In the past few months, Youtubers from every genre have seen a reckoning with their past.
After tremendous backlash, some of the most famous personalities borne from the video platform have been making apologies for creating content that has been recognized as problematic, racist, homophobic and xenophobic, others have decided that, with the social climate changing so dramatically, they were leaving the website that brought them fortune and fame entirely.
In what has been dubbed “Karmageddon” by Youtube enthusiasts, content creators are now being held accountable for past material, including blackface, race mockery and behaviors that had been overlooked or casually accepted by the majority of viewing audiences… until now.
Probably the most dramatic of falls are that of Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star, two of the most successful individuals on the vlogging platform. Dawson has a collective 30 million subscribers across his two channels; Shane and ShaneDawsonTV. Star has 17 million subscribers. Together, they command an audience larger than some countries.
The problem with Jeffree Star began long before the age of reconciliation. Throughout his career, the vlogger, turned musician, turned CEO of his own multi million dollar makeup dynasty had been plagued by evidence of violence, racism and dangerous behavior.
In one incident that often makes the rounds on social media from over a decade ago, Star is seen liberally using the N-word to attack black women, telling someone “You lose by being a poor Mexican.” He calls another black woman a “Stupid Ape,” jokes about splashing battery acid into a black woman’s face “to lighten her skin tone”
Another older video shows him appearing to scream at- and pursue a woman on the street while brandishing a tazer and screaming “I’ll kill you, b*tch.”
In yet another leaked video, Star records an unidentified man that he and a friend had allegedly just had ex with. The individual is black-out drunk, unable to move and clearly in need of medical attention as he vomits excessively and passes out repeatedly while Star asks “Do you like f*cking me?” while filming him instead of calling for help.
In 2016, Make up developer Kat Von D took to her youtube channel in a short video to condemn Jeffree Star.
Von D claimed in her video that she gave Star his start with his own make up line- which, according to her, started in her own living room and with her setting up meetings for him. She also helped him with his logo by putting him in contact with a designer. Angry that Star had not paid the designer she introduced him to after the design was delivered, Von D took to social media to reprimand him and call foul on his problematic behavior. In the video she calls Starr “A monster… an attention seeking, fame desiring, money driven monster that I want no part of.” She also apologizes to her followers on behalf of Star, for his ongoing abuse and bullying.
“As far as the message I would like to send out to my fans and my followers, other beauty brands, YouTubers, or anyone else that has had to experience any of the insensitivity, the negativity that Jeffree has spewed your way, I just want to apologize, because if I do regret anything, I regret setting Jeffree up with that factory, I regret being a part of helping somebody become so self absorbed, when I probably could have spoken up a lot sooner.”
YouTuber Kat Blaque, a transgender black woman, had maintained that it was unfair to judge someone’s present day character and world view based on ten year old videos- however, she then presents the story of Tab David, a former friend of Star, who released a video detailing his more present-day attitude including allegations of antisemitic slurs, the verbal basing of friends behind their backs and degrading comments about their physical appearances.
Some, however, like Youtube creator and friend of Star, Rich Lux, see nothing wrong with the persistent allegations of Star’s racism.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that two extremely successful Youtubers would become friends, so the pairing of Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star is nothing extraordinary. Except for the fact that the two made their friendship just that by featuring each other in their content, with Dawson doing a 9-part docuseries featuring Starr in what same claim was Dawson’s attempt to help redeem Star’s tarnished image.
However, whether Dawson was trying to help his friend reconcile a past that haunted him, Dawson was constantly running from his own.
As YouTubers wrestle in the pit of the proverbial Seven Deadly Sins to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive area, Dawson has pulled plenty of stunts on his viewers to keep his videos churning out revenue. Videos with clickbait like “We adopted a baby!” (They didn’t.) I adopted a child! (He didn’t.) along with a handful of various filmed apologies over the years, the earliest of which came in 2014 and featured him apologizing for his blatant racism and appearances in blackface.
And the latest “Taking Accountability,” which he claimed was inspired by the departure of Jenna Marbles.
Dawson had battled accusations of joking about pedophilia and criticism for going on the video chat website Omegle and asking underage girls to dance for him, encouraging them to “Show yourself,” making a video of himself cross dressing and calling a Black woman “Monkey Woman” and “N-word B*tch.”
Dawson was also widely condemned for simulating masturbation to a poster of then 11-year old Willow Smith, the daughter of Will Smith. Dawson was chastised on Twitter by Willow’s brother, Jaden for “Sexualizing” a child.
Willow’s mother, actress and Jada Pinkett-Smith also took to the social media platform to scold the 34 year old.
In any other scenario, Star and Dawson would have little in common, with Dawson being a dowdy, angsty, awkward and anxious failed actor who parlayed his youtube celebrity into making dozens of hugely successful serious documentaries about other prominent- but problematic- youtubers like Jake Paul and Tana Mongeau.
Star, on the other hand, is a flambouyant, hyper eccentric, overly confident extrovert with a penchant for plastic surgery and flaunting his insane wealth. He’s also a staple on the thousands of “Drama Channels” that pepper youtube for his frequent public feuds with other make-up artists and successful brands.
