Those online beauty community is full of scandal, and YouTuber James Charles has been at the center of some of its most cringe-worthy controversies. The influencer who found fame when he was scooped up by CoverGirl to be their first “CoverBoy” has stirred up more drama than you can imagine despite only being in the spotlight for a few short years.
Along with offensive remarks and inappropriate actions, the online star faced the biggest scandal of his career in the summer of 2019 and, in turn, endured one of the quickest downfalls the online sphere has ever seen. Within the span of just a few days, Charles’ reputation was called into question, he lost millions of followers, and The New York Times even ran coverage deeming him “canceled.”
While he’s still young, and certainly has the chance to mature into a positive influence on his fans, for now, he can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble. Here’s how James Charles keeps getting shadier and shadier.
Geography clearly wasn't James Charles' best subject
James Charles found controversy almost as soon as he found fame. In February 2017, just four months after landing his groundbreaking CoverGirl contract, the star reportedly tweeted, “I can’t believe we’re going to Africa today omg what if we get Ebola.” The backlash was immediate, with one follower deeming him an “an uncultured racist.”
Charles addressed the criticism by posting a lengthy apology, writing, “I am extremely sorry for my tweet and I feel like sh*t for saying it. … I am aware that the tweet was extremely offensive and degrading.” He also explained that he “clearly” knew very little about Africa and has “a lot to learn.”
Despite his apology, he was still criticized for referring to the continent of Africa as a country in his message. “1. Can you Americans please stop acting like Africa is a country and specify the country itself and 2. Keep it,” one person tweeted. Another wrote, “How do you say cancelled in all of the languages in Africa?” FYI: It’s imefutwa in Swahili.
The story that made James Charles famous has shady roots
The road to James Charles’ fame might have been paved with one big lie. When the makeup enthusiast was still just 17 years old, he was named CoverGirl’s very first male ambassador, an opportunity that largely came about because of an epic story which one insider says is a lie. Charles claimed that he had his high school yearbook photo retaken with a ring light so that his makeup (more specifically, his highlighter) “would be poppin,” and this truly extra behavior made him go viral.
However, according to screenshots posted in 2017 by makeup artist and Charles’ former friend Thomas Halbert, the CoverBoy didn’t have his picture retaken, but instead merely edited it with Photoshop, which is far less dramatic and may not have lead to the career-making gig with CoverGirl. The screenshots showed texts in which Halbert mentioned that Charles “scammed social media into thinking [he] retook [his] senior photo.” Charles didn’t refute Halbert’s text and instead responded by writing, “If you expose me I’ll kill you.” Yikes.
James Charles created drama around Marlena Stell's Netflix documentary
There are times when James Charles accidentally offends others and then there are times when he purposely sparks drama. The latter happened in September 2018 when his fellow YouTube personality Marlena Stell (above) announced that she was making a documentary with Netflix about the makeup scene. Charles reacted to the news by tweeting that he was “LIVID.” In follow up tweets, he claimed he was already working on an idea for a similar project and hinted that “someone” stole his idea. He also tagged Netflix to tell them that they should come to him for “NON-BIAS” work.
Stell responded to Charles, tweeting, “I didn’t approach Netflix — they approached me.” She also extended an olive branch to the young star, offering “to hear about [his] input from an influencer side,” and suggesting they move their communication to private messages. Then, in June 2019, Stell posted a video that addressed what happened in detail, going over the personal and professional fallout that had been stirred up by Charles, revealing that she was “devastated” and that Netflix executives were not happy about the situation. It seems like Charles is not only a danger to his own career, but to other people’s careers as well.
His public flirting with Shawn Mendes didn't go over well
Flirting is fine, but stars might want to do it privately. Take James Charles’ behavior towards Shawn Mendes (above) for example. According to Cosmopolitan, Charles had already left suggestive comments on Mendes’ social media accounts in the past when the singer held a live stream chat on Instagram in October 2018. Charles was among the many people watching and when Mendes showed off his juggling skills, Charles posted what some took as a suggestive comment, saying, “Can you juggle me like that?” When Mendes quickly stopped the stream, some thought it was due to the comment and blamed Charles for the abrupt ending.
The YouTuber apologized, tweeting, “My comments on friend’s & boy’s content have always been light hearted & in a joking manner. [I’m] a fan like anyone else, & would never want to make anyone uncomfortable. I’m upset, embarrassed, and sorry if he felt sexually harassed.”
Charles followed that up a few hours later with a screenshot of a message from Mendes which said, “Sorry about all this, ive never said i dont like you or that you make me uncomfortable. Your comments actually make me laugh and i love them!” Charles’ fans seemed willing to put the situation to rest, but not before telling him to “CUT the comments back a little.”
Did James Charles get shady with his swatches?
