On May 10th, Tati Westbrook, the YouTube beauty community’s very own ‘fairy godmother,’ uploaded a 43-minute long video accusing fellow beauty influencer and longtime best friend James Charles of promoting the vitamin brand, “Sugar Bear Hair,” that is a direct competitor of her own brand, “Halo Beauty.” In the video, Westbrook explains her close history with Charles, how he didn’t want to promote Halo in fear of its potential impact on his young fan base, and then goes into depth about how betrayed she felt and how embarrassing Charles’s sponsorship with Sugar Bear was for her and her company.
Then, seemingly in an effort to seize the moment, she further accused Charles of predatory behavior, and after his Sugar Bear Betrayal, and Westbrook saying he “manipulated straight men into thinking they’re gay” in a situation involving a waiter at a Seattle restaurant, she explains that she no longer wishes to be associated with him.
“I don’t think his career is over. I don’t think he’s cancelled. I think he needs some help and I think he needs better people around him,” Westbrook said in her video, “and I know I will never be that person again.”
This video sent the internet into a frenzy. Despite Westbrook’s expectations, Charles lost over 3 million subscribers in a matter of three days, #JamesCharlesIsOverParty trended, and the Kardashians, amongst a multitude of high-profile celebrities, all unfollowed him.
It truly seemed as though his career was over for good, and that he’d never be able to come back from this mess that Tati had exposed him for.
Until, not a week later, Charles returned with his own video (we’ll ignore the mess that was the apology video, entitled “tati”). In the video, nearly as long as Westbrook’s original, Charles explains his side, and uses receipt after receipt to show to his now-suspicious audience, and the now-hateful public, that the things he was originally accused of weren’t 100 percent truthful.
“I have never and will never use my fame, money, or my power to manipulate or get any sexual actions from a guy. That is disgusting. That is not me. The fact that Tati brought this up blows my mind,” Charles said.
Things instantly did a 180. Since the video’s upload, his subscriber count has again soared, regaining nearly half of the subscribers he originally lost in the span of two days. Westbrook and other beauty influencer Jeffree Star, whose name was brought up in Charles’s video, have both lost a chunk of subscribers. Not nearly as rapidly as Charles originally did, but decreasing all the same.
This sheep-like behavior exhibited by the general public brought into question, why is it so easy for people to turn on influencers that they look up to, and then, for that matter, turn right back again?
Twitter was unabashedly rampant with hate for James Charles on May 10th, and many were guaranteeing with their whole chests that there was no way he’d be able to come back from this.
Except he most definitely already has.
@Typicalcommentz on Twitter perfectly visualized the situation with a video of someone walking out of a room labelled, ‘Tati’s Channel,” and walking into a room labelled, “James’ Channel,” with the caption, “Everyone after seeing James Charles’s new video about Tati and Jeffree Star.”
The thing was, this exact video with the doors labelled oppositely had just gone viral a week ago. It was almost scary how easy a time the internet had switching sides in an argument that was “written better than s8 of game of thrones,” according to @evesluisa on Twitter.
“After this James Charles mess I’m convinced y’all just participate in cancel culture for the clout and that’s it,” said Twitter user @thordaya.
“Cancel Culture” was something that Charles had mentioned in his video as well. As someone who’s been at the center of numerous scandals, to Cancel Culture he’s no stranger. Many would argue that the term was coined because of people like him, influencers and celebrities who give legitimate reasons to be “cancelled” regularly.
“Are we supposed to see gossip and not talk about it?” said drag queen, actress and old friend of Charles, Willam Belli. Though Belli meant it jokingly, much can be said about the height of the degree at which everyone on the internet was able to relate to this. It seemed everyone had something to say, and every reason to “cancel” James Charles. As mentioned, even A-list, very high profile celebrities had something to say by unfollowing him.
A week later, however, the roles have switched, and though he’s still lost millions of followers and subscribers, any publicity seems to be good publicity for Charles. Especially when it takes only a few screenshots and a 40-minute video to get the general public back on his side.
“I think they all definitely made some stuff up, probably for money,” said sophomore Marilyn Jewitt.
No matter the truth, an argument with as much cultural impact as this one is far from unheard of, and also virtually guaranteed to happen again. Time will tell, but after all three main parties have pledged to take breaks from social media and from Youtube, perhaps the internet will be quiet for a good while, so that we can focus in on actually pressing issues, like the now eight-state-wide abortion ban, or climate change.
Best of luck, happiness, and good faith to Tati, James, and Jeffree, but the world could’ve gone without.