Tyra Banks Defends Olivia Jade Being Cast on 'Dancing With the Stars' (Exclusive)

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Tyra Banks believes in the new group of competitors on season 30 of Dancing With the Stars.

The host and executive producer of the show defended Olivia Jade's casting while chatting with ET's Lauren Zima ahead of the new season. The 21-year-old social media star -- and daughter of Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli -- may be more known for her family's college admissions scandal, but Banks isn't worried about that.

"I think Olivia is so brave. I think people don't know her, they know what happened to her," Banks explained. "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."

Last year, Olivia's parents both went to jail due to their involvement in the college admissions scandal. Loughlin and Giannulli paid $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters, Olivia and 22-year-old Isabella, admitted to the University of Southern California as recruits for the crew team, though neither of them had ever participated in the sport. They initially pleaded not guilty to all charges leveled against them, claiming their payments were donations to the school and not bribes.

"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 continued. "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." 

"If people are talking about you, you're famous," Banks quipped, adding, "And you can be on Dancing With the Stars."

Olivia previously told ET that she hoped being on the show would allow her to show "a different side of me."

"I just want to make it very clear that it is important to learn from the past and I am a big believer in second chances," she said. "I am still young and I am still trying to figure it out and I hope that I just continue to grow every day. And I think because this process is so challenging, you learn so much about yourself, which I am excited for. [I'm] putting myself outside of my comfort zone."

Banks, meanwhile, noted that she has no hand in the casting decision-making. She is, however, excited to reconnect with The Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kenya Moore this season.

"One of my best friends from 20 years ago, Kenya Moore is on the show…Her being on the show has made us reconnect," Banks expressed. "I love her so much. We were so, so close, like close to my family, spent the night in my house, like. And so for her to be there I have to be very careful not to play favorites because she is like family and I think Dancing With the Stars brought us together again. And I had nothing to do with casting her because I don't cast the show."

As for the show itself, Banks confirmed that there will not be a live audience again this year, explaining that she wants "the team to be as safe as possible" amid the pandemic. However, she promises great new additions and changes in return.

"The one thing I will say is with the addition of all the lights and the spectacle, it actually looks like a bigger show. It looks more like, 'Whoa!'" she teased. "So it's like a trade off, you don't get the live audience, but you get a stage that looks spectacular."

She also shared that they will be challenging the pros like never before and throwing "monkey wrenches" into the mix.

"There's a lot of changes," she shared, before giving away some minor details. "There's things when I came on as executive producer of season 29, I had all these crazy ideas. But you know, you gotta kind of like ease your way into it, and we're doing some of them! I'm throwing some things in where the dancers are gonna be like, 'Really, Tyra? Thank you, really?'"

"Competitive things, things we've never done before, [throwing] a little wrench at these professional dancers that know how to do everything," she continued. "The celebs have to do it too and they're already amateur, right? But it's the pros that are so perfect with everything. I think it's important to constantly challenge ourselves or else we get a little bit too complacent. They're some of the best dancers in the entire world and I think the best also need challenges to take them to the [next] level. So I can’t wait to see that."

As for celebrating the 30th season, Banks said there will "be some nostalgia, but we still wanna stay fresh and relevant and constantly looking to the future, and doing that thing that makes people go, 'Oh my gosh!'"

"We're gonna touch on some of that, but not so much that the whole season is themed to that. You can’t ignore your past because you don’t know where the hell you're going, but you can’t stay so connected to that so tightly because then you can't get to the next place, or the next level," she explained.

Tune into Entertainment Tonight on Wednesday (check your local listings here!) to see more of ET's interview with Banks. Season 30 of Dancing With the Stars premieres Monday, Sept. 20 on ABC. See more on the new season in the video below.

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