It was a dream come true that may, in fact, have been too good to be true. Some fans were beyond excited when James Charles released a video announcing his eyeshadow palette collaboration with beloved makeup brand Morphe in November 2018. However, others were quick to accuse Charles of faking the swatches he shared of each shade. “THE SWATCHES WERE FAKE, WHY WAS THE SWATCH THERE BEFORE U SWATCHED THE SHADOW? MONEY HUNGRY N FAKE PERIODDTTT,” one Twitter user posted along with a manipulated video of Charles swiping on a bit of shadow over a line that appears to have already been on his arm.
Charles responded to a question about possibly presenting “pre-swatched” examples by explaining, “Yes, a few shades I layered twice because the first swatch wasn’t good or because I had to re say my sentence and wasn’t going to continue washing my arm, or that would REALLY mess them up.” He claimed that he was “not hiding anything.” He then alerted his followers that he was doing live unedited swatches on his Instagram stories “for those who were skeptical of the reveal video.” Fans were appeased. That is, until his next scandal hit.
His Sisters Tour tickets were unexpectedly pricey
The spring of 2019 was a drama-filled time for James Charles. In April, the YouTube star announced his first nationwide tour, aka the Sisters Tour. At 24 different cities across the U.S., attendees would be given the chance to see the “world-famous makeup artist and digital phenomenon” live during the “highly immersive and interactive show” — and perhaps even meet him face to face in a meet and greet complete with a photo-op … if they were willing to pay up. Many fans were shocked to find out that the lowest ticket price would be $52.50 and from there the options were either $99, $250, or a whopping $500. Many felt like the fees were way too high, especially since Charles’ fan base is primarily made up of teenagers.
Charles hopped onto Twitter to give his followers a full breakdown of what was included with each ticket, and to apologize, writing, “I am sorry that we disappointed many of you. We have worked very hard to put this tour together and want it to be accessible for everyone & an amazing experience no matter the ticket.”
He later announced that he was completely canceling the tour due to another scandalous situation that popped up a little later on (more on that below).
He made a 'dangerous' comment about trans men
A year his offensive Africa tweet, James Charles made waves with a comment about trans men. In an April 2019 video, the star, who has identified as homosexual in the past, was asked if he’s “full gay.” He replied, “I mean no, there have been girls in the past that I have felt were really, really beautiful, there’s also been like trans guys in the past that I was like really, really into for a moment in time.”
Critics were unimpressed that Charles grouped cis women and trans men together, while possibly suggesting that he wouldn’t be gay if he were attracted to a trans man. Seventeen pointed out that it’s “a very dangerous stereotype to promote.”
Charles quickly tweeted yet another apology: “In [an] attempt to explain the very complex concept of sexuality (& mine) in my vid today, I unintentionally implied that my trans brothers & sisters [aren’t] valid. this is NOT what I was trying to say. you are valid in your identity!! I apologize & should’ve chosen my words wiser!”
Some detractors felt the apology fell short, with one follower writing, “This tweet does NOT cover what you said even slightly. … you can spout ‘you’re valid’ bullsh*t all you want but that is NOT why people are mad at you.” Charles obviously still has a lot to learn.
James Charles: Influencer Rights Activist
When James Charles snagged an invitation to one of the biggest industry events of the year, it led to even more drama. Celebrating his invitation to the 2019 Met Gala, Charles posted a photo of himself at the event on Instagram and noted that it was “a step forward in the right direction for influencer representation in the media,” and that he was “excited to be a catalyst.”
While he was obviously proud to be helping those in his industry earn a spot at one of the most exclusive events around, others felt like he was comparing influencers to marginalized minorities. One person tweeted, “Sorry sister but I don’t think ‘influencer representation’ is the best focus of your bloody huge platform when there’s some actual REAL SERIOUS ISSUES IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW and you’re in the privileged position to be a ‘catalyst’ in fixing those.”
This time around, Charles didn’t apologize, but instead focused on those who were supporting him. “I wanted to say thank you for those who left positive comments on today’s Met Gala video, the reaction is definitely quite split,” he reportedly said via Instagram stories. “But regardless, it was a such a huge honour … and nothing is going to take away my amazing time that I had.”
Tati Westbrook didn't buy James Charles' shady excuses
This is when things got really messy. In May 2019, James Charles lost millions of followers in the span of just a few days when fellow YouTuber Tati Westbrook (above) called him out for promoting Sugar Bear Hair vitamins, the direct competitor of her Halo Beauty brand. Westbrook, who had been Charles’ friend and mentor for years, posted a now-deleted video titled Bye Sister. In it, she reportedly explained that Charles claimed that while he attended Coachella, fans mobbed him, and representatives from Sugar Bear Hair, who were also at the music festival, came to his rescue. But they only did so on the condition that he would post about their product on his Instagram account, even presenting him with a contract then and there.
Westbrook didn’t believe a word of it and during her tear-filled breakdown of the situation, she made it clear that while business was involved, it was the personal betrayal that hurt the most. She even explained that Charles had once told her, “Tati, I’m on your side, you’ve got me. I will support you. You’ve got my loyalty.” That certainly seems questionable.
