Shane Dawson is being cancelled before our eyes. What his unprecedented downfall tells us about YouTube, racism and influencer fandom

Shane Dawson is being cancelled before our eyes. What his unprecedented downfall tells us about YouTube, racism and influencer fandom

YouTuber Tati Westbrook has just dropped the bombshell we've all been waiting for.

The 40-minute video entitled "Breaking my silence" exposes the alleged actions of Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star, and the involvement the two had in the drama that occured last year between Westbrook and former best friend James Charles.

This is one of the most explosive videos to ever come out on the platform. It has the potential to drastically change the face of the YouTube community, and completely eviscerate the careers of two of its most beloved figures.

In short, it's huge.

Here's why.

Some backstory.

Last May, pretty much out of the blue, Westbrook released a video called "Bye Sister". It's widely believed that the catalyst for her filming the video was a sense of betrayal from Charles.

Westbrook, who was 37 at the time, was one of the veterans of the YouTube beauty space, having amassed upward of 6 million followers since she launched her channel in 2010. Uploading make-up videos on a daily basis, she also founded a line of beauty supplements entitled Halo Beauty.

She and Charles became friends when the now-19-year-old began blowing up on social media in 2016. Despite a few controversies, he was a huge star in the make-up YouTube space, gaining subscribers quicker than seemingly anyone else on the platform and getting mainstream media recognition too.

When Charles endorsed Sugar Bear Hair, a direct competitor to Westbrook's vitamin brand, she said she was understandably hurt. Shortly thereafter "Bye Sister" dropped, in which she described problematic behaviour of Charles's, accusing him of highly inappropriate behaviour towards young men. (Charles is gay.)

She also called out what she perceived as a sense of entitlement from Charles, who Westbrook claims she and her husband took under their wing, helping him essentially build his career.

After the video was posted the backlash against Charles was swift.

Enter Jeffree Star.

Star is a polarising figure. Having achieved MySpace fame about a decade previously, as well as having a short-lived music career, he burst onto the YouTube scene in 2014 when he launched his make-up brand, Jeffree Star Cosmetics.

He quickly became a central figure in the community, known as much for his involvement in drama with other YouTubers as for his make-up videos.

As soon as the video dropped, Star – who was believed to be friends with Westbrook – began tweeting damming accusations against Charles, validating her claims but taking them much further, calling him a danger to society, promising to release evidence that he was a sexual predator and even going after Charles's younger brother on Twitter.

James Charles went on to lose millions of subscribers at a faster rate than anyone had in the history of the platform. He was widely considered cancelled. But there was a twist.

Shortly thereafter, Charles uploaded a response video, in which he addressed a lot of the claims in Westbrook's video, convincingly denied any wrongdoing, and released text messages between him and Star, in which Star tells him that people are going to essentially come forward to destroy him.

Charles has revealed that this was one of the darkest times in his life and even led him to contemplate suicide.

Reminder: Charles was a teenager who had just been viciously attacked online by two people in their mid-30s. The baseless allegations were being reported across mainstream media worldwide and his career and reputation were going up in flames.

But the video did the trick and redeemed him in the eyes of many.

The evidence Star had promised never materialised. He made a video in which he claimed he wouldn't be releasing said evidence because he didn't want to be involved in drama.

Charles and Westbrook both released statements suggesting the whole thing had been cleared up and they did not want to address it further.

This may have been the end of it, were it not for Shane Dawson.

Dawson has been on YouTube since 2005, and managed to rebrand himself from an edgy (read: wildly offensive) comedian into a beloved elder of the YouTube community, making docuseries about some of the most controversial figures on the platform.

While Dawson's problematic past has never been a secret, it had largely been forgotten about and viewers allowed him to move on from his past, perhaps largely due to his kind, empathetic and humble persona – the polar opposite of Star.

In August 2018, Dawson released a five-part series about Star, which was widely considered to have rehabilitated him in the eyes of many.

