The world of beauty influencers was shaken last year over a feud between YouTubers James Charles and Tati Westbrook. The longtime close friends abruptly severed ties, both released video statements, and—most significantly—gained and lost followers. At the start of the feud, James lost three million subscribers while Tati gained nearly four million. Now, she is returning after a weeks-long hiatus from her channel to tell her side of the story.
So why is this happening and how are fellow YouTubers Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star involved? Allow us to explain it all.
First, let’s meet the parties involved.
Tati, 38, is an OG beauty YouTuber who first started posting to her channel as GlamLifeGuru in 2011. She does product reviews, tutorials, makeup challenges, and life vlogs. In February 2018, she launched her own supplement brand, Halo Beauty. Halo Beauty currently has two products, a multivitamin for hair, skin, and nails, and another multivitamin for clear skin.
James, 21, is another YouTuber who has only had his channel only four years ago but amassed a viewership that, at its peak, was 16 million strong. The vlogger, who famously calls his fans “sisters,” made headlines as the first male face of CoverGirl and has had a lucrative partnership with makeup brand Morphe.
The two were frequent collaborators on videos and Tati was a mother figure/mentor to James. He calls her “mom” and first contacted Tati through DMs. Tati was an early fan of his and constantly promoted his channel, work, and product launches. They were so close that he even did her wedding makeup.
The Drama: A Timeline
APRIL 22, 2019
It all started at Coachella, when James posted a “swipe up” Instagram story promoting Sugar Bear Hair, the insta-popular gummy bears loved by the Kardashian-Jenners and other influencers. They’re a direct competitor with Tati’s supplement brand, Halo Beauty. Obviously, this did not sit well with her.
Tati followed up with an Instagram story where she looked visibly upset and said, according to BuzzFeed, which captured the story, “Everybody says what they need to say and uses who they need to use, and I have had about enough. It’s not right.”
James then posted another Instagram story with a public apology to Tati.
“She has been like a mother to me since my first days in this industry and has given me more love, support, resources, and advice than I could ever ask for,” he wrote. He claimed that he only promoted Sugar Bear Hair because they helped him get security when the crowd around him at Coachella became dangerous. He also claimed he did not accept any money for the post.
“I’m devastated that I hurt someone that I truly love and have endless respect for,” he said.
MAY 4, 2019
Tati had yet to address James’ apology when another beauty YouTuber, Gabriel Zamora, inserted himself in the drama. He addressed the feud in a 40-minute makeup tutorial.
“All these videos are being made where James is made out to be this horrible human being, and I’m just confused as to what happened. Oh it’s about ‘loyalty.’ It’s the ‘loyalty’ aspect of it. For me, it looks like someone posted IG Stories. And, someone cried,” he says in the video. “I’m, like, confused because what did James do?…Well, Sugar Bear Hair was around before her. Homeboy is exclusive to her?”
He basically reasons that it’s ridiculous for Tati to be upset over James promoting Sugar Bear Hair because any beauty influencer has a right to promote different brands. “Girl, sit on the internet and talk about it, then,” he addresses Tati. Tati would eventually use this clip as the opening of her video explanation.
MAY 10, 2019
Tati finally uploaded a bombshell of a since-deleted 40-minute video explaining her relationship with James and all the reasons she no longer wants to associate with him beyond the Sugar Bear Hair fiasco. It had over 34 million views as of June 2019. Here are some major points she made:
Tati doesn’t know Gabriel Zamora.
His video is partly what instigated her to make her own. “I don’t know Gabriel Zamora. We’ve never had any beef. But we are not friends,” she says. Apparently the two have only seen each other in passing at events and “there’s no relationship.”
Tati says James didn’t warn her about the Sugar Bear Hair post.
Part of what bothered Tati about James’ actions is that he did it without a heads up—he didn’t call or text her until the post was already up. She also claims he never supported the brand. “We’ve had plenty of in-person conversations about other influencers doing the same deal and about him not liking Sugar Bear Hair and him dragging other people and being like Tati, I’m on your side, you’ve got me. I will support you. You’ve got my loyalty,” she says. Later on she elaborates, “The reason that James always said that he couldn’t promote Halo on his channel is because he has a teenage audience and it’d be really inappropriate,” a fact that didn’t seem to stop him from promoting Sugar Bear Hair.
Tati says James was not genuinely apologetic, but more concerned about his reputation.
After he posted his apology and Tati did not respond, she says he grew desperate and manipulative. “It got increasingly demanding. I don’t deal well with someone telling me that I need to accept an apology on their terms to fix their problems,” she says. “When you can’t have any emotion for the other person who loves you so much and all you’re caring about is your image—I’m not okay with that.”
She adds, “I found out that he had been giving his side to drama channels he had been in contact with plenty of them. I knew this was all about damage control,” she says. She herself has spoken to Here for the Tea and Tea Spill.
Tati is upset that James didn’t apologize to her husband, who has supported James’ career.
Tati’s husband has a background in film and business development and always supported James when he needed business help. “My husband would spend hours, on the phone, looking over contracts, getting him in a better position,” she says, moving on to say she and her husband helped him secure “millions” from brand deals and get thousands more revenue from YouTube videos.
