Heidi Stevens –
To paraphrase Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, never let a good celebrity crisis go to waste. Particularly when you can use it to collect parental talking points, like little pearls snatched from a celebrity crisis oyster. And this celebrity college scandal is going to be the oyster that keeps on giving.
There are countless essential threads to pull and explore in this story: How do we fix a higher education system that has, for far too long and in far too many ways, been influenced by money and clout? How do we live up to the promise of education as the great equaliser? How do we create a culture that fosters, throughout a child’s life, parental involvement and investment, but not to the point of crushing a child’s independence and resilience and work ethic?
All of that.
I also think there are a zillion conversations this thing can help us launch with our kids. I wrote about the conversation I hope we can have with the college-minded kids in our lives, about the fact that college is the beginning of something, not the end result. About how where you go to school doesn’t even begin to measure your human value or your human potential.
Now I want to talk about Olivia Jade Giannulli. She’s the 19-year-old daughter of actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli. She’s also an “influencer,” which, as far as I can tell, means a person with a bunch of followers. She has 2 million YouTube subscribers and 1.3 million Instagram followers.
Loughlin and Giannulli are among dozens of celebrities, business leaders and other super wealthy folks charged last week with bribery and fraud to get their kids into elite colleges and universities. Specifically, the couple is accused of agreeing to pay $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team, despite the fact that they weren’t rowers.
Back in August, Olivia Jade announced to her YouTube audience that she was heading to USC in the fall, adding, “I don’t know how much of school I’m gonna attend.”
That post didn’t age well.
When news of the indictments broke, her fans and followers began to turn on her.
“You didn’t earn your success. You stole it from someone more hardworking and deserving than you.”
“I’m thinking a ‘Clothes to Wear to My Parents Court Hearings’ haul might be in your future sweetie.”
“Row row row your fake boat, right into USC! Merrily merrily merrily merrily, get kicked out with no degree.”
That kind of thing.
Now, the likelihood of my kid or your kid waking up one day to find his or her parents charged with bribery and fraud is, I hope, extremely small.
But the likelihood of them having something happen in their lives that they’re not supremely proud of, and not eager to hear the world weigh in on, is not so small.
And the limelight is harder to turn off than it is to turn on. It doesn’t turn off when we’re ready for privacy. It turns off when a fickle and often savage public is done with us. Their timetable, not ours.
I think that’s a valuable reminder to pass along to our kids, who are growing up in a moment when followers and likes and shares can seem paramount. When self-worth seems quantifiable and decided by others.
Maybe an audience isn’t always such a great thing. Maybe you want to hold some things back. Maybe you share that story/photo/fear/dream with the people (person?) you know, without a shadow of a doubt, are in your corner. And maybe that’s all.
I think that’s a valuable reminder for us, the parents, too.
We can argue all we want about Olivia Jade Giannulli’s privilege and whether she deserves the trolling and the flak and the heartache.
I’d rather not. I’d rather focus on the tangible stuff we can take away and apply to our own lives, our own families, our own habits.
The down side of courting and performing for an audience, especially while you’re still growing and changing and learning and, inevitably, ruining, seems like a biggie. — dpa