At the beginning of the episode, Jada Pinkett Smith, her mother, Adrienne Banfield Norris, and her daughter, Willow, talk about whether it’s even responsible or necessary to give Giannulli space for a redemption arc. Norris, in particular, is not having it: “I fought it tooth and nail. I just found it really ironic that she chose three Black women to reach out to for her redemption story,” she said. “I feel like here we are, a white woman coming to Black women for support when we don’t get the same from them. Her being here is the epitome of white privilege to me.” (Later, Norris scolds Giannulli to her face, and she sits there like a lost fawn. If you’re still mad at her and her family for the bribery, it’s satisfying to watch.)
In the interview, which is barely 30 minutes long, Giannulli sits very still in a stunning pink suit and patiently, dutifully, calmly eats shit. She doesn’t cry, she doesn’t whine, she doesn’t try to downplay the severity of her parents’ crimes. And while she wasn’t formally charged with any wrongdoing short of pretending to be a skilled rower (who among us, you know?), she does admit that she didn’t think what her parents did was a big deal because everyone around her was doing the same thing. “I remember thinking, How are people mad about this? A lot of kids in that bubble, their parents were donating to schools and doing stuff that, like, so many advantages. It’s not fair and it’s not right, but it was happening,” she said. “This was normal. But I didn’t realize at the time that was privilege.” (Giannulli could frankly start a side hustle where she teaches other YouTubers how to appropriately apologize from their own mini scandals.)
Ultimately, Giannulli’s excuses sound pretty reasonable: She trusted her parents, she’s young and wanted to go to a fun school with her sister, she trusted her college counselor (who has also pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing), and she’s so upsettingly privileged that she didn’t even register that the ways her parents were using their privilege were grossly out of hand. “I don’t want pity. I don’t deserve pity. I just want a second chance to be like, I recognize I messed up.”
It’s actually impressive — in her attempt to not curry pity, she’s more effective at generating sympathy than some of her peers with regards to their own scandals. While makeup influencer Laura Lee took to YouTube to dry-cry after she was called a racist online in 2018, Giannulli talked about her own privilege and her attempts to recognize it. Giannulli could have uploaded a video of herself trying to muscle through her scandal — and indeed she did at the end of 2019, a two-minute video that says nothing, apologizes to no one, recognizes nothing, and merely meekly begs a hostile audience to give her a pass.
But Giannulli figured something out about the public apology tour that a lot of other famous, privileged, white young women fail to grasp. You’ll likely never escape a public narrative already written about you. The best way forward is through, and in this regard, Norris was right — it’s an incredibly shrewd decision to use the platform of three Black women to muscle your way through accountability.
Giannulli is a privileged young woman, but the Pinkett/Smith family benefits from the same kind of celebrity privilege, making it a great place to start a compelling apology tour. Red Table Talk has everything Giannulli needs to not make the audience forget, but rather, to understand her side. “What’s so important to me is to learn from the mistake,” Giannulli says in the episode. “I’m 21. I feel like I deserve a second chance to redeem myself.” It’s a chance she might not get from anyone else, but for 30 minutes today, she got more than she’s had in two years: a rapt audience keen to listen to her, and by the end, likely ready to forgive. ●