In Depth

How James Charles lost one million YouTube subscribers in 24 hours

Beauty guru sets record for shedding fans after falling out with fellow vlogger

Make-up expert James Charles has become the first YouTube personality to lose a million subscribers within 24 hours – a result of a bitter dispute with a fellow vlogger.

The 19-year-old New Yorker has lost almost three million of his 16.6 million fans from his channel since details of the feud with his former mentor Tati Westbrook emerged.

So how did things go so sour?

Who are James Charles and Tati Westbrook?

Born in 1999 in Bethlehem, New York, Charles is described by Metro as a “YouTube sensation, make-up guru and self-described influencer”. The paper says that “over a billion people have watched him do his – or someone else’s – make-up on YouTube”.

Since launching his channel in 2015 he has found global fame, becoming the first male CoverGirl spokesperson at the age of 17 and working alongside the likes of Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry and Demi Lovato. According to The Sun, Charles is worth an estimated $12m (£9.2m).

His former friend Westbrook, 37, is a beauty YouTuber who has been uploading videos to her channel for around eight and a half years. Metro adds that the growth of her channel “meant that she was able to launch her own line of beauty products, called Halo Beauty”.

Charles has credited Westbrook many times for helping him start his career and has described her as a “parental” figure in his life.

How did the feud start?

Following years of collaboration and friendship, things went south in April when Charles posted an ad on his Instagram account for Sugar Bear Hair supplements. “Turns out, that brand is a huge competitor for Westbrook’s supplement brand, Halo Beauty,” reports CNN.

A few hours after the ad was posted, Westbrook uploaded a series of videos to Instagram in which she explained that she felt “really used”.

“When you do things for people in your life and they not only don’t return the favour but they don’t even see you,” she said, without directly referencing Charles. “Welcome to show business, everybody says what they need to say, and uses who they need to use to get ahead, and I have had about enough. It’s not right.”

Charles did not take down the promotion in response, but instead posted a statement directly apologising to Westbrook and insisting he was not paid for the promotion, despite labelling it “#ad”.

Why has Charles lost so many subscribers?

Last Friday, Westbrook released a 43-minute video titled “BYE SISTER” in which she accused Charles of disloyalty and called his behaviour “disgusting”.

“When you paired up with my number one competitor it was embarrassing for me and you know that,” she said in the video, which as of Monday had almost 33 million views. “You kept saying you can’t be bought, but you just were.”

She also used the opportunity to bring up an incident in which Charles, who is openly gay, allegedly attempted to “trick” a straight waiter at a restaurant.

“You tried to trick a straight man into thinking that he’s gay yet again, and somehow you’re the victim,” she said. “You know it’s really disgusting to manipulate someone’s sexuality... you are using your fame, your power, your money to play with people’s emotions.”

The same day, Charles published a video in which he apologised to Westbrook and her husband, claiming he had made “mistakes”.

Addressing the allegation that Charles had attempted to “trick” heterosexual men, he said he had “been in a lot of very unique, strange situations that have left people confused or upset”, adding that he had “learned the hard way about ways that I can interact with people that I’m interested in, and also ones that I should or shouldn’t be taking to”.

“What sucks the most is that I know 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 said. “That is all I have to say, I'm sorry.”

But despite Charles’s damage limitation attempts, the online backlash towards him has been fierce. Millions of his followers chose to unsubscribe from his channel in the immediate aftermath of the video, and Saturday saw him lose a staggering 1,261,460 subscribers, a YouTube record, Sky News reports.

Newsweek says a number of celebrities have also unfollowed Charles on his various social media accounts too, including Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, YouTubers Tana Mongeau, Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson, musicians Shawn Mendes, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Twice, Iggy Azalea and the make-up company Morphe.

Meanwhile, Westbrook’s subscriber count has risen from 5.9 million before the “BYE SISTER” video was published to more than nine million as of Monday afternoon.

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