Unpopular Opinion: I’m Going to Miss Hearing About the College Admissions Scandal

Seeing how there’s almost nothing as tired as yet another tale about a “self-made” figure with a business “built from the ground up,” who is supposedly emblematic of the American dream but is actually just a shining example of upper-middle-class resourcefulness, the kinds of stories I come back to have little to do with measures of traditional success. Rather, I’m compelled by the most eccentric character in our hustle culture: the American grifter. Those who are established in elite circles, but instead of leveraging their connections to pursue honest endeavors, decide to just lie a lot and hope for the best.

Though it’s been a pleasure witnessing the public narratives of scammers like Billy McFarland, Elizabeth Holmes and Anna Delvey of Fyre, Theranos and SoHo fame, respectively, no rival case holds the place in my heart belonging to Lori Loughlin and her family’s involvement in the “Varsity Blues” scandal. I’m well aware that it’s been over two years since the feds first announced the charges against Loughlin and 32 other parents. However, if you stopped paying attention only a few weeks in, you may have missed the hilarious developments that made following this story feel like I was watching an episode of Schitt’s Creek play out through headlines.

The premise here strikes gold. We have a prominent SoCal couple whose careers peaked in the late-twentieth century. They have two daughters, one of whom is a teen sensation on YouTube. Like how regular folks buy their kids candy, these parents bought their daughters acceptances to the highly selective University of Southern California. Except that’s athletic admissions fraud and they get busted. The family gets roasted by the public. Even though it’s obscenely obvious they’re guilty, Mom and Dad maintain innocence for a whole year. In that time, more antics ensue. Mom signs autographs outside of the courthouse. Famous Daughter flips off critics on Instagram. We learn that Dad threatened the girls’ high school counselor when the latter raised suspicion. Photos of the daughters pretending to be USC athletes leak. Famous Daughter tries unsuccessfully to resume her YouTube career. Then, Mom and Dad finally plead guilty and head to prison, but not before Famous Daughter does a tell-all interview on Facebook Watch that’s viewed by 18 million people. Except that all happened and I had a blast watching it unfold in the news.

Perhaps my fixation stems from how this all broke out on March 12, 2019, three days after I took my first SAT. Originally from Canada, I didn’t always understand the nuances keeping most Americans barred from admission to top colleges. I’d previously thought that anyone with strong grades, scores and essays had a fair shot at their dream schools. I didn’t know people rowed competitively. That was until this wake-up call sounded from all corners, so loudly I couldn’t miss it. I was soon hooked on this story with not only jealousy towards a fellow teen who almost got away with cheating the admissions process but also genuine amusement at the latest way people with extreme privilege have tried to game life. 

Dad completed his sentence on April 16, over three months after Mom finished hers in December. Famous Daughter appears to have revived her online career. With that, it looks like my favorite show is drawing to a close, just as I wrap up my own first year of college. What remains fiercely alive is my appreciation for a good American grift and though I’m certain new ones will never cease to arise, only time can tell if another will make the timely arrival needed to strike so personally. Lori, I’m waiting on the memoir!