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Olivia Jade Giannulli, Lori Loughlin, and the college admissions scandal

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Fake water polo players, fake SAT scores, and some very real allegations of bribery: These are only some of the wild stories that have surfaced this week from a massive college admissions fraud case, in which wealthy parents were discovered to have been committing fraud to get their kids into elite universities.

The FBI investigation, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” has resulted in the indictment of 50 people, including Lori Loughlin, the actress best known for her role as Aunt Becky on Full House.

Loughlin is married to Mossimo Giannulli, the founder of a multi-billion fashion company called Mossimo that was a popular streetwear brand in the ’90s and used to be sold at Target. They have been accused of paying $500,000 to ensure that their two daughters were admitted to the University of Southern California. Loughlin was taken into custody, but has since been freed on a $1 million bond.

One of the figures to emerge at the center of this scandal is the couple’s younger daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli. The 19-year-old has been a student at USC since fall 2018 and was already well known in some online circles as a social media influencer.

Over on her YouTube channel, she vlogs beauty tutorials and shopping hauls for her 1.9 million subscribers. On Instagram, she posts daily outfits and wanderlust pics from her vacations to places like Fiji, and on Twitter, she answers her followers’ questions about her life. Like most every other social media star, Giannulli also does plenty of sponsored content.

But now, Giannulli is facing a backlash, particularly on platforms that she once used to reign over. Her Instagram is filled with angry comments. Sephora, which used to pay her to post social media ads and collaborated with her on a makeup palette with her, just confirmed to Vox that it will be pulling the product.

Giannulli’s criticism is largely due to the light the scandal shines on income inequality, and the unfair advantages wealthy families in the US have when it comes to college admissions. As Libby Nelson wrote for Vox earlier this week, colleges might say they care about grades, references, and extracurricular activities, but the children of alumni and major donors get preferential treatment, as do athletes. Even without illegal intervention, wealthy kids like Giannulli routinely get spots to top colleges because they come from families who can afford to pay for music lessons, sports tournaments, and tutors.

There’s also the fact that Giannulli is an influencer (I messaged her on Instagram for this story, but didn’t get a response). An influencer today has the power to drive tons of money, to prop up medicines and energy drinks, and even to make their babies famous. Millions of kids look up to influencers like Giannulli, devouring their beauty tips and shopping hauls, so the fact that someone who commands such power is also involved in a college scandal only makes Giannulli’s situation look worse.

The Insta-famous life of Olivia Jade Giannulli

As far as social media influencers go, Giannulli almost seems to be algorithmically generated. She’s thin, white, beautiful, and comes from a wealthy, famous family.

On her YouTube channel, she amassed nearly 2 million subscribers by sharing her makeup tips, revealing her Christmas presents, and showing off her favorite jewelry pieces. Like many Gen Z social media stars, Giannulli’s internet personality is casual and approachable. She’ll post her morning routine, for example, and will bring the camera into her bed before her makeup application. And even though she comes from a privileged lifestyle, she maintains somewhat of a humble tone, frequently telling her audiences how much she loves them and is grateful for their views.

On Instagram, she posts glamorous outfits and party shots, but she also shows how she’s just a teen, having fun with friends.

Giannulli has been a social media celebrity since she was 14 — or at least, that’s when her YouTube footprint starts. Over more recent years, she’s amassed a huge following, and become a paid partner of Calvin Klein, Lulus, the Smile Direct Club, Tresemmé, Marc Jacobs Beauty, GlassesUSA, and Boohoo, among others. She’s been a guest of Chanel at the French luxury house’s fashion shows and has posted directly on the Instagram account of People magazine.

Giannulli has also landed a few collaborations of her own. In December 2018, she released a fashion line with Australian e-commerce site Polly Princess. (The collaboration appears to have been recently taken down. I reached out to Polly Princess for comment and did not immediately hear back.) Giannulli also had an ongoing partnership with Sephora; she’s previously posted sponsored photos to Instagram, and she debuted her own makeup palette late last year.

She’s been pretty open with her followers that school isn’t all that important to her; she’s tweeted that YouTube is her main passion, rather than sitting in class. When Teen Vogue asked her what about her freshman year excited her most, she responded, “I’m most excited to meet new people and change up my content on YouTube to do more college-themed videos!”

In another YouTube video from August 2018, she tells viewers: “I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend. But I do want the experience of, like, game days, partying. … I don’t really care about school.” When followers criticized her in the comments at the time, she posted an apology video, telling her followers she was sorry for saying “something super ignorant and stupid, basically, and it totally came across that I’m not grateful for college. I’m going to a really nice school. … I know it’s a privilege, and it’s a blessing, and I’m really grateful.”