Wait, what did James Charles do at Tati Westbrook's birthday party?
The Sugar Bear Hair situation wasn’t the only drama that Tati Westbrook (above) addressed in her since-deleted video, “Bye Sister.” Due to the fact that they were such close friends, James Charles attended Westbrook’s birthday dinner in 2019 along with her family and other close friends. However, Westbrook claims that Charles behaved so badly that she was beyond embarrassed. Speaking directly to Charles in her video (via Seventeen), Westbrook claimed she had to call her guests the next morning to apologize on his behalf.
Charles apologized to his fellow YouTube star in his own video simply titled “tati,” before taking that down and uploading “No More Lies.” In the latter, he first made it clear that he stood behind his initial apology, and wasn’t asking for sympathy or forgiveness, but he just wanted a chance to explain himself. He then did that while also leaving a comment below the video saying, “I want to heal and move on from this situation, and I want everyone else involved to be able to do the same.”
James Charles' rumored habit of manipulating straight men goes beyond shady
Tati Westbrook’s epic takedown of James Charles wasn’t quite over yet. She also discussed Charles’ rumored habit of inappropriately hitting on straight men. “It’s really disgusting to manipulate someone’s sexuality especially when they are still, you know, emerging into adulthood and don’t quite have everything figured out,” she said, while also speaking about the alleged moment at her birthday dinner when Charles was flirting with their waiter. “You are using your fame, your power, your money to play with people’s emotions, and you’re doing that to have them behave sexually in your favor even if they’re straight. And you know what? That’s not okay.”
Charles responded to Westbrook’s claims, saying, “I have never and would never and will never use my fame, money, or power to manipulate or get any sexual actions from a guy.” He also addressed the story about the waiter, whose name is Sam, noting that Sam made his own (again, now-deleted) video saying that he wasn’t bothered by the flirting and admitted that he had gone to Charles’ hotel room that night. Charles also claimed that Westbrook “twisted” an “inside joke” that uses the word “famous” to mean “anything good” and that he was never saying he would use his fame to manipulate someone. Joke or not, no one was laughing.
Zara Larsson called James Charles out for messaging her boyfriend
Tati Westbrook wasn’t the only one to call out James Charles for flirting with straight men. Singer Zara Larsson (above) tweeted that James had messaged her boyfriend “several times knowing damn well he’s straight.” Many people who had been following the Westbrook drama took this as another confirmation of Charles’ shady ways. However, according to People, Larsson then deleted her tweet because she apparently “checked and it wasn’t several times, only one dm and some comments under pictures.”
That didn’t smooth things over though, as James claimed that the damage had already been done. “In her defense, she did later on say it was only one message but it was way too late because the media had already ran with it, saying I was harassing straight men,” Charles said. “Had I known that he was dating Zara Larsson, I clearly never would have messaged him in the first place.” It seems like both Charles and Larsson should be more aware of certain details before they send out messages.
Jeffree Star jumped to some shady conclusions about James Charles
Zara Larsson wasn’t the only one to back up Tati Westbrook’s claims about James Charles’ rumored behavior. After Westbrook’s video, fellow YouTuber Jeffree Star (above) tweeted (and then deleted), “There is a reason that [Star’s live-in boyfriend] Nathan banned James Charles from ever coming over to our home again. There is a reason why I haven’t seen him since [Tati’s] birthday in February. He is a danger to society. Everything Tati said is 100% true.”
Later, Star basically retracted his inflammatory tweets in a video titled, “Never Doing This Again.” In it, he apologized to Charles and said that the video would be his final commentary on the matter, including this concession: “There was a lot of rumors, and sadly, I let that get to me. So, James … I should have never sent those messages. I should have been a better friend. … I should have handled it way differently.” So, it was over, right? Wrong…
For James Charles, sometimes business gets personal
Although Jeffree Star was determined not to fuel the fire, it still wasn’t enough to cool down things between himself and James Charles. Despite the fact that Star tried to back out of the drama, Charles still caused a bit of a bru-ha-ha when fans discovered their orders from Sisters Apparel — Charles’ clothing line that was being created by a production company associated with Star — were potentially lost when the website went down without notice. While some thought that the problem might have stemmed from Star ditching Charles due to the Tati Westbrook controversy, it was actually the other way around as Charles later admitted.
While also trying to assure customers that their orders will still be fulfilled in his No More Lies video, Charles gave more details about what had been going on between the two by sharing a screenshot of a message Star had sent him, making serious allegations on behalf of others. Charles then explained, “Many of you guys noticed that the Sisters Apparel website was down … Unfortunately, I had to sever ties with Killer Merch. I just don’t see a world that exists where I could ever be in business with a team ran by someone like Jeffree Star.” Bridges? Possibly burned. Shadiness? Confirmed.
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