The following article references domestic abuse.
YouTube star James Charles first became a household name when he was just a senior in high school. The Bethlehem, New York native got his mainstream start as the first male face of CoverGirl and on his social media pages where he posted impressive, eye-catching makeup looks. But on his quick rise to fame as the millions of followers rolled in, Charles also experienced waves of criticism and backlash for his controversial actions.
From feuds with everyone from major celebrities to other YouTubers, to facing serious allegations, Charles has seen it all along his rise to stardom. But while the #JamesCharlesIsOverParty trend has come and gone many times throughout the years, he’s always climbed his way back up and found himself on top of the YouTube beauty space. But could his cancellations finally be reaching a peak and starting the beginning of the downfall of James Charles? Let’s get into how his star shot so high, only to come crashing down.
James Charles was hit with backlash after making a joke about Ebola
In February 2017, just months after going viral for his iconic senior photos and for being named CoverGirl’s first CoverBoy, James Charles experienced major backlash for the first time. In a now-deleted tweet, Charles made an insensitive joke about getting the Ebola virus by visiting South Africa. He quoted a conversation between himself and a friend, writing, “‘I can’t believe we’re going to Africa today OMG what if we get Ebola.’ ‘James we’re fine we could’ve gotten it at chipotle last year.'” Charles tried to defend his tweet at first, and according to Affinity Magazine, he blocked other Twitter users who called his post insensitive.
But a few hours later, Charles deleted the tweet and issued an apology. In his mea culpa, he admitted that he made a mistake but then sparked more controversy by referring to Africa as a country, not a continent. In a statement provided to The Cut, CoverGirl said, “James Charles’ tweet does not represent CoverGirl’s perspective. We agree his statements were inappropriate but appreciate that he has issued an apology. We are an inclusive brand and respect all people and cultures.” But this was only the first of many major scandals Charles would face throughout his career.
James Charles has ended up at odds with celebrities
Not long after his first social media scandal, rising star James Charles started some online drama with celebrities like “Stranger Things” actor Finn Wolfhard. When Charles was in the theater seeing Wolfhard’s movie “It,” Charles tweeted saying that the movie was “awful” only five minutes in. And Wolfhard caught wind of Charles’ tweets replying to him saying, “Why are you on your phone in the movie theater? Rule 1” (via BuzzFeed). And while Charles wrote he was “honored” Wolfhard tweeted at him, he went on and apologized in a video. And just to add to the mayhem, one month later, Charles did a “It Pennywise Glam Halloween Makeup Tutorial,” which he admitted was ironic given his feelings about the movie.
And Wolfhard hasn’t been the only star who’s had an issue with Charles. In March 2018, the beauty influencer uploaded a video where he told fellow YouTubers Shane Dawson and Ryland Adams that Ariana Grande was the rudest celebrity he’s met, claiming to have “had a really crappy experience” with her. As Billboard noted, Grande unfollowed the vlogger after his tweet about Africa and Ebola. When he asked her why she did this, he said she said, “Hey babe, I saw a lot of angry tweets from my fans and I would never want to disappoint them, so I unfollowed.”
Drama arrived with James Charles' Morphe palette
In 2018, James Charles landed a major collaboration deal with makeup powerhouse brand Morphe. They created the “James Charles Palette,” a collection of 39 shades that was supposed to help fellow makeup lovers “unleash their inner artist.” Drama ensued.
After Charles released a demonstration, some Twitter users suspected he faked the swatches in the clip. When one person asked if he “pre-swatched” the shadow, he replied, “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. Not hiding anything.” This was only the tip of the iceberg.
According to Girlfriend, Twitter user @kodeerants uploaded a now-deleted video where she said some of the colors stained eyelids and caused hives. In an effort to defend the palette, Charles replied, “most pinks, purples, & reds all stain certain skin types. This is common knowledge to all makeup lovers. You accusing me of lying to fans & not caring about people is a ridiculous cry for attention. If you have hives, consult your dermatologist, not me for likes on Twitter.” According to Girlfriend, the two had a heated back and forth on Twitter which “ended up with James blocking then unblocking the fan.”
Fans accused James Charles of editing his makeup photos
In March 2019, Revelist reported that fans on Reddit were accusing James Charles of “faking his skill level” by editing his photos to the point where they were “suspiciously flawless.” People pointed to his makeup looks from his YouTube videos and posted them next to his edited Instagram content.
And while the viral Reddit post calling Charles out addressed the fact that he uses apps like FaceTune and Photoshop, the Redditor claimed that this is different. They wrote, “This isn’t like, making his nose skinnier or blurring a few pores. … This essentially is faking his skill level. It’s like someone hand-drawing a piece of art, but half of it was mirrored, so it looks perfect without any flaws, and the artist claiming it was not altered in any way and still claiming the ENTIRE thing is completely done by hand” (via Revelist).