Tati accuses James of coercing men into sexual acts.
In perhaps one of the biggest bombshells in the video, Tati says one reason she no longer wants to associate with James is because he’s sexually coercive. “Oh my god, you tried to trick a straight man into thinking he’s gay, yet again. And somehow, you’re the victim. It’s really disgusting to manipulate someone’s sexuality especially when they’re emerging into adulthood and don’t quite have everything figured out,” she says, recalling a phone call of theirs where he shared details.
She also says he used his fame and money to “threaten,” “ruin,” and “embarrass” men who didn’t reciprocate his advances. “To have them behave sexually in your favor even if they’re straight—that’s not okay,” she says.
Tati claims the Sugar Bear Hair deal was pre-orchestrated.
While James says the Sugar Bear Hair ad was spur of the moment because they helped him secure security at Coachella, Tati claims that’s not plausible. “No company would go out of their way to have an extra handful of passes that cost thousands of dollars a piece, just in case,” she says. “That leads me to believe this was orchestrated beforehand and that was an emotional conflict, because of me and promises he made to me behind the scenes. So he had to come up with a clever story.”
MAY 10, 2019
James posted a since-deleted video in response to Tati’s, significantly shorter at eight minutes. It reached over 33 million views.
“To Tati and James Westbrook, I’m sorry for everything that is going on and everything I’ve put you through over the past few weeks,” he opens. Then, he just goes on to a long apology and doesn’t want to explain anything further because “it doesn’t matter.”
“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,” James said. “That is all I have to say, I’m sorry.”
As for the claims that he took advantage of men, James has a pretty vague explanation. “Boys have been a topic that I’ve talked a lot about on my social media journey, and it’s a topic that I wish I haven’t,” he says. “I’ve been involved in a lot of unique and strange situations that have left people confused and upset, and I’ve learned the hard way about boys that I’m interested in and ones I should or shouldn’t be talking to.”
MAY 12, 2019
Another feud-ridden YouTuber, Jeffree Star, posted a since-deleted tweet where he called James “a danger to society.” “Everything Tati said is 100% true,” he wrote.
His only remaining tweets are ones congratulating Tati for her rising subscriber following.
MAY 12, 2019
After James posted his video, Tati sent out a tweet saying she won’t be posting another video on Monday—a day she always posts a video.
“There won’t be a video tomorrow. My heart is still too heavy. I feel like I need to remind you that we can hold truth & inspire change without grabbing on to hate,” she says.
In the days following both videos, James continued to lose millions of followers, including famous fans like the Kar-Jenners—Kylie, who collaborated with him, Khloe, Kourtney, Kendall, and Kim—Demi Lovato, Katie Perry, Ariana Grande, and Miley Cyrus.
There was even a live ticker following of both Tati’s and James’ subscriber counts as they rose and fell, respectively.
MAY 15, 2019
James’ friend and fellow beauty influencer Nikita Dragun came to his defense when she tweeted a series of text messages between herself and James supposedly proving his innocence. In the messages, James asks Nikita for help to get security at Coachella via Sugar Bear because he’s “in VIP and getting attacked.” The texts kind of backfired, and received a lot of skepticism.
MAY 17, 2019
Tati posted a now-deleted video in response to the overwhelming support she received from people. She got up to 10 million subscribers on YouTube, but claimed her channel growth was not the point. She just wanted the team-picking to stop completely.
“I do, really, want the hate to stop. I want the picking sides, and the abusive memes and language, I really hope on both sides, it can stop,” she says. “I don’t want you guys to subscribe, I don’t want you to feel bad for me. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. This is not about me. I don’t need ‘Team Tati.’ I don’t need any of that.”
She announced a hiatus from making more videos.
MAY 18, 2019
James posted another video, “No More Lies,” this time addressing every one of Tati’s claims against him with screenshots of texts, messages, and more. “Tati made a video telling stories about me, publicly humiliating me, and now I have serious allegations against me detrimental to my career,” he said. He also mentioned that Tati and her husband reached out to do a meeting with him, but only through a mutual YouTube representative that they share. “This whole thing has been really difficult for me because throughout the past three weeks, literally all I’ve wanted was communication from these people. I tried really, really hard to get that and I didn’t,” he said. “So I declined the meetings because I feel like this was started publicly, addressed publicly, so I felt like it was only fair for me to address publicly as well before meeting behind the scenes.”
Tati did not respond with a video; this time, she tweeted her thoughts and announced a digital break. She also put out a statement that she “will not be making any further public comments,” even if there is more that she wants to clear up.
JUNE 3, 2019
Tati ended up deleting all her videos having to do with the feud. She posted some pre-filmed tutorial videos and officially returned to regular posting on June 3 with a video titled “I’m Back…”
“Thank you so much for being supportive while I took a break from filming,” she wrote in the video description. She didn’t address the feud at all, and her followers definitely noticed:
JUNE 18, 2019
A month after everything went down, James posted his first video after the Tati Westbrook feud. He gave an update on what he has been up to in life outside of YouTube and announced he’s going to be posting regularly again, with more awareness about his social media obsession.
