by McKenna Aiello | Sun., May. 10, 2020 5:00 AM
This time last year, two of the biggest influencers on YouTube were feuding very, very publicly.
Unless you were a Gen Z-er raised by the internet, or searched YouTube for a smokey eye tutorial and stumbled upon the vast, often turbulent beauty community, it's quite possible that James Charles and Tati Westbrook had never come across you radar.
But given what ensued after a video titled "Bye Sister" dropped on May 10, 2019, we'd venture to guess you're quite familiar with the saga between Tati and her former protégé.
The drama, which all stemmed from an Instagram plug for hair growth vitamins, spun so out of control that new information about what's gone down behind-the-scenes is still being discussed publicly by the parties involved.
Revisit the schism between, Tati, James, Jeffree Star and more YouTubers in our comprehensive timeline below.
While at Coachella, James posts a sponsored Instagram Story promoting Sugar Bear Hair, the influencer-backed supplement brand that is a direct competitor to his longtime mentor and mother figure Tati's company, Halo Beauty. Tati takes to her own Instagram Story with a tearful message about feeling used by her peers in the beauty community, and despite not calling out James by name, fans quickly connect the dots.
That same day, James apologizes to Tati in a statement, saying he's "devastated" about the betrayal. As for why he promoted the product anyway? "The brand helped me with security when the crowd around me at Coachella became unsafe. I did not accept any money for the post."
Fellow beauty YouTuber Gabriel Zamora enters the metaphorical chat in a video titled "Makeup and Opinions." Gabriel says James is "being made out to be this horrible human being" and calls Tati out for "fraudulent behavior." He questions the validity of Tati's argument, challenging her to reveal the real reason she feels so wronged by James.
The drama begins to transcend beyond the YouTube world when Tati posts a now-deleted, 43-minute video titled "Bye Sister." In it, Tati retraces their history and takes credit for much of James' success. Throughout the early stages of his career, Tati claims her and her husband helped orchestrate major business opportunities for James in exchange for nothing more than his loyalty.
"Get off your high horse and have some respect," she says. "You don't have any for the people who are in this industry and that's the sad fact."
She also calls BS on the authenticity of James' apology: "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."
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Tati's most shocking statement comes in that same video when she accuses James of sexual misconduct. Specifically, the 38-year-old claims that James, 20, often shared explicit details about his sex life with her.
"Oh my god, you tried to trick a straight man into thinking he's gay, yet again," she says. "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. You are using your fame, your power, your money to play with people's emotions. You're threatening to ruin them, you're threatening to embarrass them, and you're doing that to have them behave sexually in your favor, even if they're straight, and you know what? That's not okay."
In response to Tati's take-down video, James posts his own eight-minute apology. "At this point, the truth really does not matter, it's the feelings that do," he says. "No matter what happened, I hurt two very, very important people. They've been really, really loyal to me, and I betrayed that. It sucks, and I wish that more than anything I could take it back."
He also briefly touches on what he calls the "boy situation," saying, "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."
James' subscriber and follower count drops by the millions in the days after both videos stun the collective internet. Stars like Kylie Jenner, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande and Katy Perry distance themselves from James by unfollowing his social media accounts.
Meanwhile, Tati gains more than 5 million subscribers on YouTube.
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Jeffree Star inserts himself by tweeting (and then deleting), "There is a reason that [then-boyfriend] Nathan [Schwandt] banned James Charles from ever coming to our home again. There's a reason why I haven't seen him since [Tati's] birthday in February. He is a danger to society. Everything Tati said is 100% true."
YouTube stars like Gabriel and Nikita Dragun, however, continue defending James publicly.
In light of the ongoing vitriol surrounding James, Tati returns to YouTube with yet another video. This time, she demands an end to the "abuse" and announces an indefinite hiatus from YouTube.
"I love James Charles. I loved him from the moment I met him. He was like this underdog kid that everyone took a s--t on," she says, later on adding, "If I could give all of the new success back, and the new subscribers back, I would."
James finally breaks his silence in a 41-minute video titled "No More Lies." The makeup guru refutes every single claim brought forth by Tati with detailed screenshots of conversations regarding the Sugar Bear Hair contract agreement, as well as his many attempts to privately contact Tati to no avail. He even includes video testimony from the individual Tati said James had wrongfully pursued. He corroborates James' account of their interactions and says they were all consensual.
"I am a 19-year-old virgin," James said in the video. "I really don't get a lot of action. I have never and would never and will never use my fame, money, or power to manipulate or get any sexual actions from a guy. That is disgusting."
At last, the tides begin to turn in James' favor as fans find his account trustworthy.
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After initially threatening to expose James (who he called a manipulative liar) with his side of the story, Jeffree backtracks in a video titled "Never Doing This Again."
The 34-year-old says he regrets pressing send on the "brutal" and "vicious" messages about James, explaining, "That does not equal me hating James Charles. He has been in my life for a few years now. Are we the best of friends? No, but we had a real connection. I loved and cared about him and I definitely think I mishandled our friendship."
"I am not going to fuel this fire bigger so everyone can get more entertainment, because behind the scenes, this isn't funny," Jeffree adds. "This is our real lives, and I inserted myself into something publicly that I shouldn't have."
"I have been in contact with James Charles through an intermediary over the last week, and we believe that it is the best interest of our community, our viewers and our own mental health to put this matter to a rest," Tati says in a lengthy statement shared to Twitter.
Similarly, James says he wants to close the book for good, writing, "I am on board to move on, will not speak about this further, but do hope to speak in the future when we're all ready. This week was awful for all of us and I ask that the community focuses on positivity moving forward."
After a month-long break from YouTube, James says in a video titled "Hi Sisters" that he's ready to begin posting regularly again—this time with a new outlook on life as an internet celebrity.
"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 explains, later adding, "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."
Tati also returns to YouTube without any mention of the scandal.
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Months pass and the YouTube world becomes captivated with Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson's docuseries, which—at least initially—promised to spill more tea on James and Tati. But when it comes down to it, none of the drama makes the final cut and Shane feels compelled to explain why.
Shane says via Instagram Stories that despite having "f--king insane" footage, he doesn't want to rehash their pain for the sake of views. "There's no winning right?" he asks. "If I don't post any of the drama stuff people are going to be like, 'You click baited or you lied.' If I do post the drama stuff [they'll ask], 'Why are you bringing up old stuff? You're an a--hole.'"
John Salangsang/January Images/Shutterstock
In a PAPER magazine profile, James says he's still coping with the aftermath and describes Tati's remarks about his alleged sexual advances "disgusting."
"I'm not mentally in a place where I want to be," he admits. "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."
"What that statement implies is that gay men are all predatory, which is disgusting, not true and very dangerous to put out there. "The whole situation was scary for the LGBTQ+ community and paints a really bad picture of gay men," James explains.
During an appearance on the Mom's Basement podcast, Jeffree is asked if he still believes that James is a "predator" one year later. Calling it a "very complicated situation," Jeffree vaguely alludes to having incriminating information about James.
"I legally can't say who," he explains, "but someone told us a few things and we trusted that person's opinion and then another person said some things that was friends with that man and it really convinced us that he was a predator. At the end of the day, I'm not going to out a victim of James Charles if it's real, because I don't know if it's real."
Jeffree also says he's no longer friends with Tati and believes that at the end of the day, she "took a really big hit" by speaking out against James.
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Neither Tati or James have addressed Jeffree's comments, and they remain firmly planted in their very separate, yet very large corners of the beauty world.
Tati has since launched her own cosmetics company and James is the host of the YouTube Originals competition series, Instant Influencer.