More drama than Game of Thrones.
If you were anywhere near the internet this weekend, you probably felt at least a few aftershocks from the drama that started between two YouTube beauty influencers, James Charles, 19, and Tati Westbrook, 37. Come Monday morning, it seemed like everyone — even CNN — was talking about their viral feud, which ended with Charles losing 3 million subscribers on his channel (he previously had a whopping 16.5 million subscribers).
If you’re confused about what exactly went down — or even about who these people are in the first place — you’re not alone. Let’s attempt to make sense of all the drama.
Who, exactly, are James Charles and Tati Westbrook?
Charles and Westbrook are both popular YouTubers in the beauty sphere. Charles was CoverGirls’s first male ambassador, and also the subject of some controversy back in 2017, when he wrote a racist tweet reading, “‘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.'” He also attended the Met Gala this year.
How did the drama unfold?
Westbrook was apparently Charles’s longtime mentor, a relationship that seems to have ended because Charles posted an ad for Sugar Bear Hair supplements to his Instagram story. Sugar Bear, it turns out, is a competitor for Westbrook’s supplement brand, Halo Beauty, and after Charles’s Instagram Story, Westbrook posted a clip of herself to her Instagram, saying she felt “lost” and “betrayed” by an unnamed person.
After Westbrook posted that video, James posted an apology, captured by BuzzFeed.
Are you with us so far? Good, because that’s not where this ends — that apology seems to have been too little, too late. On Friday, Westbrook posted a 43-minute video (!) to her YouTube page aptly titled “BYE SISTER,” explaining why she was ending her friendship with Charles (who is colloquially known as “sister” on the internet).
In the video, she accused him of spreading lies about her, saying mean things about other beauty influencers, and sexually harassing men who weren’t interested in him.
Charles then responded with a video of his own, in which he apologized and addressed the points Westbrook had made.
“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,” he said. “That is all I have to say, I’m sorry.” (Yep, the apology got the meme treatment.)
How have people responded?
So far, it looks like Westbrook is winning this feud. Charles has lost 3 million followers since the ordeal, while Westbrook has gained over 3 million followers (and counting). According to Cosmopolitan, even celebrities like the Kardashian-Jenners, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, and Ariana Grande have since unfollowed Charles. Another popular YouTuber, Jeffree Starr, chimed in with a now-deleted tweet, calling Charles a “danger to society.”
Mostly, the drama has been ripe for meme inspiration, even amongst people who have no idea who Charles or Westbrook are.
Westbrook, in the meantime, has tweeted that she won’t be releasing a new video on Monday as scheduled. “My heart is still too heavy,” she wrote. “I feel like I need to remind you that we can hold truth & inspire change without grabbing onto hate. Honor your blessings, don’t abuse them. Celebrating pain will only bring it to your door. love you guys, see you soon.”
Charles, on the other hand, has been fairly radio-silent since his apology video. Stay tuned to see if the drama is really over.