The Story Behind Lori Loughlin's High Drama Courtroom Sketch

"She certainly looked the part," says Mona Edwards, whose illustration is my new favorite piece of art.

Lori Loughlin Sketch
Photo: Mona Shafer Edwards / BACKGRID

On Wednesday morning in Los Angeles, Lori Loughlin appeared in court to face charges for allegedly participating in a bribery scandal that dominated this week’s new cycle. “Becky with the good heir” everyone tweeted, referencing Loughlin’s Full House character Aunt Becky AND the shady Beyoncé lyric about an amoral cheater named, uh, Becky. Today we have a courtroom sketch of Loughlin on the stand, and the image has somehow made this Hollywood clown car of a controversy even more fun to dive into.

In a time when news is so dark we can’t help but wince at each push notification, bracing for more stories of unchecked abuse or the exact date when scientists think the planet will become a molten puddle of plastic, the tale of entitled rich people being caught doing extremely entitled rich people stuff has been like a balm. Someone who wasn't good enough used money to get ahead! So fun! So novel! A new and groundbreaking bit of insight into the extreme injustice that undergirds our higher education system!

And then the gift kept on giving. When the story broke, Loughlin’s daughter was on vacation on a literal yacht, owned by the chairman of the board of the very college she had allegedly bribed and lied her way into, TMZ reported. She was sent home from spring break early, I can only imagine, in an inflatable dinghy of shame.

If Loughlin’s presumed role in this whole scandal is having basically said ‘I have money and thus can get whatever I want,’ the sketch of her in court is the purest distillation of that attitude. The pursed lips and glossy side-parted hair telegraph “I want to speak to a manager” realness, with a “this mom is taking absolutely NONE of your shit today.” It’s… perfect. It’s aspirational? In a way? Uncomfortable as I am with this admission, I am facing facts that I envy some small amount of the power emanating from this image. I am not that mom. And only partly because I wouldn’t lie and steal to give my child an unfair advantage.

Artist Mona Edwards who pulled off this striking image works as both a courtroom illustrator and a fashion one, and it is clear that, when she was called to the case of “Operation Varsity Blues,” she came ready to multitask. As Edwards explains, “The camera in the courtroom never picks up the ‘soul’ of a hearing or trial; it is a cold eye, without depth or emotion. Courtroom illustration has to tell a story at a glance; emotion, body language, clothing style and fit all describe the wearer. ” Edwards has previously depicted Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, and Rihanna on the stand. She draws from her background as a fashion illustrator to pull in the meaning of a subject’s style. And Loughlin’s contained multitudes, in her tight mouth and heavily shadowed eyes; her arms crossed in front of her body in that classic “I am beyond reproach” stance.

“Loughlin had her arms crossed in a fairly deflective and defensive pose, almost the entirety of the hearing,” Edwards says. “In the sketch, I wanted to show her pose: straight, unflinching, perhaps angry. She certainly looked the part!” Loughlin’s polished high-neck sweater seems to say she knows how to do an understated courtroom look, but wouldn’t want anyone to forget she has an incredible amount of money and can use it to get whatever she wants. A pricey blowout, for example. Someone else’s spot at a competitive university. That kind of thing.

“She was very well put together — hair, makeup — as if she had time to get ready and look great for her ‘appearance,’” Edwards explains. “Her choice of white turtleneck was perhaps a statement of purity and innocence?”

VIDEO: Sephora Is Cutting Ties with Lori Loughlin's Daughter as a Result of the College Admissions Scandal

Fashion illustrations often rely on hyper-exaggerated features — needle-thin legs stretched to ridiculous proportions, waists whittled to nothing beneath bobble heads that are somehow supposed to make us think ooh, chic that woman has almost disappeared entirely! They annoy me. But this one is different. For starters, it’s a courtroom image — but made fashion. The Loughlin illustration looks like an actual petulant PTA mom is standing before me, a soft pastel aura lighting her at the dais; a microphone at the ready for her to say, “I mean I just want to be sure my child has the best locker location is that so horrible” or “I guess I have to be the one to say it: Affirmative action is unfair.” Courtroom Lori Loughlin is a caricature, in the literal and figurative sense, of a woman who is willing to trample anyone to make sure her precious offspring has every unearned advantage possible. No matter how little the child herself wants it.

In the unfolding of this story, Loughlin’s name has been conjoined to another actress, Felicity Huffman, who, according to Edwards, cut a more morose figure in the courtroom the day before. “The illustration of Lori Loughlin yesterday was a direct opposite of the sketch done the day before, of Felicity Huffman, where Huffman appeared slightly shocked, and had a look of sadness mixed with disbelief. She was without any makeup, her hair was tied back in a ponytail, her white tee shirt under a casual blue jacket.” And what can we read into that? “Obviously she was arrested and brought in without the luxury of time.”

Some people have access to luxuries that others don’t. And what they do with those luxuries really matters.

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