Is James Charles “canceled”?
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The 19-year-old beauty influencer and the first male ambassador for CoverGirl reportedly had more than 16 million YouTube followers last week before a 40-plus-minute video posted by 37-year-old vlogger Tati Westbrook — in which she outlined her issues with Charles and reasons why she’s decided to sever ties with the star — went viral.
Westbrook’s initial video now has nearly 40 million views. Meanwhile, Charles’ has lost millions of followers — he continues to creep down toward 13 million followers — while Westbrook’s numbers appear to be climbing.
Celebrities, including Kylie Jenner, Ariana Grande, and Katy Perry, have also reportedly unfollowed Charles, as a result.
Many on social media are claiming that Charles, who attended the Met Gala for the first time last week, is now “canceled.”
The phenomenon, which many consider bullying, often happens when someone or something is boycotted, usually because of unpopular or controversial actions or opinions.
“Cancel culture is a form of group censorship that goes against American values,” says psychiatrist Janet Taylor.
Here’s what we know
The drama escalated after vlogger Tati Westbrook’s video addressed her relationship with Charles, saying that, as far as their friendship is concerned, “the chapter is closed.”
In a 40-plus-minute video titled “BYE SISTER,” with “sister” being a term regularly used by Charles, Westbrook breaks down her feud with him. She discusses how hurt she felt after she says he shared a sponsored post for SugarBearHair gummy supplements, a direct competitor of her own Halo Beauty products.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen next, [and] to be honest, I’m scared,” Westbrook says in the video. “But, if I didn’t make this video and I didn’t say things publicly, I think that I would be feeling worse.”
“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.”
By the end of the clip, Westbrook makes it clear why she’s disappointed with the move and Charles’ behavior, and why she’s deciding to part ways.
Westbrook’s recent actions came as a shock to many because she was formerly a huge fan of Charles and they had collaborated.
In 2017, the duo created a wedding makeup tutorial together, showing off how to get the look from Westbrook’s big day.
James Charles responds … and gets ‘canceled’
Since it was posted, the “BYE SISTER” video has amassed nearly 40 million views and prompted a response from Charles.
A roughy eight-minute YouTube video titled “tati” was also posted to Charles’ account, where he said, “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.”
“I’m so disappointed in myself that I ruined our relationship that did mean so much to me even though I didn’t do the best job showing it all the time.”
“Throughout all of this, what sucks the most is that I know that there’s nothing I can say or do to ever earn that friendship or trust back, but I don’t blame them for it.
He added, “That is all I have to say, I’m sorry.”
The video has been viewed nearly 40 million times, but has been “disliked” about 2.5 million times.
Since the release of Westbrook’s initial video, Charles has lost millions of followers while Westbrook’s numbers continue to gain.
Despite the apology, many people on social media have declared that the 19-year-old Charles is now “canceled.”
As mentioned before, someone — usually a celebrity — gets “canceled” when they do something considered unpopular or controversial. The practice has led to a wide range of “cancellations”: Kanye West for his support of President Trump, Mayim Bialik after people interpreted her comments as blaming Harvey Weinstein’s victims, and R. Kelly after the controversial “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary coincided with the #MuteRKelly movement.
Consumer psychologist and author of “Decoding the New Consumer Mind” Kit Yarrow explains “cancel culture is really a testament to how real these relationships feel so followers are yearning to feel like they belong and are genuinely connected and have genuine friendships with the vloggers that they follow, and this is their power so when they cancel or follow, this is their way of endorsing or rejecting the actions and behaviors and values of who they are following.”
The “cancellation” of well-known figures and celebrities has been growing and trending. And along with aiming to silence them, it can affect their bottom line if people choose to stop watching their films or videos, listen to their music, or unfollow them on social media and affect their strength as an influencer.
In Charles’ case, the “cancellation” notices could be piling up because this isn’t the first time he’s been seen in a negative light.
In 2017, the former CoverGirl spokesperson made headlines for posting a racially-insensitive comment about getting ebola in Africa.
Others also expressed being unhappy about allegations of Charles, who identifies as gay, fetishizing about straight men.
Westbrook addressed this in her video, alleging Charles has exhibited predatory behavior and “tried to trick a straight man into thinking he’s gay yet again.” She also stated “It’s really disgusting to manipulate someone’s sexuality, especially when they are still, you know, emerging into adulthood and don’t quite have everything figured out, you are using your fame, your power, your money to play with people’s emotions,” additionally mentioning past incidents where she was thanked for “looking out” for male colleagues who allegedly felt uncomfortable around Charles.
What’s next and what can we learn?
Taylor points out that painful “breakups” like this are rarely helped when they play out publicly. She also says that despite his loss in followers, “This feud may help James Charles’ career because social media has heightened his profile and introduced new people to his personality and business potential.” This may be true given that some feel 19-year-old Charles is being attacked.
Yarrow also adds, “Generally what happens is the mentee will develop their own theories, develop their own brands, and endorse their own brands, and become their own person. They have been helped along by the mentor but nobody wants to stay in a mentee relationship forever.”
“Ultimately, they are going to start becoming powerful. The mentor at this point kind of has a choice.”
“That’s what’s happening here …is that James’ own popularity and success in some way was viewed as a betrayal or a threat and I understand there’s a real betrayal there as well with the supplements but its been kind of blown out of proportion, and I think partly because James is becoming his own brand.”
Since the initial video, Westbrook has posted a message on Twitter.
“There won’t be a video tomorrow,” it reads. “My heart is still too heavy. 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”
“The real lesson, however, should not be this public catfight, but [to] force folks to look at how they themselves handle conflict, acknowledge their wrongs and examine their own capacity to be sincerely apologetic,” Taylor says.
“It is our individual right to like what we like instinctively and thoughtfully speak to how we feel as individuals, not to encourage tearing others down because one person disagrees,” Taylor says. “Let people make their own decisions.”
ABC News has reached out to James Charles for comment. The story will be updated if he responds.
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