And as others chimed in, some even came to Charles’ defense, but just wished he was honest. As one Reddit user who wrote (via Revelist), “See if he was like ‘I’m pretty awesome at makeup AND ALSO my photoshop skills are great!’ that would be fine, in my opinion? I mean, he’s fantastic at photoshop, obviously. … Just be transparent.” As far as we know, Charles didn’t directly address the drama, but around the same time he did tweet a throwback photo and write, “thank god for braces, scissors, better taste in clothing, lip filler, makeup, & a little facetune.”
James Charles comments about not being 'fully gay' didn't go over well
In April 2019, James Charles posted a YouTube video to his channel where fellow YouTube star Jeff Witteck did his makeup. While Witteck was doing Charles’ makeup, the two discussed a variety of topics including their love lives, their sexuality, and the Kinsey Scale. As the Kinsey Institute website explains, the Scale goes from zero to six, with “people at ‘zero’ report[ing] exclusively heterosexual/opposite sex behavior or attraction.” At the other end of the spectrum, people “report exclusively homosexual/same-sex behavior or attraction.”
During their conversation, Charles said that he doesn’t believe many people are a “flat out zero” or a “flat out six.” After he put himself at a 5.5 on the scale, Witteck wondered if Charles wasn’t “fully gay.” Charles responded saying, “I mean, no. There have been girls in the past that I’ve thought have been really, really beautiful. There’s also been like, trans guys in the past too that I was really, really into for a moment in time.” This sparked outrage amongst fans who said Charles’ comments were transphobic and discredited transgender men as “actual men.”
“James Charles saying he’s not fully gay bc he’s been attracted to trans men before is insinuating that trans men aren’t men and is incredibly transphobic,” one person tweeted. Charles eventually apologized on Twitter, where he admitted, “should’ve chosen my words wiser!”
James Charles' post about the Met Gala raised eyebrows
Fans of style know that the Met Gala is the Super Bowl of the fashion world, as it’s an excuse for the biggest celebs and the biggest designers to team up to create show-stopping looks. The event is invite-only and the guest list is mostly made up of celebs from the tippity top of the A-list, so it was a huge deal when influencers like James Charles was asked to come in 2019. After attending his first Met Ball, Charles posted a photo from the event and thanked both YouTube and Alexander Wang for inviting him. “Being invited to such an important event like the ball is such an honor and a step forward in the right direction for influencer representation in the media and I am so excited to be a catalyst,” Charles wrote.
This caption did not sit well with everyone. “If you don’t care about influencer representation in the media then your politics are not intersectional!!!” one tweeted. Another person wrote, “ah, yes. the historically oppressed and marginalized class, ‘influencers.'” Others called Charles out for belittling actual marginalized groups with this caption, but as of June 2021, the photo is still up with the same caption on Charles’ Instagram page.
Tati Westbrook and James Charles' friendship blew up
In May 2019, fellow beauty guru and James Charles’ former mentor, Tati Westbrook, uploaded a 43-minute long YouTube video called “Bye Sister.” In the video Westbrook publicly ended her friendship with Charles for a variety of reasons, one of which being his partnership with Sugar Bear Hair — a competitor to her Halo Beauty brand. She made a variety of accusations and said Charles changed due to “fame, power, and a fat bank account.” She also called him a “bad role model” and alleged Charles used his fame to have inappropriate conversations with underage boys.
Charles’ career took a major hit from this video. He lost millions of followers, fans destroyed his merchandise, and many other YouTubers got involved. Eventually, Charles released his own video sharing his side of the story called “No More Lies,” in which he said he managed to build his career back up and shared how the scandal took a toll on his mental health. In another video (via Insider), Westbrook claimed fellow YouTubers Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star manipulated her into sharing her now-deleted “Bye Sister” video. Though in 2021, after Charles admitted to having inappropriate conversations with minors (he said he cut off communication once he found out they were underage), some people, such as beauty vlogger commentator John Kuckian, wondered if Westbrook’s original allegations were accurate.
Did James Charles sing the N-word?
Even after James Charles built his career back up after the Tati Westbrook scandal, he still managed to find his way into more drama shortly after. As Insider noted, #JamesCharlesIsOverParty trended on Twitter in January 2020 when Charles posted a video of himself dancing to Saweetie’s song “My Type” at a New Year’s Eve party. At the time, people took to social media to call Charles out for apparently singing the N-word along with the chorus of the song. So many jumped in the conversation on Twitter that #JamesCharlesIsOverParty started trending and people called for Charles to be cancelled again.
When Charles caught wind of the hashtag, he maintained that he did not use the slur in the clip. “no? turn up the volume & listen, I skip over it,” he tweeted. “how stupid would I have to be to confidently record a video of me singing the n word and still have it up the next morning.”
James Charles took part in a controversial trend
In April 2020, James Charles took part in the controversial “mugshot” TikTok challenge. He and other influencers shared photos of themselves where they were made up to look bruised and bloodied. Charles’ post was flooded with comments from fans who took issue with the trend because they felt it glorified abuse and was harmful for domestic violence survivors. “I recall looking EXACTLY like these pictures when I had my best friend take pictures of my injuries after a particularly violent moment of domestic abuse,” one Twitter user wrote. “I had planned on sleeping tonight, but because of this lovely trigger, I won’t be.”