Despite the apologies whenever their antics rose to the surface, the two existed safely in the youtube bubble, the platform that started their careers in the public eye years ago.
The two are so entwined as royals of YouTube that they collaborated with Morphe Bushes- who also frequently collaborates with 20 year old make up artist James Charles- on an eye-shadow pallet called “Conspiracy.” The 9 part docuseries created by Dawson that featured Star focused on the development and eventual launch of their business effort. The make up pallet and the docuseries were, together, a mutual campaign to raise their profile and cling to the upper echelons as Youtube Elites. The outing was a massive hit and sold out immediately.
Unfortunately, the wave of success was short lived.
In 2018, 38 year old Youtube Beauty Guru Tati Westbrook released a video taking aim at the aforementioned make-up artist James Charles. Charles, who gained fame when his senior photo of himself in full makeup went viral has become one of the biggest selling make-up designers to come out of the platform, rivaling Jeffree Star’s own mammoth success.
In her video, titled “Bye Sister,” Westbrook accused Charles of predatory behavior, tricking men who identified as straight into sleeping with him and pursuing them as if it was a personal challenge. Although Westbrook said she and James had been close friends, she expressed concerns that his reckless behavior was “Oversexualized” and he was using “Your fame, your power and your money to play with people’s emotions, you’re threatening to ruin them, you’re threatening to embarrass them and you’re doing that to have them behave sexually in your favor even if they’re straight- and that’s not okay.”
In the 40 minute message aimed directly at Charles, Westbrook went into detail of multiple instances of Charles misconduct. The video, which racked up millions of views in record time and made international news, resulted in James Charles losing millions of subscribers.
Not one to miss a pile on, Jeffree Star immediately chimed in with a now deleted tweet, saying; “There is a reason that Nathan banned James Charles from ever coming over to our home again,” Jeffree said, referring to his partner. “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.”
In response to Star, James Charles’s 17 year old brother, Ian, tweeted and asked “Why does everyone so tough over the internet?” to which Star replied:
Westbrook then deleted her video and disappeared from Youtbube for a year.
2020 — TATI WESTBROOK RETURNS
In her first video back on YouTube, Westbrook revisited the drama that nearly destroyed James Charles career at 19 years old justone year prior.
And she apologized, explaining that she had been misled by two people into believing things that were not true and that behind the scenes of her now infamous video loomed two hostile actors using her as an unwitting pawn to manufacture his takedown.
Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson.
In a shocking twist no one saw coming, Westbrook comes totally clean, alleging that Dawson even offered to edit her original video on her behalf. She claimed Dawson gaslit her into believing that they had a solid friendship, and confessed to her that Jeffree wanted her to have a role in the Docuseries Dawson was working on with him, but it was about to take a sharp turn, because, according to Dawson, “Something horrible was happening in our community with James Charles.”
Star then allegedly played a voice memo from one of Charles’s victims, asking her to “Listen too the pain in his voice.” As Westbrook was a survivor of sexual assault, it deeply affected her. The stories relayed to Westbrook, who had up until that point maintained a close friendship with Charles, left her believing that she had to intervene, which resulted in her initial video. According to her, Shane Dawson even wanted to make the thumbnail for her video on James Charles. She declined. Her final assessment? “Jeffree and Shane were bitterly jealous of James Charles.”
Going even further, Westbrook stopped cold saying Starr told her frequently “How much dirt he held on other brand owners and members of the Youtube community. I believe he held blackmail material on many people and was capable of destroying the entire community.” Before breaking into tears, she said “Be prepared, he’s gunna go off guys… and I don’t think he will hold back and I think we need to be prepared to understand that we need to forgive the people he is holding hostage with veiled threats of exposure. We need to be prepared to forgive them. Otherwise this won’t stop.”
It’s possibly true. In 2017, Starr allegedly ended his friendship with Youtube make up artist Nikki Tutorials over similarly titled videos and reviewing the same products which caused friction with some fans branding Star a copycat. Nikki, however, stayed quiet, never mentioning the dispute which apparently led Star to release a terrifying Snapchat that has taken on new life today:
“I have dirt on everyone… and they know to keep their mouth shut.” — Jeffree Star
The video in which Westbrook exposed Star and Dawson’s alleged role in using her to destroy James Charles fetched a frantic response from Dawson, who staggered around his house panicking while broadcasting on instagram live.
As details continue to come out about Star and Dawson’s cruel conspiracy to allegedly destroy James Charles, Drama Channel host Ashley Kyle revealed texts between herself and Star that confirm Star’s awareness of Tati’s not yet released video and show him reveling in the damage about to be done to Charles as a consequence of it. In messages to Kyle, he continues his pattern of making fun of Charles, with Star sending her a picture saying “His eyes are so dead, it’s haunting.”
Star has stayed silent on the accusations made by Westbrook, however, in a rare instance of actual accountability and consequence for his actions, last week, his business partner, Morphe Brushes, announced they were discontinuing their work with him.
Jame Charles was asked by the paparazzi over the weekend if he would comment on Starr and Dawson’s alleged participation in the effort to ruin him and his career.
Charles politely declined to answer saying “I don’t really wanna talk about that at this time, if that’s okay.”
Maybe Charles has learned a valuable lesson. As they say in the movies, “With friends like these….”