There are few things more irrationally irritating than flipping through your favorite tabloids and/or pop culture-oriented sites and seeing a bunch of names that are unfamiliar to you, even though you’re totally up to snuff when it comes to modern celebrities. Fortunately for you, I have the solution.
Let’s dive into the two names you might’ve seen infiltrate your timeline over the weekend: James Charles and Tati Westbrook, two influencers/vloggers/beauty guru YouTubers who’ve been going at it. Who are they? Why do they hate each other? And why is it on all up in your social media feed, don’t they know the weekend is reserved for Game of Thrones? (They don’t.)
James Charles and Tati Westbrook have been friends since before Charles started his career (like, three years ago). She became something like a mentor to him in his early days, but his fame soon eclipsed hers on YouTube. If I had to speculate why that is, I’d say that Charles was one of the first teenage boys doing makeup on the video platform that really took off, following a fledgeling tradition set forth by men like Jeffree Star, Patrick Starrr and Manny MUA. Now, obviously, there are a million male MUAs (makeup artists) all over social media, but there’s definitely some benefit to being early to the movement. That, and he became CoverGirl’s first male ambassador in 2016 (the same year he went viral for retaking his senior portrait to ensure the photograph caught his highlight). His online mega-fame was imminent.
Still, James and Tati had a fairly close relationship—until a few weeks ago.
April 22, 2019:
According to E!, on April 22, Charles posted an ad for Sugar Bear Hair vitamins on his Instagram Story—the same shit Kylie Jenner and various other celebrities has been hocking on the platform for years now—which normally wouldn’t be anything to write home about except Sugar Bear Hair happens to be a direct competitor of Westbrook’s main business: Halo Beauty, a beauty-supplement company. Tati retaliated on her on Instagram Story and said she left “betrayed” and “lost,” never actually naming the person she felt “used” her.
According to Newsweek, she said in the two-minute video, “Through this whole journey in YouTube, I feel like have been someone who’s been super supportive to my friends. When you do so much for people in your life and they not only don’t return the favor, but they just don’t even see you… I feel really used.”
Both Stories have since expired, but the damage has been done.
April 23, 2019:
The follow day, recognizing that he had fucked up, Charles posted an Instagram Story in response, which Newsweek quotes as:
“I want to publicly apologize to my close friend, Tati. She has been like a mother to me since my first days in this industry and has given me more love, support, resources and advice than I could ever ask for. This weekend I did an Instagram story for sleep vitamins that I’ve been taking because the brand helped me with security when the crowd around me at Coachella became unsafe. I did not accept any money from this post. Tati has a vitamin brand which I take on a daily basis, but in the moment, I did not think about the competition. I’ve supported Tati both online and off like she has done for me and am devastated that I hurt someone that I truly love and have endless respect for.”
I’m here for a good fake story intended to cover up a mistake, but apologizing for more or less selling out a “close friend” to feel safe is wild? Like, his excuse is the cops? What?
May 4, 2019:
Naturally, everyone and their mother on YouTube decided to cash in on the drama and post their own opinions on the nascent issue. Most of them aren’t worth mentioning, save for MUA Gabriel Zamora, because he makes an appearance later in this explainer.
Zamora, who you may remember from the Laura Lee/Jeffree Star YouTube drama from August 2018 (I won’t get into the details here, just know that he and Star don’t get along because… both of them have been really racist on social media in the past), posted a vlog titled “Makeup and Opinions” in which he accused Westbrook of “fraudulent behavior.” He said, “All these videos are being made where James is being made out to be this horrible human being and I’m just confused as to what happened,” and argued that Westbrook shouldn’t have expected Halo to have an exclusive deal with Charles simply because they were friends.
Westbrook would later address that in her own video, saying her friendship with Charles “was not transactional.”
May 10, 2019:
Tati posted a 43-minute YouTube vlog titled, “BYE SISTER,” on Friday to address the ordeal. “Sister,” for those blissfully unaware, is an obvious reference to James Charles’ fanbase, whom he refers to as “sisters.”
In it, she said James Charles always assured her he didn’t like Sugar Bear Hair (and said it would be inappropriate to sell to his teenage audience) and that he would only ever use her product. When he did do the sponsored post around Coachella, she said, he only texted her after the fact to explain that, “I’m stressed… it’s no big,” completely catching her off guard. She explained that his thing about security is a “blatant lie… a very clever story.”
She began the clip by establishing their relationship: he did her makeup for her wedding; she flew him out to the ceremony, and he’s featured prominently in her wedding video. She says her husband helped him get a “boutique manager,” and taught him how to monetize his videos. She says she promoted him all the time and “never asked for a penny.” Twenty or so minutes into the video, she zeroed on Charles’s bad behavior, which she said “is over[ly] sexualized” for his audience “of 12- and 14-year-olds, dominantly.” She accused him of trying to seduce straight men and harassing them because he believed their “sexuality” doesn’t matter because he is “a celebrity.” It’s that last bit that seems to really have fans up in arms:
Tati concluded the video by addressing him directly:
“You’re a phony. You’re easily bought. I know that now… You sold me out, but you threw away our friendship. You lied to me, made up a story, you knew this would be embarrassing for me. No our relationship is not transactional. I have never asked you for anything in return.”
In the vlog, she also admitted to speaking to two drama channels (YouTube channels dedicated to YouTube gossip,) and said things like, “I always like to say, just because the person next to you is in a full body cast, doesn’t mean that your broken arm doesn’t hurt. Pain is pain.” So we can expect more on this in the future.
After her video went live, she tweeted the following:
Seven hours after her upload, James shared his own eight-and-a-half minute vlog, titled “tati.” In it, Charles is uncharacteristically makeup-free. He said:
“I hate knowing that I disappointed not only [my fans], but two people that have been role models for me doing this… What sucks the most is that I know there’s nothing I can say or do to ever earn that friendship or trust back but I don’t blame them for it. A lot of the time when I’ve had to address things in the past, I’ve acted out of impulse and I’ve gone off and tried to pull receipts or facts or screenshots and play the victim and I’m not doing that today, I’m not. That is all I have to say, I’m sorry.”
He also said he’s “already said my truth twice” about the Coachella Sugar Bear situation and doesn’t need to again. Has anyone ever told him to apologize you have to… actually admit to being wrong?
May 12, 2019:
According to CNN, James Charles has lost 2 million subscribers since the Westbrook drama/apology video stuff went down. He had nearly 16 million, and that number dropped to 14 million by Sunday afternoon and appears to be declining still. Westbrook’s subscribers, conversely, have been exploding: She hit 8 million on Sunday. Last week, that number was close to 5 million.
Jeffree Star, who loves to enter drama that doesn’t really concern him, jumped in Sunday to tweet and delete, “There is a reason that Nathan [Schwandt, Jeffree’s boyfriend] banned James Charles from ever coming over to our home again. There’s 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,” according to Hollywood Life. Ian Jeffrey, James’s 17-year-old brother, sub-tweeted Star with, “Why does everyone act so tough on the internet,” which Jeffree Star quote-tweeted (and once again, deleted): “Why is your brother a predator? Why’d you really have to move back up to NYC? Exactly. Shut the fuck up.”
Star is 33 years old.
May 13, 2019:
A little after midnight on Monday, Tati posted this note to her Instagram explaining that a reaction video to Charles’s apology video isn’t gonna happen right now:
Something tells me this is not the end. But it could be for Charles’s career?