Just last week, on March 8, however, she went on a radio show and said that she was mostly at USC because of her parents’ wishes.

“Mostly my parents really wanted me to go because both of them didn’t go to college,” she said. “I’m so happy they made me go — that sounds so terrible. They didn’t make me! … I do like it. It’s also cool to create content from a whole different side of things, like in school.”

Some of the current criticism has been about how Giannulli wasn’t even taking advantage of her spot at USC, instead focusing on her influencer career. One Instagram commenter lamented about “poor kids that bust their asses to get into schools like USC to change their futures only to lose it to someone who paid their way in only to experience the parties.” Another wrote, “The $500k your folks paid to get you and your sister into USC could have provided 15 full scholarships for low-income students at a state school. Your shallowness and vapidity are an insult to kids who work hard and play by the rules. Getting a degree in Kardashian studies?”

It’s worth noting that being a social media star is a real job. It might seem like easy, mindless work, but it takes time, effort, and some level of authenticity to become a successful influencer. And to her credit, Giannulli seems to be dedicated to the craft. She’s clearly put plenty of time into her YouTube channel, and she does all the requisite posts on Instagram to hold up her obligations with partners while maintaining her audience’s engagement. As Giannulli has said in her videos, the angry responses she frequently faces from the internet undoubtedly get amplified because she’s a celebrity.

Still, her cavalier attitude about school doesn’t really help her in the eyes of critics. According to the Justice Department, her parents paid bribes so that “their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — even though they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”

Her father, according to court papers, took an “action photo” of Giannulli on an indoor rowing machine, which he then used as a profile picture for membership at the L.A. Marina Club. This was submitted to William Rick Singer, the alleged mastermind of the scheme who runs the college counseling business at its center, Edge College & Career Network. The photo and L.A. Marina Club membership were compiled by Singer, who made the case for Olivia Jade to apply to USC as an athlete in November 2017, despite the fact that she did not row crew.

Giannulli now faces backlash from angry fans

It’s not clear if Giannulli knew she had been accepted into USC under allegedly fraudulent circumstances.

But some of her popularity on social media is — or was — connected to her perceived relatability. As one fan commented on her video about her college style at the time, “I think it’s so cool how she’s in college like a normal teen living with a roommate and not acting like she’s too good. Olivia has always been so humble that’s why I love her so much.” (The comments section for Giannulli’s YouTube account has since been closed). In a radio interview, she said that “It is the coolest thing getting DMs from girls, like, ‘I’m applying to college right now, what did you do?’”

All the attention to Giannulli’s YouTube videos is likely earning her money from ads. But fans are now lashing out against Giannulli, angry that she benefited from her parents’ crimes. The comments section of the page selling the Olivia Jade x Sephora Collection Bronze & Illuminate Palette, for example, is brimming with comments, some mocking the young social media star.


Olivia Jade at the Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Italian Zest Launch Event at the NoMad Hotel Los Angeles on May 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

“I love to use this product on days when I want to use my privilege to suppress and steal from more deserving individuals. Totally sweat proof, lasts all through my crew practice that I don’t actually attend,” one wrote. “I thought this would give me the “just-came-from-crew-practice,” “spent-hours-rowing-on-the-lake” glow. Turns out it was all a sham!”

Others are being less humorous about it.

“Olivia, your family is a glowing example of what is broken in this country. I hope they throw the book at all of you. Shame,” one comment reads. “Palette makes you look like a fake cheater whose family disses honest kids at other schools. Olivia should not be an influencer of anything! Her mother should not be a paid actress on Hallmark!,” another person wrote.

Many Sephora shoppers were vowing to boycott the beauty brand until it dropped its collab with Giannulli.

“I pity any person who purchased or will purchase this item and further line the pockets of that spoiled entitled little girl. Sephora, if you had half a mind you would cut all ties with this family and throw these palettes in the discount bin. What an embarrassment,” one commenter wrote.

“I will not be purchasing anything from Sephora until this product is removed from the website/shelves. Maybe this girl didn’t know what happened, but she seems as entitled as they come. Please don’t support someone how doesn’t understand or care about the value of hard work and an education,” reads another.

On Thursday, March 14, Sephora told me in an email that “after careful review of recent developments, we have made the decision to end the Sephora Collection partnership with Olivia Jade, effective immediately.” The page on their website has since been taken down.

