Breaking Down the James Charles Scandal
In recent weeks, the online fashion community has been rocked by the feud between James Charles and Tati Westbrook. James Charles’ troubles come in two parts. The first, his recent comments at the Met Gala, and the other, his feud with Westbrook and the allegations of predatory behavior that she has leveraged against him.
Following the Met Gala, YouTube beauty sensation James Charles penned an Instagram post calling for greater “influencer representation in the media,” a claim that was immediately met with scrutiny and disdain in the Twitterverse. Having built a following mostly through Instagram and YouTube, Charles apparently meant to express his desire to be represented in more traditional media. Given the press coverage in Newsweek, Vox, and even CNN, James Charles may have gotten his way, but probably not in the way that he was expecting.
Tati Westbrook occupies a similar space in the YouTube beauty world – mixing makeup tutorials with vlogs that cover her personal life. They were cordial, friends even, until Tati posted a more than 40-minute tell-all video detailing her experience with the vlogger. She talks about how she was hurt by Charles touting rival beauty brands, but perhaps most importantly, she digs into Charles’ predatory behavior towards other men.
Although Charles has made some attempts at damage control, numerous Twitter and Instagram celebrities have released screenshots of James Charles sliding into their direct messages on social media, pressuring them with flirtatious language despite incompatible sexual orientations. Additionally, in Tati’s video, she claims that Charles has made unwanted advances toward many male influencers in the circles she runs in. Gage Gomez, a model with a large online presence, also detailed Charles’ multiple attempts to make advances on him. Gomez claims that Charles told him, on multiple occasions, that Charles ‘forgot he was straight.’
Clearly, there is a lot to unpack here, but the fallout for Charles has been immediate and severe. Since Tati Westbrook released the video calling out Charles’ behavior, Charles has lost over 3 million subscribers on YouTube, and numerous major fashion brands such as Ulta and Sephora have unfollowed Charles on social media. Celebrities such as Shawn Mendes and Kylie Jenner have also ditched Charles.
Given Charles’ controversial past and present, we don’t know if the YouTube and Instagram star, or at this point walking controversy, will continue to occupy a place in the online world of beauty influencers. The damage done to him through criticism by both online ‘influencers’ and celebrities of more traditional media has led to a precipitous drop in online followers, which in the world of monetized social media, means a legitimate threat to his career. With James Charles’ questionable behavior now out in plain sight by someone who described him as a friend, it remains to be seen if Charles will be able to weather the storm or if the 19-year-old’s beauty career will be cut short.