You could be forgiven for assuming – if you mostly stay out of the strange insular world of influencer drama – that the YouTube beauty community is actually quite a calm place with an unwavering focus on cosmetic advice and chatter.
But as the masses discovered this weekend, nothing could be further from the truth.
In what is undoubtedly one of the biggest industry drama of the year, 19-year-old Beauty YouTuber James Charles is getting cancelled by his own subscribers before our very eyes, while his former best friend and mentor Tati Westbrook is gaining subscribers at an unprecedented rate.
Here’s what happened.
On Friday, Tati, who mostly reviews make-up products, posted an absolutely brutal 43-minute video called “Bye Sister” dragging fellow YouTuber James Charles, who she had up to this point been incredibly close with.
Tati, who is 37 years old and one of the most prominent beauty influencers on YouTube, rarely gets involved in the drama that seems to constantly surround some of the biggest players in the community but on this occasion she didn't hold back. At all.
Tea wasn’t just spilled, it was veritably poured.
Tati Westbrook May as well have said “I brought you into this world and I can take you out!” I have to Stan! https://t.co/bWjq0nKnv8
Her composed, seemingly genuine delivery, as well as the fact that she didn’t appear to be monetising her video, made fans flock to her. Within three hours of posting the video, it had been viewed half a million times and her follower count just keeps going up.
I’ve been watching @GlamLifeGuru for over 5 years now. She has always been humble and kind and fame has never gone… https://t.co/AeU20lLwZ8
The feud between James Charles and his stand-in “mom” Tati isn't new.
It all kicked off last month when she uploaded an Insta story in which she was crying and talking about feeling “really used” and how “friends should support one another". She said:
It's [been] like smacked in my face – what's what and having to take a look at things and realise what they really are.
While she didn’t refer to him by name, fans speculated that she was alluding to James Charles, who had recently posted an endorsement of a vitamin brand called Sugar Bear Hair.
He denies receiving any money for the post, but used #AD in the video and kept it live for 24 hours despite immediate backlash, leading many to believe that there he was under some sort of contractual obligation to do so.
Why the backlash?
Because Tati Westbrook owns a competing vitamin company called Halo Beauty. James Charles attended the launch event last year, and she even publicly thanked him through tears during her speech.
MY BRAND ANNOUNCEMENT ... xo's: https://t.co/bIaitF36J1 via @YouTube
According to Tati's video, James Charles owes his entire career to her and her husband (conveniently also named James), who put time, money and effort into helping him make it, all the while asking nothing in return, so to see him publicly endorse her main competitor to millions of followers was understandably extremely hurtful. Although some have been quick to point out that all is fair in YouTube and 'business.'
Additionally Tati says that she has also taken exception to the irresponsibility of the posts and the ethical implications of promoting a 'health pill' to a fanbase comprised predominantly of teenagers. According to the Youtuber, this is why James Charles never publicly promoted Halo on his channel, according to Tati.
Speaking about his endorsement of Sugar Bear Hair in her video Tati says:
No, he didn't say it's an anxiety pill, but alluding to that to children with a vitamin that looks like a gummy bear that tastes like candy [...] I don't think marketing sleep pills to children is a good idea at all. I would never do that in a million years.
Tati goes on to describe an incident that allegedly took place at her birthday dinner where she claims James Charles was speaking in explicitly sexual terms about a waiter. During the exchanges she told him the waiter was straight, and his response (staggering if true) was: "It doesn't matter, I'm a celebrity."
Her video goes even further, and makes disturbing allegations, suggesting that James Charles has on more than one occasion pursued heterosexual men and manipulated and pressured them into questioning their sexuality.
You tried to trick a straight man into thinking he's gay – yet again – and somehow you're the victim. It's really disgusting to manipulate someone's sexuality, especially when they are still emerging into adulthood and don't quite have everything figured out.
You are using your fame, your power, your money to play with people's emotions. You're threatening to ruin them, you're threatening to embarrass them, and you're doing that to have them behave sexually in your favour even if they're straight.
Her allegations give credence to those exposed by another recent scandal surrounding James Charles.
Gage Gomez, a male model who was spotted with James Charles at Coachella, was on the receiving end of a barage of abuse from James Charles fans, after a now-deleted tweet by James claimed that the then-unnamed Gage was a con artist who was just using him.
In response, Gage uploaded his own explosive video entitled "What really went down between me and James Charles". In it, he claims that he was honest about being straight but that James tried to manipulate him into sexual contact.
For many (former) fans, this is the final nail in the coffin.
@GlamLifeGuru Being a part of the LGBT+ community I can’t believe @jamescharles tries to convince people of their s… https://t.co/ci7kUkYzBQ
I owe two important people an apology. To Tati and James Westbrook, I'm sorry for everything that is going on and everything that I've put you through over the past few weeks [...] I'm so disappointed in myself that I ruined a relationship that did mean so much to me, even if I didn't do the best job of showing it all the time.
During his 8-minute apology video he acknowledges everything Tati has done for him, but failed to address any of the other allegations in her video.
As a result, his apology has been slammed for seeming insincere, and compared to other disastrous influencer apology videos including the now infamous "crying in Gucci" video from beauty guru Laura Lee last summer after a slew of problematic tweets were exposed in what has come to be known as the beauty dramageddon.
The internet did not take kindly to his attempt at redemption.
James Charles when he makes an apology video to Tati Westbrook. https://t.co/cnTyNZ2U2Y
— Brianna K. Johnson (@Brianna K. Johnson)
James Charles preparing to give a convincing apology video: https://t.co/Yd8nrNDD4d
While both Tati and James's videos have over 20 million views, Tati's subscribers continue to climb, while James's are dropping dramatically.
At the time of writing, James Charles, who started last week at around 16.5 million subscribers has lost 2.5 million, and Tati who had under 6 million has gained 3 million with little signs of thesurge in new subscribers slowing down. A live stream of their follower count is currently being watched by around 30,000 people.
i just started this new Netflix show im only on episode 1 please don’t spoil it for me https://t.co/5WXkiAlGUU
The Tati drama has also been unfolding during James's "Sisters" tour – a series of live meet-and-greet events which caused controversy from the get-go due to the cost of tickets (VIP entry was initially priced at $500), which many deemed unreasonably expensive. Now, he's been forced to apologise yet again for keeping fans waiting for two hours at his event on the Gold Coast in Australia.
All in all, it has been a tough week for James Charles, who is being dragged even by his fellow YouTubers, including the OG of beauty guru drama Jeffree Star himself.
It probably doesn't help that while Tati largely stays in her lane and doesn't get involved in YouTube's drama, James Charles has found himself in scandal after scandal, dating back to his original climb to fame – that the viral graduation picture whcih launched his career, got him on Ellen DeGeneres's sofa... may have turned out to be fake, according to fellow YouTuber Thomas Halbert.
So I retook my senior photos & brought my ring light with me so my highlight would be poppin. I love being extra 💀 https://t.co/7Qu1yu8U2P
Both James Charles and Tati have remained conspicuously silent on social media since dropping their videos, which may be a good thing given how riled fans are and the speed with which the drama is evolving.
James Charles has definitely fared the worst out of this whole debacle, but with millions of subscribers and a knack for snapping back, it may be too soon to say that he's definitively been cancelled.
One thing's for sure, the internet is loving Tati more than ever, which is a curious turn of events considering influencers who make dedicated videos to drag their contemporaries are not usually favoured by the masses.
Only time will tell where the next instalment of YouTube drama will come from, and whether an influencer can survive this kind of scandal in today's culture of fickle stans and cancel-mania.