Tyra Banks is defending this year’s most controversial Dancing with the Stars casting choice — Olivia Jade.
The 21-year-old daughter of Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli is set to make her DWTS debut Monday night. But some fans criticized her involvement because of her parents’ participation in the Varsity Blues college admissions cheating scandal. But returning show host Banks told Entertainment Tonight that fans need to give Olivia the benefit of the doubt.
“I think Olivia is so brave,” the supermodel said. “I think people don’t know her, they know what happened to her.”
As previously reported, Giannulli and Loughlin pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison last year for paying $500,000 to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as rowing crew recruits, when neither participated in the sport.
“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,” continued Banks.
“[Olivia] 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 went on. “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.”
As for whether or not Olivia deserves to be on the show, Banks declared, “If people are talking about you, you’re famous and you can be on Dancing with the Stars.”
Dancing with the Stars returns Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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