What’s Going on with the James Charles Controversy?

By Eileen Flaherty, Student Life Division head. Pictured: James Charles. Photo found here.

If you are a teenager with any form of social media or have access to a computer, then you may have been hearing the recent buzz about the James Charles YouTube drama. This is something that a lot of people have been talking about for the past week or so, and there are a lot of layers to the story. Due to the fact that this story keeps gaining press and more information is coming out every day, it can be extremely hard to keep up with. To be honest, this is something that is causing a lot of tension among the student body. How are we supposed to study when our Instagram feed is flooded with (amazing) James Charles memes and when this story is being reported like crazy? (Influential platforms like New York Times, and the Washington Post have been reporting about it). Today, the whole story is going to be broken down right here.

Our story starts during weekend two of the popular music festival Coachella, right around mid to end of April. Charles posted a video to his Instagram story, which has over 10+ million followers (mostly a young audience; ages 13+) raving about popular company, SugarBearHair’s Sleep Vitamins. SugarBearHair is an extremely popular and advertised company that is most well known for their hair vitamin gummies that help grow and strengthen your hair. So, you may be asking yourself, why on earth would anyone care about Charles supporting this company? Well, the reason Charles is under fire sparked from this simple Instagram story. In this Instagram story, Charles raves about SugarBearHair’s Sleep Vitamins and encourages his followers to purchase them as they have been amazing for him.

Pictured: Tati Westbrook

Over the years of Charles being on YouTube, he has developed an extremely close relationship with another popular YouTuber, Tati Westbrook. Westbrook has been a YouTuber for a long time; her first video dates back to 8 years ago. Charles on the other hand, gained popularity remarkably fast, posting his makeup tutorials and challenges, the earliest dating back to only 3 years ago. Westbrook used to serve as a parent figure for Charles, mentoring him and guiding him through the process of being a YouTuber. She even explains in her video she released exposing Charles that her husband worked countless hours to give Charles a better working and paying contract, that resulted in him gaining a lot more money on his videos.

Westbrook always supported Charles, constantly encouraging her followers to subscribe to him, support him, and buy any of his products that had come out. Charles was featured on her channel many times, whether that meant actually appearing in one of her videos, or Westbrook raving about James. So, it is extremely evident that Westbrook has done so much for Charles.

That is why, when Charles shared the Instagram story for SugarBearHair, Westbrook was crushed. Why? Because Westbrook also has a beauty supplement company, called Halo Beauty Inc. which sells a lot of items very similar to SugarBearHair products. Therefore, SugarBearHair is one of (if not the biggest) competitor of Westbrook’s company. That is why, when Charles went on and started to rave about their company (and not hers), she was crushed. Some feel that this may seem like an overreaction, but, after knowing all that she has done for him, this demonstrates an extremely low representation of character on Charles’ behalf.

Another reason why this saddened Westbrook is because Charles told her that he would never promote/advertise her company because he has a young audience, and promoting beauty supplement pills would not be appropriate for that audience. She understood this, but, when Charles went out and raved about SugarBearHair, you can understand why she was saddened and infuriated.

Tati and James before their controversy.

This ad (the Instagram story), sparked a lot of talk, leading to a video from Westbrook uploaded on May 10, titled BYE SISTER … (Charles is famous for calling his subscribers ‘sisters’), in which she broke her silence and explained everything. There was a lot that she was hiding about Charles that people had no clue about, and she wanted to inform her subscribers of Charles’ irrational, disrespectful, and outright destructive actions.

Westbrook explains in her 43-minute long video that Charles, a gay man, would seduce straight men, while knowing they were straight, into liking him. She gives an example of this that she witnessed. She was celebrating her birthday with friends and family at a restaurant when Charles told that he was very attracted to the waiter and told her about “the things [he] wanted to do to [him],” and she told him he could not do those things because the waiter was straight, and Charles told Westbrook that he could do whatever he wanted because he was a celebrity. This was extremely disturbing and embarrassing for Westbrook, as she had to apologize to everybody at the dinner for his actions. She gives many other examples of this behavior and talks about how she does not condone it and does not want to be associated with him due to that behavior. Her video explains so much more, so if you are interested in watching it, it is linked here again here (warning: there is some foul language and inappropriate content discussed).

Charles broke his silence by releasing a video just a few hours after Westbrook’s video was released. He says that he is sorry to Westbrook and her husband, also named James, for all that he has done for them and that he is saddened that their relationship is over. The apology is rather shallow and does not cover the full story. Charles seems to not take full responsibility for his actions, angering many people.

As a result of Westbrook’s video, which now holds 47+ million views, her subscriber count rapidly increased, while Charles’ subscriber count dropped significantly. The fallout from the scandal has created some of the biggest losses and gains in social media following ever. When Westbrook first released her video, she averaged around 5.9 million subscribers, while Charles had around 16.5 million subscribers. Westbrook’s video gained her around 4+ million subscribers in less than a week, while Charles lost around 3+ million subscribers.

Fast forward to May 18th when Charles released a much longer video, titled No More Lies, going in depth about the situation. Charles backed up a lot of his claims with receipts of text messages and Instagram DM’s, which resulted in him starting to gain subscribers again, and Westbrook starting to lose subscribers.

Right now, Charles has gained about 1+ million followers since the video was released, and Westbrook has lost about 250+ thousand. Of course, this whole situation still had not ended yet, as Westbrook went on Twitter to say that she has been talking to Charles for the last week through an intermediary (so not actually talking with one-another), and that they want to put this matter to rest. Westbrook said that she is done talking about this situation, and that she regrets the way she went about saying her concerns about Charles, and that she should have found a better way. Charles then replied back on Twitter as well, saying that he is ready to move on from all of this drama.

While there is more information on the controversy coming in, the situation as it is is one of social media’s biggest and messiest scandals. Whether or not the situation will be resolved soon or amends will be completely made it still a developing story.

If you still want to stay updated on this situation, you can track Tati’s subscriber count and James Charles’ subscriber count.