I mean, I’m 21, I feel like I deserve a second chance to redeem myself [and] to show I’ve grown. … I’m not trying to victimize myself. I don’t want pity. I don’t deserve pity. I just want a second chance and to say I recognized that I messed up.”
Jade lists shame and embarrassment as the predominant emotions she experienced during the fallout, saying that she was disturbed by her own ignorance. “A huge part of having privilege is not knowing you have privilege,” she says. She credits her “little bubble” for distorting her view of how things actually work for most people. “I remember thinking, ‘How are people mad about this?'” she recalls. (This is the point in the interview where we all wish Jade was a guest on Ziwe’s Baited, instead.)
When asked to define white privilege, Jade says, “I understand that just based on my skin color, I already have a foot in the door. I recognize that.” After spending an afternoon with a group of underprivileged kids, she says she wants to start giving her time to make a difference in the world, not just “throw money at a problem.”
Though she doesn’t explicitly excuse her parents’ actions, Jade does say that they “came from a place of wanting the best for their kids. … They thought it was normal. In that community, it was not out of the ordinary.” She adds that it was “embarrassing” to say she didn’t know what was happening.
Then comes Banfield-Norris’ turn to really speak her mind: “There is so much violent dehumanization that the Black community has to go through on a daily basis — so much devastation, particularly this year with the pandemic and everything being brought to the table. There’s so much inequality and inequity that when you come to the table with something like this, it’s like, ‘Child, please!’ I’m exhausted with everything that we have to deal with as community, and I just don’t have the energy to put into the fact that you lost your endorsements. Or that you’re not in school right now. At the end of the day, you’re going to be OK. Your parents are going to go in and do their 60 days and pay their fines and you’ll live your life. There are so many of us where it’s not going to be that situation. A year from now, I might feel differently. It’s very difficult for me to feel compassionate about you.”
In the end, Jada tells her guest, “You’re a brave girl. I don’t know too many young women in your position who would sit down with the three of us.”
Click here to check out Jade’s appearance on Red Table Talk, then drop a comment with your thoughts on the episode below.