Giannulli’s Instagram comments section is flooded with angry comments too, but some fans are pushing back, saying that even though her parents committed a crime, Giannulli is just a teen, and plenty of the comments are unnecessarily cruel.

“Everyone needs to sllllooowww down,” one Instagrammer wrote. “This girl is only 19 years old and while she is legally an adult, she is still just a kid. Think back to you being 19 and how you might not have wanted to go to college because you just got out of school. Plus, how does everyone just know that this girl knew what her parents did for her.”

“Duuuudeeee every picture people are going innnn on her. I feel so bad like this is actually bullying,” another sympathizer wrote. “I hope she’s strong enough to handle it.”

As for USC, the college said in a statement that it’s reviewing the applications of the students whose parents were involved in the scandal and “will make informed, appropriate decisions once those reviews have been completed.”

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[Read] How to Research Trends: Move Beyond Trendwatching to Kickstart Innovation For Free

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Full E-book How to Research Trends: Move Beyond Trendwatching to Kickstart Innovation For Kindle
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Amazon 2-day shipping: Why packages sometimes arrive later

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In less than two decades, Amazon single-handedly transformed the way we think about online shopping. Before Prime launched in 2005, two-day shipping was virtually unheard of — now more than 100 million people use the service, and they expect the things they order online to arrive at their doorsteps in 48 hours or fewer.

There’s just one problem: Amazon, which has focused on obtaining customers at all costs for decades, seems to be looking for ways to cut down on shipping costs. In some cases, that means weaning Prime users off the near-instantaneous shipping they’ve come to expect.

From the beginning, free two-day shipping was Prime’s biggest draw. Memberships were cheap — $79 a year in 2005 and $119 today — and users had the option of paying a small fee to get their orders delivered in just one day. Today, Prime is about much more than package delivery: Users can order everything, from groceries to a house cleaner, through Amazon. But as Amazon has expanded, the promise of free two-day shipping — the main draw of Prime — has begun to come with a lot of caveats.

That’s not to say Amazon is totally changing course. In 2014, Amazon launched Prime Now, a service designed to deliver products in an hour or less, for some New York City-based users. (It expanded to other major cities in 2016.) Amazon often makes headlines for the grueling work expected of its in-house delivery fleet — or, more accurately, the network of contractors that deliver packages to Prime users across the country — a sign that it continues to take its shipping promise seriously, often at the expense of workers. But even as Amazon has doubled down on ensuring speedy delivery, it has begun looking for ways to rein in customers’ desire for instant gratification, a phenomenon it arguably helped create, in an attempt to cut costs and streamline its supply chain.

The result? Prime orders don’t necessarily arrive in two days anymore, nor are they always delivered to customers’ homes. All of this makes sense from a financial perspective, but that may not be enough to win customers over.

Prime customers pay for — and expect — quick, free shipping. They aren’t always happy about Amazon’s cost-cutting efforts.

Two-day Prime shipping isn’t necessarily a thing of the past, but it’s undeniable that Amazon delivery isn’t as seamless as it used to be.

Amazon will no longer deliver some small items, like razors or hair ties, individually. Instead, customers have to purchase $25 worth of these “add-on” items before Amazon will send the box out; the point, according to the company, is to give customers access to “low-cost items that would be cost-prohibitive to ship on their own.” Since 2011, Amazon has given users the option to have packages delivered to “lockers,” which are basically branded PO boxes, instead of to their homes or offices. Most recently, Amazon rolled out Amazon Day, a new delivery option that lets customers choose a specific day for all of their orders to arrive, is the company’s latest cost-cutting effort.

All of this makes sense from a financial perspective. Delivering packages to a single location instead of hundreds of individual homes cuts costs, and requiring customers to meet a delivery minimum for small orders helps Amazon consolidate deliveries, as does the Amazon Day program.

But the response to these new initiatives has been mixed at best.

Last December, Fast Company’s Mark Wilson wrote about how Amazon Prime is “getting worse,” claiming the company had all but abandoned its promise of two-day shipping for most products. “That little Prime logo used to mean something,” Wilson wrote. “Now it feels like a ruse that lulls shoppers into a false sense of security, until they go to checkout and see a shipping arrival date far later than anticipated.”

