Unless you’ve been living under a Twitter-less rock for the past 36 hours, you’ve surely seen two names trending on your timeline: James Charles and Tati Westbrook. Do you have no idea who these two people are? You’re in luck, then. NewNowNext’s resident YouTube binge-watcher is here to break down the entire fiasco from beginning to end.
First off: Who the f*ck are these people?
James Charles (pictured above at the 2019 Met Gala) is a 19-year-old gay beauty guru who skyrocketed to international fame after landing a historic brand deal with CoverGirl Cosmetics back in 2016. He’s had a bumpy road to stardom with mishaps and drama aplenty.
Meanwhile, Tati Westbrook is a makeup artist and OG beauty guru whose YouTube channel, GlamLifeGuru, has amassed a loyal following in the nine years since its launch. Westbrook, a 37-year-old industry veteran, also served as a mentor figure to Charles for many years (and the majority of his relatively short career), taking him under her wing with the help of her husband, James Westbrook, and teaching him the ropes of making a living off of YouTube videos.
Why should I care about either of them?
me getting ready to watch a 43 minute video by tati westbrook, whom I have never heard of, exposing james charles, whomst I only know about from memes of him not being able to sing and wearing assless leather pants pic.twitter.com/jXMmd9sMXG
— marshall lo (@firmlyclimactic) May 11, 2019
Well, a lot of people are talking about them, including people completely outside of the insular realm of YouTube’s beauty community. As far as YouTube personalities go, Tati and Charles are two of the most prominent: Tati currently has 9.1 million subscribers, while Charles has a staggering 13.8 million. (As CNN Entertainment notes, Charles’ subscriber count actually dropped some 2 million users post-tea spilling. And yes, that’s over the course of about three days. Don’t worry, children. We’re getting there.)
Where does the drama start?!
I don’t know who needs to hear this tonight but pic.twitter.com/36pue9fV1o
— Andrew Spena (@iamsosorry) May 11, 2019
That mentor-mentee relationship I mentioned? It’s no longer. Tati nearly broke the internet with her bombshell of an exposé, titled “Bye Sister” and uploaded late last Friday, May 10 to her YouTube channel. The 43-minute video details Tati’s ongoing qualms with Charles (and offers plenty of meme-able moments—see the tweet above.) It also serves as a very public end to their longstanding friendship.
Wait, I’m so confused. Was there an inciting incident?
me watching all 43 minutes and 8 seconds of that tati video without knowing a single thing about her, james charles, or any products/events she mentioned pic.twitter.com/AiKEY96m84
— danny nett (@dannynett) May 11, 2019
Girl, you bet there was! A bit of backstory: Though Charles has had his fair share of scandals before, Tati is well-respected in the beauty community as one of the most straightforward and drama-free YouTubers out there. She’s also the founder and CEO of Halo Beauty, a line of nutrient-enriched vitamins meant to improve the appearance of skin, hair, and nails.
Though Tati insists her relationship with Charles “was never transactional,” he allegedly mooched off of her generosity for years—and Tati, believing he genuinely valued their rapport, went out of her way to promote his product launches and YouTube channel. She never asked for anything in return, and since Charles’ audience is chiefly teenage girls, they mutually agreed that him promoting her vitamins would be inappropriate. So when Tati got word that Charles had done a sponsored post with Sugarbear Hair—another vitamin brand that Charles had reportedly trashed in private, and Halo Beauty’s chief competitor—she was furious. The circumstances around that sponsorship deal were super sus, too, and Tati totally called Charles out on what she suspects was a huge publicity stunt at Coachella:
You say that you’re the realest and you can’t be bought. Well, guess what. You just were. I don’t think you were in a dangerous situation [when you accepted the sponsorship.] I really, really don’t. You know fair well how crowds are, so if you did think there was going to be a dangerous situation, I think you would’ve brought your own security. You have the millions and millions and millions in your account to do that because you are the first person to overshare your finances with everybody. You know, I tell you guys, I can’t be bought in any situation. I would’ve left. A lot of people were like, “What was he supposed to do? It was dangerous!” Leave. Go home. … Have some loyalty to that fanbase that has put all of that money into your bank account instead of lying to them.
What’s this I’m hearing/seeing about James Charles preying on straight guys?
— Kelsey (@kelsseeyyx) May 13, 2019
Those receipts Tati has “stacked high” against Charles? They include: spreading rumors and lies about Tati; engaging in wildly inappropriate and sexually explicit conversations at formal events; and repeatedly pursuing with straight men for sex (Charles is gay, but Tati says he’s gone after straight men time and time again since he’s a “celebrity” and “everyone is a little bit gay”). It culminates with a painful message from a very teary-eyed Tati, who appears to have genuinely valued her relationship with Charles. She flew him to her wedding and had him do her makeup, for God’s sake!
You don’t get to the success that James Charles has without knowing how to work someone, and I don’t want to be worked. I don’t want to be manipulated. And I tried everything that I could. But I don’t matter to him right now. I’m only a piece in his game.
Did James Charles apologize?
Yeah. You could call it that, although his apology video, “Tati,” feels a lot like damage control.
So…is James Charles canceled?
That’s for you to decide, although if Tati’s receipts are valid, he’s definitely looking like a cake-faced Icarus who flew way too close to the camera shutter. Watch Tati’s full video below.