On Tuesday, news broke that celebrities including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged in a massive fraud bust.
The alleged scam, for which 44 people have been charged, saw wealthy parents pay to get their children into top universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their ability. The scheme is also being called the 'college entrance exam cheating scandal' — because the children's scores on the admissions test were usurped by the money paid.
The schools involved included Georgetown University, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Southern California, University of Texas, Wake Forest, and Yale. The suspects each paid between thousands of dollars to $6 million (Dh22 million) to seal their children a seat in the universities; coaches would then fabricate the student's athletic history or exam administrators would correct the student's exam.
It is said that the students involved did not know about their parents' collusion with the scam, and are not being prosecuted. The scheme was allegedly run by a man in California who operated a college-counselling agency.
It transpires that one of the students caught up in the scandal is a famous vlogger and Instagram influencer. Olivia Jade Giannulli, 19, has 1.9 million YouTube followers and 1.3 million Instagram followers, and regularly posts about life in university, as well as sponsored content and make-up tutorials.
Olivia with her actress mum Lori Loughlin:
Court documents allege that her parents - Full House actress Lori Loughlin and designer Mossimo Giannulli - "agreed to pay bribes totalling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC."
Olivia's vlogging: controversy last year over college comments
Olivia Jade began YouTube vlogging back in 2014 when she was just 13: she mostly talks about make-up, but also fashion, fitness, and just her life as a California kid and celebrity offspring.
Last year she caused controversy when she posted a vlog talking about her plans to go to college.
“I don’t know how much of school I’m gonna attend," she said in the video. "But I’m gonna go in and talk to my deans and everyone, and hope that I can try and balance it all. But I do want the experience of like game days, partying ... I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”
The same week she posted that video, she put up an apology response. She said her comment about being interested in partying only "was super ignorant and stupid ... it totally came across like I'm not grateful for college", in the apology video.
"I'm disappointed in myself," she said of the partying comment. "I'm not like that, and I didn't mean it that way. I know that it's a privilege and it's a blessing. I know that a lot of people like to attack me because I've grown up in a different life.
Olivia's sponsored content from college
She has posted a lot of content from her college experience, including this room tour in which she says Amazon Prime "hooked me up with basically everything in my dorm":
She didn't label this video as sponsored content, but has posted plenty of "paid partnerships" on Instagram, showing she was directly making money as a college vlogger, including this post about an "invisible aligner" treatment.
"I’m so happy with my results so far! Having a straighter smile definitely makes me feel more confident," she wrote on this paid-for post.
This tweet from Olivia in 2017 is getting particular attention now, given the scandal, But it was from when Olivia was in school, not college: "It's so hard to try in school when you don't care about anything you're learning," she wrote:
Jade's latest vlog, from two days ago, was a 'try on haul' showing all of her new-season clothes: