When Olivia Jade announced that she would be appearing on Red Table Talk today, I thought I must be dreaming. The college admissions scandal—in which dozens of rich and famous parents, including Jade's mother, Full House star Lori Loughlin, were accused of a mass bribery scheme to fraudulently admit their children into universities like Stanford, Yale, and USC—broke on March 12, 2019, and I had been waiting for the poster child of the whole operation to speak ever since. Jade’s parents, Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, recently entered federal prison for their admitted participation in the scheme (serving sentences of two and five months, respectively), and the YouTuber is finally telling her side of the story. 

As co-host Adrienne Banfield-Norris points out, it’s likely no coincidence that Olivia Jade picked Red Table Talk and its three Black hosts—Banfield-Norris, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Jada's daughter Willow Smith—for her first post-scandal appearance. Simply put, a white host hailing from Jade's particular bubble of privilege would confer less legitimacy on her comeback.

“I feel like, here we are: white women coming to Black women for support, when we don’t get the same from them,” Banfield-Norris says in the episode’s introduction. 

Jada Pinkett-Smith and Willow Smith are seemingly more sympathetic to Jade's woes: the imprisonment of her parents, the challenge of staying silent during the debacle. But Olivia, obviously mindful of (or, at least, coached on) the humility that the moment calls for, claims she does not want pity. 

“I’m not trying to victimize myself,” she says. “I don’t want pity. I don’t deserve pity ... I just want a second chance to be like, ‘I recognize I messed up.’”

 

The influencer says all the right things. She’s receptive to Banfield-Norris’s criticism, even asking for her to speak more on it so she can fully understand. She owns up to some of her more unpleasant truths, like the fact that she did not see what the problem was when she was first alerted to the scandal. She’s already gotten involved in hands-on work with the less advantaged children and teenagers who lose out when privileged students unfairly take their places in schools. And she freely admits that she’s only scratched the surface of her rehabilitation. 

Olivia Jade’s apology is not for me to accept, and there are people who will understandably never feel an ounce of sympathy or good-will towards her. She will be fine. She does not need her followers or her brand deals back to survive. But if she does want to return as an influencer, it should probably be in an entirely different, perhaps charitable or philanthropic space—one that goes well beyond a carefully orchestrated Red Table Talk interview.