Olivia Jade Giannulli has 2 million YouTube subscribers, but that’s not how she became a household name. Previously known to fans for her makeup tutorials and blithe vlogs about life as a college student, the 19-year-old found herself at the center of the headline-making college admissions scandal when her mother and father were charged with forking over a $500,000 bribe to USC’s rowing coach to admit Olivia Jade to the school has a recruit.
Since the news broke on March 12, Sephora and Princess Polly dropped their partnerships with Olivia Jade, but her YouTube subscribers have grown each day, according to Social Blade. She gained nearly 5,000 new subscribers on March 12 alone.
This doesn’t surprise Lisa Low, assistant professor of practice of public relations in the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech.
“She didn’t do anything wrong,” Low says, “and even if she did, having negative press in terms of that age and demographic, it does not matter at all. She hasn’t done anything. She didn’t go on a racist rant or steal something or hurt someone. She appears to be the victim.”
Since the bribery came to light, Olivia Jade and her sister, Isabella Rose (who also allegedly got into college illegally), have been lying low. Or at least trying. While she hasn’t posted any videos on YouTube or anything on social media, fans and the media spotted her in the background of one of David Dobrik’s videos. (Dobrik’s rep denied it was Olivia Jade in the video, according to Entertainment Tonight.)
“I think it will blow over and she’s so young,” Low says. “It’s not like she’s at her expiration date in terms of potential. It happens all the time. I just don’t see that this is something that’s going to keep her from going on to be an influencer with other brands.”
Eisha, an 18-year-old New Jersey high school senior, says she became a fan of Olivia Jade because of the YouTuber’s desire to do something on her own.
“I just loved that even though she was so privileged and came from such a rich background, even though she had all that, she wanted to do something on her own. And that’s what I loved about her,” Eisha says.
Eisha, who asked not to disclose her last name, says she started watching Olivia Jade’s videos in the middle of 2017 and would often buy things the star recommended in her affordable hauls.
And when Olivia Jade previously said that she wasn’t interested in the academic part of school, Eisha didn’t take it seriously and even defended the YouTuber on Twitter.
they just look at her as a privileged person but she’s HUMAN ! we all hate waking up early and sitting through boring classes
— eisha (@eishellaa) August 16, 2018
But now that she’s learned about the alleged bribe, Eisha doesn’t see herself supporting Olivia Jade anymore: “I think it’s just hard to watch something like that and support somebody on YouTube because she’s making money off of views and I don’t want to be helping her out and supporting her and helping her with her career.
“She’s just so privileged and I can’t just go back and trust somebody that has affected so much because colleges like USC aren’t easy to get into and people work so hard and it hits so close to home because people work so hard and I can’t support someone like that.”
Low says that her research on Gen Z (current ages 4 to 24), which includes both Olivia Jade and Eisha, doesn’t show that they are against privilege.
“They’re fascinated with how others are living their lives, whether they’ve very privileged or not,” Low says. “Isn’t that the whole point of the Kardashians and all of the influencers? That’s why they succeed because they have this beautiful life that’s carefully curated and everyone wants that.”
Simply search Olivia Jade’s handle on Twitter and you’ll see a lot of young fans tweeting the influencer that they miss her and are reading for her to return. Larissa Baptista, a 15-year-old from Brazil with the Twitter handle @oliviajadfacts is one of them. She says she’s been an Olivia Jade fan for three years; the influencer (who has 195k followers of her own) is among Baptista’s 54 followers on Twitter.
“When the scandal broke, I was shocked and just couldn’t believe it,” Baptista says via Twitter DM. “I never expected something like that coming from her or her family. I’ve been keeping up with the news on the internet ever since (it) broke and honestly, when you care about someone as much as I still care about her, it’s just so sad seeing what people have been saying about her and thinking what she must be going through.”
Baptista adds, “I’m not saying what she did wasn’t wrong. But you can disagree with an action of someone you love but still love and care about them. And I still do care and love her a lot.”