UPDATE: The James Charles and Tati Westbrook saga continues as Charles has released another video after his initial video apologizing for his actions. In this video, he addresses the feud and sexual harassment allegations against him. Over the weekend, fellow influencer Jeffree Star has also released a video discussing the feud, which has become global news. Scroll down for WWD’s complete coverage with live updates.
Another day, another influencer scandal.
Since late April, James Charles and Tati Westbrook, two of the biggest global beauty influencers, have been embroiled in a very public feud, resulting in the former losing roughly 3 million YouTube subscribers since Westbrook released a YouTube video on May 10 detailing the fight, according to a live tally streamed on YouTube by the account, Tea4Real.
From how the feud began to the social media backlash, here is everything you need to know about the James Charles and Tati Westbrook fight.
Who are James Charles and Tati Westbrook?
Both Charles and Westbrook are beauty influencers who have made names for themselves on YouTube. Westbrook, who is 37 years old, is behind the Instagram account @glamlifeguru and is billed as one of the first beauty influencers. She posts YouTube videos on makeup tutorials, product reviews and about her personal life, including her struggle with fertility issues. She has launched a beauty ingestible brand, called Halo Beauty, and has collaborated with Birchbox for a curated makeup collection.
Charles, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer in the beauty influencer space. The 19-year-old quickly gained popularity for his artistic makeup looks and his inclination to bend gender norms. In 2016, Cover Girl named him as its first male spokesmodel and last year he collaborated with Morphe on an eye shadow palette, which resulted in one of the brand’s biggest e-commerce days ever. Charles has credited Westbrook as one of his mentors, affectionately calling her “mother.” The two have appeared in a number of YouTube videos together on both of their accounts.
How did their feud begin?
After attending the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Charles posted an Instagram Story on April 22 promoting the beauty ingestible brand, SugarBearHair. Westbrook then took to her Instagram Story, explaining she felt betrayed by an unnamed person. Social media commenters, though, inferred that Westbrook was talking about Charles, considering SugarBearHair is a direct competitor to her Halo Beauty brand. In a now expired Instagram Story, Charles responded to Westbrook’s comment, apologizing to her and stating he posted the initial Instagram Story because SugarBearHair’s security had helped him during the Coachella festival when he felt unsafe in the crowd. He also stated that he didn’t accept any payment for the post.
How did the feud escalate?
Giving his two cents on the matter, beauty influencer Gabriel Zamora posted a video on May 4 to his YouTube channel, titled “Makeup and Opinions.” In the 42-minute video, Zamora expresses his confusion over the drama between the two influencers, stating “I’m confused and this is just me, I don’t get where the betrayal was…all of these videos are being made where James is made out to be this horrible human being and I’m just confused as to what happened.”
He claims that influencers promote many brands and other influencers on their social media accounts, so he doesn’t understand why Westbrook is so upset about Charles promoting her brand’s competitor. He asks Westbrook to clarify what’s going on in the feud.
How did Westbrook respond to this?
On May 10, Westbrook posted a now-deleted 43-minute video to her YouTube page, titled “Bye Sister…,” which starts off with a compilation of videos where Westbrook praises Charles for his skills and accomplishments. The video then transitions to a portion from Zamora’s video, calling on Westbrook to explain the situation.
Westbrook then explains her side of the feud, stating that Charles’ Instagram Story promoting SugarBearHair started their fight. “Fame, power and a fat bank account will change almost anyone, and if you don’t have people who will tell you to your face that you’re doing the wrong things then you will change,” she said. “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 this chapter can be closed.”
She goes on to explain that in addition to the SugarBearHair promotion, Westbrook is tired of apologizing for Charles’ inappropriate behavior, alleging that he has routinely acted as a bully toward other influencers and has sexually harassed men.
The video currently has 43 million views on YouTube.
What is Charles’ side of the story?
The next day, Charles posted his own YouTube video — which has also since been deleted — titled “Tati.” The eight-minute video shows a tearful Charles apologizing to Westbrook and her husband, stating: “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, and throughout all of this what sucks the most is I know there is nothing I can say or do to ever earn that friendship or trust back, but I don’t blame them for it.”