“It got to a point where it was incredibly toxic for me and my mental health and after everything that just went on on social media, I just needed some time to detox and slow it down,” he said. “Of course, still do what I absolutely love, which is handling business, playing with makeup, and seeing my friends, but just do it on a little bit of a lower scale…I’m really excited to say that after the last month, I’ve done a lot of growing and thinking and am now able to leave my phone in another room and walk out and, like, enjoy life.”
His video was the #1 trending video on YouTube.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2019
After three quiet months from both James and Tati, he appeared in a video alongside fellow YouTubers Nikita Dragun and Joey Graffeca to speak about how the public feud has impacted his mental health. During the literal fireside chat about drama in the YouTube community, he addressed having “the whole world against you, how mentally f*cking that is.”
James said that without the support of his friends, he’d considering harming himself. “If I didn’t have that, I would be dead right now,” he stated. “Like, I say that, like, not even being dramatic. I don’t think I would have made it through everything that went on without them being with me and making sure that I was okay and waking up in the middle of the night to check on me every 10 minutes to make sure I didn’t, like, literally do something dangerous.”
As for opening up about his mental health months after the drama reached its peak, James said:
“I knew that when I addressed everything and started to get back into everything, I had to just say the facts and deal with it on my own time because if I brought any of that up, it would make it look like I was wanting sympathy or was trying to save myself or save face by bringing up mental health.”
NOVEMBER 26, 2019
The month after Tati launched her own eponymous beauty line, the first product of which was an eyeshadow palette, James spoke on the drama once more. During an interview with PAPER magazine, he said, “I’m not mentally in a place where I want to be. What’s even harder to swallow is that it’s been six months since all the drama happened. I thought by this time I’d be completely good—back to normal, if you will—and that’s not the case.”
He also addressed Tati’s sexual assault allegations against him, referring to the remarks as “disgusting” and “very dangerous.” “What that statement implies is that gay men are all predatory, which is disgusting, not true and very dangerous to put out there.,” James explained, “The whole situation was scary for the LGBTQ+ community and paints a really bad picture of gay men.”
JANUARY 3, 2020
Then, with one shady tweet, the feud followed our lives into 2020. When Coachella tweeted the lineup for its forthcoming festival, which has since been moved to 2021 following the coronavirus pandemic, James tweeted: “THIS IS ABOUT TO BE THE BEST COACHELLA YET!!!! no boys or vitamins!!!!!!!! just good music, outfits, photos & memories let’s GOOOO.”
JUNE 30, 2020
Armored with a shirt that reads, “Peace” and a copious amount of tea, Tati uploaded a 40-minute video titled, “Breaking My Silence…” to her channel. A year after the fact, she accused YouTubers Shane Dawson (who is facing his own slew of controversies at the moment) and Jeffree Star for influencing her to make the viral video, “Bye Sister.”
“I made [the video] as a result of all the poisonous lies that were fed to me by Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star,” Tati claimed. “Believing those lies and letting myself be gaslit into making that video is one of the biggest regrets of my life. The information they were giving me was terrifying. I was told there were a lot of victims that were going to come forward.”
Over the course of the video, Tati details how the pair of YouTubers were “bitterly jealous of James’ success,” and conspired to cancel him. “Back in 2019, Jeffree started talking a lot more crap about James Charles than usual,” she recalled. “It seemed that doing so had become his biggest obsession. It started with him telling me right before filming our collab together for James Charles’ channel that James Charles actually didn’t want me there, that he had wanted NikkieTutorials instead, but [Jeffree] said he’d had my back.”
She continued, “Things further escalated at my birthday. Every time James Charles’ back was turned, Jeffree would tell me that James Charles was out of control. He even texted and called me the following morning to apologize for James Charles’ behavior and how embarrassed he was for me. As the weeks went by, every time I saw or spoke with Jeffree, it seemed to me that James was all he wanted to talk about. He said that James Charles was a monster with many victims.”
She said one final batch of accusations, courtesy of Jeffree and Shane, inspired her to post that viral video back in May. “I was following my heart but I listened to the wrong people,” she tearfully said. Tati said that not only did Shane know about the “Bye Sister” video, but “offered to help edit it, he even offered to design the thumbnail, and help title it.” She said that, per legal advice, she won’t be sharing receipts that could condemn Jeffree and Shane just yet. “However, there will soon come a day where we will be able to present this evidence and you’ll be able to see why it is that we believe Jeffree and Shane are responsible for so much of the damage that has been cost,” she said.
Tati also apologized to James, alluding to a behind-the-scenes truce between them. “We compared DMs, texts, and stories of what happened behind the scenes,” Tati said. “We apologized to each other, forgave each other, and agreed to wait patiently until it was right for me to share my story.” She also apologized to YouTuber Jackie Aina, who previously called Jeffree out for “blatantly racist behavior,” for not cutting ties with him sooner.
Dawson posted his emotional reaction to the video on Instagram Live, calling Tati “manipulative” and claiming she was “fake crying.”
James tweeted “love u guys” and a heart emoji:
As of publication, Tati’s video has more than a million views.
Stay tined for more updates as they come.