In the past month, our news cycle has been dealt some heavy blows, and now we’ve arrived at what some felt was only inevitable: the spectacular collapse of the YouTube beauty community.
Of course, the fall of a few YouTubers from their platforms of cushy social status isn’t likely to be as highly prioritized by most people as, say, coronavirus or police brutality. But considering the sheer extent of the status and power those involved have on social media, and how much their influence dictates the social and even economic behavior of their most ardent followers, and considering our human tendency to escape the gritty news for the superficial stuff, it’s hard not to be intrigued.
A year ago, some juicy drama here and there within the community was more likely to be consumed all in good fun. But since the last “dramageddon,” as it’s come to be known, things have gotten far more serious, this time with real-world consequences that the scandals of the past didn’t have. Here’s everything you need to know.
Shane Dawson’s Fall from Grace
Once referred to as the King of YouTube, Shane Dawson has ruled the proverbial roost since the platform’s earliest days. Once known for parody, reaction, and skit videos, Shane later turned his attention to more serious, “documentary-style” content featuring close friends, like beauty world-powerhouse Jeffree Star, with whom he later collaborated and released an eyeshadow palette.
That was, until the widespread cancellation of popular YouTube stars for past insensitivities began to take hold. Not even Shane was spared, and well-deserved scrutiny over past videos employing racist stereotypes, sexual harassment, and even pedophilia re-emerged. As if to try and get in front of the impending cancellation, Shane abruptly announced his departure from...the beauty community, which many argue he was never a part of in the first place.
Shane’s past videos, employing racist stereotypes, sexual harassment, and even pedophilia, have received well-deserved scrutiny.
After a lengthy and now-deleted explanation on Shane’s Twitter was released (drawing criticism from well-known beauty world commentators and fans alike), wherein he discussed his past involvement in YouTube drama and scandals, the makeup hit the fan.
“Bye Sister” Becomes “Breaking My Silence”
Enter here beauty guru, content creator, brand owner, and YouTuber Tati Westbrook. In the past, Tati has been praised for her down-to-earth personality, avoidance of drama, and widespread likability.
That changed a year ago in May 2019, when Tati released a detailed account and takedown of a popular makeup artist and influencer who you might have heard of: her close friend and protégé, James Charles. In her 2019 video, titled “Bye Sister,” Tati recounts the personal and professional favors she did for James for him to arrive at such successful heights, and then went on to make more serious allegations that he, a gay man, specifically pursued straight men.
The allegations were then shot down, point by point, by James himself, but the damage was done, and it appeared that the once marketable relationship between Tati and James had been ruined irrevocably. While detractors of Tati claimed her accusations simply stemmed from jealousy, due to James’s involvement with her direct business competitor, others praised her for taking James to task and calling out his arrogance and entitlement.
Then, June 30 of this year arrived, along with another sit-down chat from Tati. This one was called “Breaking My Silence.” In the 40-minute video, Tati reveals that she’s since repaired her relationship with James Charles, and additionally how her original video came about in the first place. Tati comes clean, or as clean as someone in the business of makeup can, and says that the figure in the shadows, the master behind the curtain pulling the strings throughout the production of her original character assassination of James was none other than (drumroll, please) Shane Dawson.
According to Tati, she was acquaintances with both Shane and his collaborator and close friend Jeffree Star. Both Jeffree and Shane allegedly encouraged Tati to publish the hit piece on James. While Jeffree and Shane supposedly gaslit Tati into thinking that in doing so, she was only coming from a place of love and wanting to help James, many viewers pointed out that James is in direct competition with Shane and Jeffree. And that’s not all.
The Dark World of Jeffree Star
Tati disclosed in her shocking exposé that she felt motivated to publish what she knew about James’s disturbing proclivity for straight men due to Jeffree and Shane saying that they had hard evidence that James was indeed a predator.
While this evidence has yet to be released, if there even is evidence, this was the main crutch Tati relied on as her justification for releasing her original video. Though many laid into her for going forward and denigrating James without much proof to back up her claims, she turned the entire game around and volleyed the ball into Jeffree’s court.
Jeffree Star is now involved in real-world accusations and issues which exist beyond his own channel.
Just as Shane wasn’t exempt from the social justice-motivated fervor with which fans came for his older, more problematic online self, neither was Jeffree. Widely regarded as the most provocative beauty YouTuber out there (and provocative solely for the sake of provocation), Jeffree’s hold on the influencer community, much of which has yet to be revealed, is extensive enough that even Tati said it was enough to make her fear the backlash she’d suffer.
Jeffree’s no stranger to controversy but continues to see monumental success as an internet personality and business owner. Alongside his own past racist rhetoric is his involvement with previous music partner and friend Dahvie Vanity, a known sexual predator with years’ worth of misconduct related to interactions with underaged fans. Jeffree has been heavily implicated in both Shane’s original statement and Tati’s video, but has yet to answer for the litany of issues he’s involved in.
So, here’s the rub. This isn’t the Israel-Palestine conflict, and we shouldn’t treat it like it is (looking at you, Tati). For much of its existence, the beauty world on YouTube has been a place of creativity, expression, and escape for fans and creators alike, though it’s hard to predict what that will look like once these pillars of the community have had their status readjusted.
To many, this is yet another example of the superficiality of popular media figures, and on the surface that’s all it is. But on the other hand, real accusations were at one time lobbied against James Charles by the three influencers in question. Supposedly, real evidence exists somewhere about James’s victims, and that’s no small matter, nor is Jeffree’s apparent cover-up of his close friend Dahvie Vanity’s shady activities.
These figures have come out from behind the ring light and the camera and are now involved in actual, real-world accusations and issues which exist beyond their own channels, even implicating their own fans and viewers. Needless to say, it’ll be interesting to see what could unfold next.