He also addresses the sexual harassment allegations, stating he’s learned ways to interact with men appropriately and how he should have been more careful with these situations. The video currently has 44 million views.
What has the social media reaction been?
According to a live tally video-streamed by the YouTube account, Tea4Real, Charles had lost roughly 3 million YouTube subscribers since Westbrook released her video on May 10, making his total subscriber count roughly 13.4 million at the height of the feud. Westbrook, on the other hand, gained roughly 4 million YouTube subscribers, with her total subscriber count totaling at roughly 10.5 million.
UPDATE: While initially losing roughly 3 million followers, James’ YouTube subscriber count has since increased, now exceeding 16 million. Westbrook’s follower count, however, fluctuated after the feud and now sits at 9.7 million subscribers.
Despite the controversy, Charles did not experience any professional repercussions from the feud. His eye shadow palette collaboration with Morphe is still available for purchase on the brand’s web site and at Ulta Beauty. Charles also collaborated with Morphe again in October, releasing a smaller version of the initial eye shadow palette.
Sisters Apparel, Charles’ merchandise web site, had been taken down at the time of the feud, but is now back up and running. The apparel line was initially manufactured by Killer Merch, which is backed by beauty influencer Jeffree Star. It’s unclear if Star himself had any involvement in the web site’s removal.
On May 26, Charles took to his Instagram Stories to announce he is canceling his Sisters speaking tour, which was slated to begin at the end of June and run for a month. In the videos, Charles states canceling the tour was 100 percent his decision and that he will be scheduling another tour at a later date.
Which influencers have spoken out about the feud?
Star, who runs the makeup brand, Jeffree Star Cosmetics — which made news last month when Star’s makeup warehouse was robbed of $2.5 million worth of beauty products — weighed in on the drama in a now-deleted tweet from May 10, stating: “There is a reason that Nathan [Star’s boyfriend] banned James Charles from ever coming over to our home again. There’s a reason why I haven’t seen him since @GlamLifeGuru’s birthday in February. He is a danger to society. Everything Tati said is 100% true.” A screenshot of the deleted tweet was posted by the account, @senpaiya_:
Although he deleted the tweet, he has also tweeted out a congratulations to Westbrook on her rapid follower gain, stating: “HUGE congratulations to the makeup queen @GlamLifeGuru on hitting 6 MILLION subscribers on YouTube today!!! You are one of a kind.” He has followed up on the tweet twice with Westbrook’s increasing follower count.
Taking Charles’ side, beauty influencer Nikita Dragun, who recently launched her own makeup line, Dragun Beauty, offered an explanation for Charles’ SugarBearHair Instagram Story, posting screenshots of a text conversation from April 20 between her and Charles during Coachella, where Charles asked Dragun to connect him with SugarBearHair because he was “getting attacked” in the VIP area. Dragun also offers a screenshot of the receipt with the presumed SugarBearHair contact — the screenshot shows Dragun texting a blacked-out phone number — who agrees to give Charles an artist pass.
Social media, however, didn’t respond positively to Dragun’s screenshots. Many are alleging that the text exchanges were doctored, claiming that its fishy that Dragun was able to get a response from SugarBearHair in less than a minute during the Coachella festival. Dragun responded to these claims on her Twitter on Tuesday, stating: “u really think I have the time to fake texts? the only thing I edit is my waist on facetune sis. they have the screen recording of the messages.”
Have Charles or Westbrook responded to the backlash?
On May 16, Westbrook uploaded a now-deleted video to her YouTube channel, titled “Why I Did It…” In the video, a tearful Westbrook explains she never intended to cause such an uproar against Charles or to increase her popularity in the beauty influencer community when she uploaded her initial video on May 10.
“When I made that video, I thought that I would be the one to take the hit,” she said. “I thought I was going against millions and millions of subscribers and my separate part of the Internet, my 5 million [subscribers], would be effected and I would be the one losing subscribers for speaking up.”
She goes on to state she didn’t think the fight would reach the magnitude it did and called for her followers to stop the hate and abuse being directed toward Charles. She explains that after trying to deliver the same message to Charles about his inappropriate behavior, she uploaded the video as a last-ditch effort to get through to him. Westbrook states that considering Charles’ fan base is largely comprised of young children, he needs to be more mindful of his behavior and the content he releases.
