How does one lose over a million YouTube subscribers in under 24 hours? As someone who only has around five subscribers, it’s impossible for me to answer that question, but luckily we can learn the answer from YouTuber James Charles.
For those who have no idea who James Charles is, he is a 19-year-old YouTube beauty vlogger and influencer. In his short 19 years, James managed to accrue a following of over 16 million people on YouTube and he was the first male ambassador for Covergirl. Now only 13 million strong, James Charles’ fanbase is in shambles trying to cope with his cancellation. What caused this cancellation you ask: a video from another beauty vlogger named Tati Westbrook, in which she called out James for being a bad friend as well as exhibiting predatory behavior.
In order to understand how James was a bad friend to Tati, you have to know that Tati and her husband were quite instrumental in James’ rise to fame. In Tati’s video where she exposes James, titled “BYE SISTER,” in reference to James’ fans being called sister, she explains how much she and her husband did for James.
Through financial advice, collaborations and more, Tati Westbrook undoubtedly played a big role in getting James to where he is. That history is important for seeing why Tati was so upset when James promoted a skin and hair care brand that is in direct competition to hers. Sugarbearhair is the brand that James promoted over Tati’s personal brand, Halo Beauty. James promoted Sugarbearhair on instagram live that he streamed from Coachella, saying that he loved their products and the company had helped provide him security when it was needed.
So was this betrayal of trust enough to cancel James? Certainly not — he was quick to post an apology and do his best to explain the situation, but those gummy bears were the least of his problems.
In that same video, Tati Westbrook also brought up James’ predatory behavior, specifically toward straight men. Tati said that she was made uncomfortable by comments James made when eating dinner at her house, and also referenced that he had harassed straight men. After the video, multiple men came forward to say that they too had been DM’ed by James without warning.
A Buzzfeed article posted recently contains many screenshots of private messages between James and a number of semi-famous men. All of the messages show James being a bit forward, and at times coercive, telling these men how attractive they are. In one very blurry screenshot, James is messaging a 19-year-old waiter who he apparently kissed. The waiter’s name is Sam and he made it clear that he is not gay, yet in the messages you can see James sending him: “You’re not straight no matter how many times you tell yourself and I hope you figure that out sooner rather than later.”
James’ messages are alarming, and they are supported by some behavior in real life. Another YouTuber and pseudo-celebrity named Gage Gomez who attended Coachella with James said that he was being pressured heavily by James to “experiment” despite Gomez’s insistence that he is straight.
James’ behavior is clearly reprehensible, and the blowback from his fans is understandable, but I have a different perspective. I have no differing opinion on his shady business practices and bad friendship, but I see his harassing of straight men as unexceptional if anything.
There are no reports of James physically harassing men, and a majority of the reports come from private messages individuals were sent by him. The practice of DMing someone you find attractive and being forward about that fact is not unique to James. In fact, I would say that straight men have a much worse and more prolific track record in that practice.
I am willing to bet almost every woman reading this article has been the recipient of unwanted private messages from men. Hip-hop celebrities are especially notorious for scoping out attractive women on social media and using their position of power to take advantage of them. In another article I wrote, I investigated a serial rapist named Ian Connor who does exactly what James does, except he flew girls to him and subsequently has sex with them whether they want to or not.
I would like to ask all of the James Charles cancelers to hold other celebrities to the same standards. Almost every famous musician has private-messaged a regular person who they find attractive. So much so in fact that there are a number of tabloid articles that count down the many times celebrities slid into fan DM’s. I’m not here to advocate for the normalization of these kinds of actions, but rather that James’ behavior is neither unique nor the worst we have seen, and yet broke records for the number of subscribers lost in 24 hours. It is also important to remember that James is still 19. It is weird to think that he is younger than I am yet has already had a full rise to fame and subsequent fall.
The story of a child star making life-altering mistakes is as old as time itself, and James honestly has not done anything that bad. I cannot speak for the victims of James’ harassment, and I cannot speak for the friends whom he betrayed. What I can do though is remind everyone of how important context is, and ask that we look at celebrity culture itself, and apply the same standards to everyone.