Star addressed issues of his past – namely racist comments and behaviour he'd made – and opened up about his own mental health struggles.

Around this time, Dawson was becoming interested in the beauty world, and in the final episodes the seeds were planted for a future collab between the two: a series which would see Star and Dawson create a make-up palette together and film the entire process.

This came to fruition and became a seven-part series which launched last October – six months after the "Bye Sister" scandal – along with an incredibly successful merch launch.

But in the trailer for the series, Dawson teased that the Tati Westbrook-James Charles drama would be central to the story.

This opened up a can of worms of speculation, and Dawson in the end did not include any of the scenes in the final documentary, a move which was heavily criticised by his viewers.

And that brings us to the past weeks.

With "Bye Sister" largely forgotten and Westbrook and Charles's careers rehabilitated, Star appeared on the Mom's Basement podcast with fellow YouTubers KeemStar and FaZe Banks.

When he was asked about the scandal, he essentially closely aligned himself with Dawson, denied any wrongdoing, and placed the blame squarely on Westbrook shoulders. He also revived the story of the now infamous "voice note" which is believed to be an audio recording of someone credibly accusing Charles of sexual misconduct of some sort.

But this time, people weren't falling for it.

Instead, a series of videos began to emerge in which people suggested that Star was a lot more involved behind the scenes than he was letting on.

One YouTuber, Ashley Kyle, alleged that Star had fed her information throughout, as well as tainted her view of Charles by making comments and insinuations about his character and potentially criminal activity.

Another YouTuber by the name of Kameron Lester made similar claims, saying that during his friendship with Star, he witnessed instances of Dawson and Star speaking negatively about Charles before "Bye Sister" happened, when they were ostensibly friends.

This led people to begin to question Star's innocence. But more importantly, it cast a worrying light on Dawson, who had branded himself as a person of integrity, as potentially shady too.

But no one could have predicted what would happen next.

As rumours circulated that Westbrook was preparing a tell-all video, the pressure was mounting on Star and Dawson to address the issue.

Dawson did so in a rambling, spiteful four-page statement he put out on Twitter, in which he admitted he knew about Westbrook's video, but claimed to have no involvement other than that.

He also said he would be leaving the beauty community (just after restocking his merch) and said beauty YouTube was filled with people who were "attention-seeking, game-playing, egocentric, narcissistic, vengeful, two-faced ticking time bombs ready to explode" and "obsessed with looks, money, power, fame, screenshots and subtweets".

He came for Charles too, saying he believed at the time that he needed to be "served a slice of humble pie the size of the f***ing Empire State Building".

As a result of his attitude, people began to dig up old clips of Dawson. And the floodgates opened.

First there was the blackface and racism. Then the "jokes" about bestiality. Then clips of him defending paedophilia. And then the nail in the coffin: a video of him pretending to masturbate to a poster of a then-11-year-old Willow Smith.

Dawson's attempt at damage control with an apology video was way too little, way too late.

Willow's brother and mother spoke out publicly against Dawson, making the story mainstream news.

Dawson has since deleted almost every single video on one of his channels, has reportedly been completely demonetised from YouTube and his books have reportedly been pulled from Target. He's losing subscribers and people are digging up more and more evidence of his problematic behaviour.

If you want to know what being completely cancelled looks like, this is it.

Tati Westbrook's new video.

(Writer's note: the backstory was intended to be a few paragraphs. as you can see, there's a lot to cover and explain. Hopefully you're still with me!)

And so, here we find ourselves today in the midst of the cancellation of Shane Dawson, with Jeffree Star ominously quiet in the background, when Westbrook uploads for the first time in weeks, addressing everything that went down for the first time in a year.

The video covers a lot. Here's what she's claiming.

Unbeknownst to the world, Westbrook and Charles actually reconciled in December, following the release of the Dawson-Star docuseries and make-up launch.

