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‘Dancing With the Stars’ Host Tyra Banks Defends Olivia Jade Giannulli’s Casting: She Is ‘So Brave’

‘Dancing With the Stars’ Host Tyra Banks Defends Olivia Jade Giannulli’s Casting
Tyra Banks and Olivia Jade Giannulli. ABC/Adrienne Raquel; ABC/Maarten de Boer

Whether America roots for Olivia Jade Giannulli on Dancing With the Stars is still TBD, but Tyra Banks has her back. The host defended Lori Loughlin’s daughter joining the cast after the nationwide college cheating scandal.

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“I think Olivia is so brave. I think people don’t know her, they know what happened to her,” the 47-year-old model told Entertainment Tonight on Wednesday, September 15. “She has said that she did not know about what was going on and it’s really sad, and it’s very hurtful when something publicly happens but you had nothing to do with it. So I trust that she says she didn’t know.”

Loughlin, 57, and husband Mossimo Giannulli both served jail time after pleading guilty to fraud charges after they were accused of paying bribes to ensure Olivia, 21, and sister Bella Giannulli would be admitted to the University of Southern California as crew recruits. News broke earlier this month that the YouTuber would be taking on the ballroom.

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“She is having to deal with that and I think she’s coming to Dancing With the Stars to be able to tell her story and show her vulnerability,” Banks told ET before addressing whether Olivia is famous enough for the ABC show. “And is she a celebrity? Not traditionally, but what is a celebrity today? If that’s the case, then there’s no Instagram influencer that is a celebrity. We are in a whole different world and celebrity has taken a turn and a change.”

Banks concluded, ”If people are talking about you, you’re famous. And you can be on Dancing With the Stars.”

Olivia joins 14 other stars, including JoJo Siwa, Suni Lee, Melora Hardin, Melanie C., Matt James, Kenya Moore and Brian Austin Green, as the cast for season 30 of DWTS. The reality series marks the influencer’s first major project after hitting pause on her YouTube channel and losing sponsorships in the aftermath of the college scandal.

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“We had the means to do something and we completely took it and ran with it. It was something that was wrong,” Olivia said on Red Table Talk in December 2020. “It really can’t be excused. On paper, it’s bad — it’s really bad. But I think what a lot of people don’t know is my parents came from a place of just, ‘I love my kids I just want to help my kids — whatever is best for them — I worked my whole life to provide for my family.’ I think they thought it was normal.”

Dancing With the Stars season 30 debuts on ABC Monday, September 20, at 8 p.m. ET.

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