He continued:

“This cuts through the greatest promise of Prime. It’s not just the free, two-day shipping. It’s that it’s so reliable, you never have to think for more than a second about buying something. In this sense, Prime was constructed to be great for the consumer (so efficient) and great for businesses (mindless impulse shopping!). … It doesn’t help that we’ve seen a slow dilution of Prime itself over time, with the rise of Prime Pantry and Add-on Items. They force you to buy a minimum number of items to get the best deal, adding back the very psychic burden Prime had eliminated from the equation of online shopping in the first place.”

Wilson’s complaints about Prime suggest a bait-and-switch strategy. Amazon got 100 million people to become Prime users by guaranteeing frictionless service, but now that it’s gotten a sizable chunk of the market hooked on quick, free shipping, it’s trying to cut delivery costs by scaling back on the very thing that got customers interested in the first place. Put another way, Prime is built on the idea that shopping should be frictionless; Amazon has now introduced a degree of friction that wasn’t there before, and some customers aren’t happy about it.

https://twitter.com/esirof/status/1075426983104917504

“I can’t help but feel the frustration around how the false sense of shopping confidence is blown when Amazon simply uses the PRIME lockup as a gimmick,” one reader wrote in response to Wilson’s article. “The ‘prime’ benefit of getting your stuff when you expect it is gone, and it’s not just because of the holiday shipping crunch.

Amazon changed customer expectations regarding shipping. Now it’s changing them again.

One of Amazon’s core principles is “customer obsession,” a “vigorous” desire to “earn and keep customer trust.” (Amazon has, by the way, also been known to use customer obsession as an anti-union talking point.) Put simply, customer obsession means giving the customer what they want as cheaply and quickly as possible — e.g., within 48 hours or fewer — at the expense of profits.

Anne Goodchild, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington who focuses on supply chain transportation and logistics, told me that Amazon significantly altered customer expectations and shopping patterns.

“The status quo [has been] that we take ourselves to the store, pick up the goods, and go back to our homes. That’s actually a pretty inefficient way of doing the last mile: We all individually use our cars, and that kind of commuting creates a great travel burden,” she said. “Delivery services, to some extent, have the potential to be an improvement. [They consolidate] a lot of deliveries — hopefully — into one vehicle like a UPS truck. They have strong incentives, profit incentives, to do that in an efficient and cost-effective way.”

The problem, she said, occurs when delivery becomes too quick. “As we move toward faster delivery, it gets harder to consolidate.” The promise of instant delivery means that customers can buy virtually anything they want without thinking about it; they don’t always think to consolidate their purchases into a single order, because there’s no need to. (A 2018 survey by the optimization platform Feedvisor found that 46 percent of Prime members shop online more than twice a week.) “When we’re not paying some sort of personal cost for the trip, I think it’s easy to overlook how much travel we’re adding,” she said.

Other retailers have attempted to compete by offering similarly fast shipping. “After Amazon, we have things like ShopRunner and even Target [now] saying that if you order certain items, you can get two-day shipping,” Ambulkar said. “I don’t see two-day shipping going away. I think there’s definitely more and more businesses adopting it.”

Even as other retailers lower their shipping times to keep up, Amazon appears to be tweaking its two-day shipping promise. Prime may be cheap and easy for customers, but the cost of all those deliveries adds up quickly. Amazon spent $21.7 billion on shipping costs in 2017, according to its annual report. That’s nearly twice the amount it spent on shipping in 2015.

“Amazon has pursued a growth trajectory rather than a profit one,” Goodchild added. “I think everyone would agree that their strategy has been to please customers and, in doing so, grow their market share.”

But now that it has more than 100 million Prime customers, Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more profitable — which could end up alienating some of the customers it has made an effort to court.

Justin Smith, the founder of TJI Research, an analytics firm that focuses on Amazon, told The Goods that Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more efficient — and cost-effective. “Lockers or other pickup points, or encouraging customers to ship items in the fewest number of boxes possible, which might mean getting it a bit later than if you had shipped items separately,” are all part of that strategy.

“I also think that because of how big they are, they are able to become smarter about predicting what items people are going to order in different regions,” Smith added, “and I believe they’ve been able to put items in warehouses closer to where they expect people to order them from in order to reduce the distance that items have to be shipped when they’re ordered. If that can be done efficiently, I think you reduce the individual shipping volume as well as decrease the delivery time, which improves the customer experience.”

It’s also better for the environment. Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions in the US, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks — the kinds of freight vehicles that are often filled to the brim with Prime purchases and other online orders — are responsible for nearly one-quarter of the total transportation footprint. These trucks, which used to deliver the bulk of their loads to stores and other retail hubs, are now increasingly dropping packages off to individuals. All those one-off orders add up, both financially and environmentally — but, because this type of delivery is often more convenient for the consumer, this has become the new normal.