“It’s painful to watch someone that you have cared about be dragged and to know that this all started because of me,” she said. “I don’t think anyone deserves that. I think people deserve a wake-up call and I think people need to be called out for their actions.”
Westbrook then states that she has requested a meeting with Charles through YouTube to meet at one of the Google offices in order to speak in a safe space. As of Wednesday night, which was when Westbrook recorded the video, she did not have a meeting time set with Charles. She also states that she will be taking some time off from YouTube and social media, claiming she needs a break from the situation.
On May 18, Charles broke his silence and uploaded a 41-minute video to his YouTube channel, titled “No More Lies,” giving a thorough breakdown of the fight and explaining his side of the situation. His video comes after Westbrook uploaded her second video talking about the feud’s backlash and after Jeffree Star posted a series of videos to his Snapchat stating he stands behind everything he’s said against Charles.
“In both of their videos, Jeffree and Tati both mention they hope I can change and we can all move on from this situation, and trust me, I agree,” Charles said. “There’s no one that wants this over as much as I do.” He then goes on to state while the feud did start because of his SugarBearHair sponsored post, there was a lot happening behind the scenes that escalated the fight and he wants to use the video to debunk the misinformation and explain what’s actually going on.
To support his claims, Charles shows many text message screenshots in the video, starting with his conversation with Nikita Dragun — who facilitated Charles’ involvement with SugarBearHair at Coachella — Charles’ text conversation with SugarBearHair’s representative and then the text to Westbrook — which he sent on April 22, the same day as his SugarBearHair sponsored post — explaining to Westbrook why he had to post the video. In the text conversation, Westbrook’s disappointment is clear, with her responding “this honestly breaks my heart.” Charles uses this text conversation as proof that he didn’t wait nine days to notify Westbrook as she had claimed in her initial video, but informed her immediately about the sponsorship.
Charles also uses the video to address the sexual harassment allegations against him, namely the situation Westbrook mentioned in her video about Charles being aggressive toward a busboy during her birthday dinner at a Seattle restaurant earlier this year. Charles again offers screenshots of his conversation with the busboy, showing that their relationship was consensual.
He then states that Westbrook and her husband have reached out to Charles for a meeting, but he declined. “This whole thing has just been really difficult for me because throughout the last three weeks literally all I wanted and asked for from these people was communication and I tried really, really hard to get that, and I didn’t, so I declined the meetings” he said. “This was started publicly and it was addressed publicly and I felt like it was only fair for me to address this publicly as well before meeting behind the scenes and talking further.”
Have and other influencers made additional comments?
On May 19, Star uploaded a 13-minute video to his YouTube channel, titled “Never Doing This Again.” He starts the video stating: “I think today I would like to shed some light on the entire experience because I think that things are getting crazy, dangerous and we need to have a conversation.”
Star states that he thinks he mishandled the feud with Charles and apologizes to him. He admitted to inserting himself in the feud and helping escalate it publicly, and stated he will not be adding anymore fuel to the fire by releasing his own receipts. He states he’s embarrassed by his own actions and regrets his involvement in the feud.
Has the feud been settled?
Again on May 19, Westbrook posted a statement to her Instagram, confirming that she has sat down with Charles through an intermediary. “I will not be making any further public comments and I hope and pray that no one else will make any more hurtful statements on my behalf.” She again apologizes for the way that the feud has escalated and states she hopes to return to posting regular content soon.
On June 18, Charles returned to his YouTube channel with a new makeup tutorial for Pride month. In the video, titled “Hi Sisters,” Charles opens up by addressing the feud and explaining why he took a break from social media. “Let’s be real, when I said I was taking a social media break, I kind of just meant from being so in it,” he said in the 27-minute video. “For the past three years I’ve been literally addicted to filming videos and checking my social media and it was so much fun, but it got to a point where it was incredibly toxic for me and my mental health and after everything that went on on social media I just needed some time to detox and slow it down.”
Both beauty influencers have resumed posting on social media and producing videos for their respective YouTube channels, but have not spoken further on the feud.
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