When Westbrook and Charles compared notes, it became apparent to them that Westbrook had been "manipulated, lied to and gaslighted" into being a catalyst for the cancellation of James Charles.

The whole thing had allegedly been orchestrated behind the scenes with Westbrook used as a pawn. The puppetmasters? Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star.

Westbrook claims that while she did indeed have concerns and frustrations with aspects of Charles's behaviour, this was hugely exacerbated by Star's involvement.

She alleges that Star last year began feeding her false information about Charles, saying he hadn't wanted her to be a part of a collab they filmed together. Star also continuously pointed out Charles's behaviour to Tati, even apologising on his behalf.

Westbrook explains that Star introduced her to Dawson, who initially visited her because he was interested in make-up, and that she was hoping he would help her tell her story.

She says she confided in Dawson, even telling her that she was a survivor of sexual assault.

Westbrook says Shane responded by telling her was an empath who could feel her pain, and "pledged his unending friendship in this life and the next", and said that God had called her to be a "beacon of light for the world".

Dawson also allegedly told Westbrook that "James Charles was a monster with many victims" and that "something needed to be done to stop him from hurting more people".

Westbrook says she believed Dawson when he said Charles had abused minors, and that he would be interviewing "victims" for his docuseries. In perhaps one of the most damming quotes, she says:

Over the course of the next few weeks, he and Jeffree fed me so much information that I felt sick. Almost every day there was more information and new allegations.

Contrary to Dawson's claims in his Twitter statement, Westbrook says that Dawson not only knew about the "Bye Sister" video, but he offered to help edit it, design the thumbnail and title it.

She also says that just before she filmed the video, Star sent her an audio file of an alleged victim of Charles's and told her to "listen to the pain in their voice".

Westbrook claims that not only was her mental and physical health seriously affected, she has also feared for her life, had to relocate and share information with her lawyers to protect her safety – although she does not specify why this was the case.

Throughout the video she paints a picture of Star and Dawson exploiting her own experiences in order to manipulate her into contributing to James Charles's downfall. But why?

Westbrook believes Dawson and Star wanted James Charles to lose his space in the beauty community in order to boost their chances of success in their joint venture. She also believes they were "bitterly jealous" of Charles and his career.

She speculates that Star was resentful that so much of his business was centred around his biggest rival (Star's merch company stocked James Charles's hugely successful product line) and that Dawson was also angry that Charles wanted to make a documentary, which could encroach on his YouTube niche.

Westbrook also implicates Morphe, a make-up brand with close ties to influencers including Charles and Star. The company is reportedly releasing a line of vitamin products that appear to be in direct competition with hers.

What next?

Westbrook claims that Star told her he had blackmail material for a lot of influencers and brands in the make-up space, something which he himself has alluded to in the past. She believes a lot of this information may be released, and urges viewers to be careful with what they believe.

Westbrook also states that she is in close contact with attorneys, who it's implied have read the statement she's put out in the video, which is largely scripted. She also hints at a potential lawsuit against Star and Dawson going forward, and says she has evidence to back up her story which she is currently unable to release.

It seems almost impossible for Dawson to come back from this, and even the hitherto seemingly untouchable Jeffree Star may be about to face a reckoning like never before.

Dawson began livestreaming his reaction to the video, which appears to have lasted only a few minutes and was not saved to his Instagram, however it has been uploaded to YouTube and shared across social media.

It largely involves Dawson pacing around his house saying "oh my god" and "this is insane" over and over again.

He also went on to reportedly tweet that "this is a lie", although the tweet appears to have since been deleted.

Dawson's fiancee Ryland Adams has tweeted claiming that Westbrook "choose to post a video on her own accord. She riled up Shane before doing so to have one of the biggest creators backing her in the chance this all backfired."

James Charles and Jeffree Star have yet to publicly comment on any of the claims made in Westbrook's video, which at the time of writing has been online for around three hours and received almost half a million views.

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