Not everyone agrees with the premise that more efficiency will result in greater customer satisfaction. Saurabh Ambulkar, a management professor at Northeastern University, said customers who have come to expect two-day — or even same-day — delivery might not readily accept more optimized, less customer-friendly options. “The whole [promise] was that Amazon can deliver the thing to my house, so why do I need to go to the central locker to get something? Why do I need to go to the store?” he said. “If I have to step out of my house to get something, they lose that competitive advantage that they have, but they have to do some of it [in order to] ease the pressure on the supply chain.”

“In bigger cities, maybe the central locker is closer to the place you work, but in other places, I think delivering to residents is what made Amazon more competitive than other players in the market,” Ambulkar added. “If I have to go to a central locker, I can just go to the store to get that product.”

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A Man From a Remote African Village Has Been Named Best Teacher and Will Get $1,000,000 for It

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When talking about the job of a teacher, many people refer to it as “a calling”. We all want our children to be educated by teachers who love their jobs and who make children feel inspired, interested, and motivated. There are 2 opinions when it comes to teachers: “A talented person will be successful, no matter what,” and “A talented person needs a good teacher.”

A charity foundation that was set up in 2015 by a businessman named Sunny Varkey (and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, his patron) awards someone as “Best Teacher” every year with a Global Teacher Prize.

Bright Side was really interested in the winner of the 2019 competition because there were 10,000 applications from 179 countries, with a prize of $1,000,000.

Teachers from India, Australia, the US, Kenya, the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, Argentina, Great Britain, and Georgia made it to the final stage of the competition.

A Kenyan science teacher and Franciscan friar named Peter Tabichi won the award. The award ceremony took place in Dubai and the name of the winner was announced by actor Hugh Jackman.

Peter Tabichi is a teacher in a small African village where the inhabitants often don’t have enough of the most necessary things. Despite this, his students are famous for their wins in international science competitions which is what ultimately attracted the foundation’s attention.

The school these students go to doesn’t look like a school that houses major victories. There is only 1 teacher for 58 students and 1 computer, and in order to make it to lessons, many kids have to cover huge distances on washed-out roads during the rainy season. Most of Tabichi’s students are kids from poor families or they’re orphans. The school is sorely lacking financial support, so Peter donates 80% of the money he makes on the development of the school — the school uniforms, textbooks, and other materials.

7 years ago, he used to teach at a private school but then decided to become a Franciscan friar and leave his job. The code he lives by requires him to have a somewhat ascetic lifestyle and help others. This is why teaching at a poor school is considered charity for Tabichi.

“This win does not belong to me: it demonstrates the achievements of young minds. I am here only thanks to my students’ achievements. A victory gives them a chance. It means that there are no borders for them.”

Tabichi explains how he uses different motivation methods with his students because the secret to success is believing in yourself. Every person can find something they like doing and feel confident. Peter teaches kids to look at things from different perspectives. This is why his projects where students can organize processes and analyze results by themselves are very popular.

The teacher doesn’t say that some of these projects are “cool” and others are “not cool”. The most important thing about them is that the students have to use their imaginations and have to look for new solutions. Tabichi says, “Creativity is extremely important, especially in difficult situations when the resources are limited.”

In this school, there are scientific and creative clubs where every student can showcase their achievements.

“Seeing my learners grow in knowledge, skills, and confidence is my greatest joy in teaching! When they become resilient, creative, and productive in the society, I get a lot of satisfaction for I act as their greatest destiny enabler and key that unlocks their potential in the most exciting manner.”

Tabichi also managed to talk about tolerance: “He created the ’Peace Club’ where there are people of 7 different nationalities and religious beliefs who all visit this school.

People are most interested in one big question: What is he going to spend his prize money on?

His answer? First and foremost, on computer science class, the development of the science lab, and new projects that can improve people’s lives. For example, Peter wants to teach his students to grow drought-tolerant crops. This project is absolutely necessary for life in Africa.

Interestingly, the agreement terms of the foundation say that the winner has certain responsibilities and the prize is not given to the winner right away.

For 10 years, the winner gets $100,000 every year and they have to stay in the profession for 5 years and be a global ambassador for The Varkey Foundation. It means that they have to visit certain events, talk to the media, and participate in training.

We’re deeply impressed by such people! Their stories are bright illustrations of what we call “the purpose of life”. What do you think about this award?

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