Charles deleted the photos, but he initially tried to defend himself, writing, “Genuine question, The Weeknd’s new album shows him bleeding, with a broken nose, and bruises, yet I haven’t seen a single tweet about him glorifying violence or abuse.” He asked people to explain the difference to him and went on to say that it was never his intention to “trigger anyone and it’s a waste of time trying to have an open discussion with people who hate me regardless.”
Some Twitter users did take a moment to Charles’ question though, like the person who replied, “An album full of emotion and thought with a cover that reflects the content of the album is completely different than you painting on blood and bruises for a ‘mugshot’ especially now when domestic abuse cases are skyrocketing because of quarantine.”
If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.
James Charles partied during the pandemic
In July 2020, as California was seeing record high cases of the COVID-19 virus, James Charles attended a birthday party for fellow influencer Larri “Larray” Merritt (per Insider). Other internet stars like Tana Mongeau and Nikita Dragun were also in attendance at the birthday bash. They revelers immediately faced backlash from fans as well as other influencers like Tyler Oakley. “Hi @jamescharles @NikitaDragun @tanamongeau @larrayxo @charlidamelio @dixiedamelio & any others who have been partying in large groups – please consider social distancing, mask wearing, & using your huge platforms to encourage responsibility during a worldwide pandemic,” Oakley tweeted.
Charles later apologized for being “stupid and selfish” in his vlog from the day of the party. He decided to omit footage from the party to help set a better example. “Even though I have been wearing a mask in public and have tested negative multiple times, going to a party during a pandemic was a selfish and stupid decision,” he said.
James Charles had drama with Alicia Keys and Lauren Conrad
In August 2020, James Charles took to Twitter to voice his frustrations regarding some celebrity cosmetics lines, going so far as to say that “people who do not wear makeup should not be coming out with makeup brands.” Some assumed Charles was talking about Alicia Keys, a star who famously stopped wearing makeup and was set to launch a lifestyle beauty brand with e.l.f. cosmetics at the time. Charles eventually deleted the tweet and the following day, he tweeted a lengthy apology to Keys in which he said he was “childish” to indirectly tweet about her and that he is “not the gatekeeper of makeup.”
That same month, Charles took to his Instagram stories to go off about receiving a PR box full of empty beauty products from another celebrity who he said had “no business” creating a makeup line. Charles didn’t specifically name Lauren Conrad during this rant, but he did hold up her products where fans could clearly see the label with her brand name. Charles later took to his IG stories again to issue an apology. “My stories talking about the products were supposed to be funny but they just came across nasty because I was so upset,” he said (via Twitter). James and Lauren Conrad seemingly reconciled and appeared together in fellow beauty personality NikkieTutorial’s YouTube video in November 2020.
James Charles was accused of having inappropriate conversations with minors
In February 2021, James Charles faced allegations of grooming from a 16-year-old fan. In a statement, the vlogger said the grooming accusations were “completely false,” but it wasn’t long before more minors accused Charles of flirting with them. Some even shared their experiences and conversations with Charles on Twitter and TikTok. In April 2021, Charles addressed the allegations In a YouTube video titled “holding myself accountable.”
“[I] was told they were 18, believed them, engaged in a flirty conversation, and then later on, found out they were actually 16,” Charles said. “Upon finding out, I was immediately embarrassed and blocked both people.” He acknowledged that the interactions “should’ve never happened, point-blank period,” adding, “There is no excuse for it. There is no if, ands, or buts, and I take full responsibility for that.” He apologized for his behavior and admitted that it was “desperation” that got himself into this situation in the first place.
Following the allegations, Charles’ professional life went through some changes. Morphe announced on Twitter that the company had severed ties from the influencer, and Variety reported he would no longer be the host of YouTube TV series “Instant Influencer.” A spokesperson for YouTube did not explain why Charles isn’t at the helm anymore, but did say the program “will take a new creative direction.”
James Charles was sued by his former employee for alleged 'mistreatment'
James Charles landed in another major scandal in 2021. He also got tied up in legal drama with one of his former employees over allegations of “wrongful termination” and “mistreatment,” according to Dexerto. While Charles was taking a social media hiatus to “reflect” and “get help” after the grooming allegations came to light, court documents showed that he was being sued by Kelly Rocklein who worked as his video editor and producer. In the docs, Rocklein alleged that she was working in two different job roles for Charles, which left her working “12 hours a day, almost seven days a week, without any overtime pay and despite being promised a raise that never came to fruition.”
Charles hopped back on social media to address the legal matter. “The fact that this is even attempting to become a narrative makes me feel like sick to my stomach because it is wildly, wildly, untrue and I am so grateful for the people around me,” he said in a video that went up on Twitter in May 2021. In the clip, he shared his side of the story, noting that he felt like he was “being blackmailed.” After he released this video, Rocklein shared on Twitter that she’d received death threats from some of his fans.
Despite all of this controversy, Charles’ friend Noah Beck told The Hollywood Fix that “he’ll be back.”
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