YouTube beauty gurus James Charles has become public enemy number one over the weekend, losing millions of subscribers on the media platform after being exposed in a lengthy video by his former friend and mentor, Tati Westbrook. In case you’re not already immersed in the influencer drama — first of all, welcome, it’s a mess — here’s a rundown of who these people are and what the hell is going on.
While James Charles has become the most well known social media beauty guru thanks to his huge following — something he achieved by combining beauty with entertainment — various scandals, and seemingly endless memes, the 19-year-old was a relative nobody three years ago — just another Instagram makeup artist trying to build a following. Charles was also a fan of Westbrook, considered one of the OG beauty influencers, who for years published five videos a week testing out various makeup products and has since scaled back to three episodes a week after starting a supplement brand, Halo Beauty. Westbrook was a mentor to Charles, helping him build his platform, connecting him with industry insiders, giving him business advice, and even flying him out to do her wedding makeup — all of which she recounted (with receipts) when she cancelled him.
But in just a few years, Charles’ fame far eclipsed Westbrook’s, which she was seemingly very supportive of. In the last year alone, Charles has collaborated with the likes of Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, started his own clothing line, gained millions of new YouTube subscribers, and released an eyeshadow palette with makeup brand Morphe that was so popular it couldn’t be kept in stock.
But Westbrook says this success has gone to Charles’ head, something she’s alluded to a few times before finally making a 43 minute video called “BYE SISTER” (Charles’ name for his fans), which was posted on Friday. In the video, Westbrook explained why she is severing ties from Charles, accusing him of going behind her back to work with Sugar Bear Hair (a supplement company that’s a direct competitor to her own brand, Halo Beauty). She also claimed that Charles has a history of inappropriate sexual conduct with straight men, allegedly saying that it doesn’t matter what someone’s sexuality is because he’s a celebrity, something other celebrities have been quick to confirm in the days following.
Zara Larsson reveals via Twitter that James Charles has hit up her boyfriend, Brian H. Whittaker, several times in his DMs despite being aware of him being straight. pic.twitter.com/zvOYv6bvU6
— Pop Alarms (@PopAlarms) May 11, 2019
"Fame, power and a fat bank account will change almost anyone," Westbrook said. "If you don't have people that will tell you to your face that you are doing the wrong things, you will change….I tried to be that person for you, James. I really tried. I don't think there's any getting through to you and I don't want to be friends with you, I don't want to be associated with you and I need to say that very publicly so that chapter can be closed."
In the hours following Tati’s video, hashtags celebrating Charles’ “cancellation” began to trend on Twitter and his YouTube subscriber count began to plummet, while Westbrook’s only grew (there’s even a YouTube video tracking both in real time). Charles made his own video apologizing to his former friend, which many felt was inauthentic (the crocodile tears when he talked about his mom...girl please) and quickly became fodder for memes. Charles also started hemorrhaging celebrity followers including Jeffree Star, Shane Dawson, Kylie Jenner, Shawn Mendes, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Iggy Azalea, and even the company who produces his palette, Morphe Brushes.
Star, another popular (and problematic) beauty guru, chimed in with his own allegations against his former friend in a since-deleted tweet, claiming that his boyfriend had banned Charles from their house and that the YouTuber is “a danger to society.”
Since Westbrook’s video was posted on Friday, Charles has lost almost three million YouTube subscribers — he had over 16.5 million before Westbrook’s video and is now clocking in at 13.8. Bye sister, indeed.