If there’s one thing that marked social media in the past week, it’s most definitely the feud between the now infamous James Charles and a fellow beauty blogger Tati Westbrook. You’ve probably heard of it, even if you’re not a part of the beauty community on YouTube where it took place. Let’s dive into this social media analysis to see how social media can actually affect millions of people’s opinions and make or break an influencer!
The former friends and colleagues broke their relationship off abruptly and very publicly, revealing quite a bit of controversy in the process of it. Everything kicked off on YouTube when Tati, also known as GlamLifeGuru, published a video titled “BYE SISTER …” on the 10th of May (if you’re not familiar with the wordplay, ‘sisters’ is what James likes to call his fans and followers).
In the 43-minute long video, Tati explained in detail what went on behind the scenes. She supposedly helped James out a lot in his career, negotiating million dollar contracts in his name. He, on the other hand, promoted her biggest competitor instead of her brand of vitamins.
Other than that, and what sparked the most discussions, was the allegation of James (who declares himself gay) sexually harassing straight men, justifying his behavior with his ‘celebrity’ status. In just a week, the video amassed a whopping number of 50 million views and 3.3 million likes.
It didn’t take long for the Internet to then “cancel” James Charles, despite his video apology on YouTube which users found to be insincere and an act of damage control. It was viewed 54 million times at the moment of writing this blog, garnering 3.2 million dislikes.
While on the topic of numbers, let’s talk about the most eye-catching ones. Due to their fallout, James went from 16 to 13 million subscribers in the following week. It is the fastest pace at which a YouTuber lost such an amount of subscribers in the history of the platform. Some of those who unsubscribed were celebs like Kylie Jenner, Gigi Hadid and many more.
And while he lost 3 million subscribers in a matter of days, Tati more than doubled her subscriber count. With about 5 million subscribers before the event, she soon reached the 10.5 million subscribers mark.
In addition to Tati’s video going viral and being #1 trending in some countries, many people came out publicly with their experience regarding James Charles. One of them is the Swedish singer Zara Larsson, who tweeted how James made sexually inappropriate advances towards her partner several times. Soon after, though, she deleted her tweets and apologized for the (false) statement.
An enormous amount of backlash followed, mainly from James’ fans and followers. They expressed their frustration with his supposed deeds by destroying or completely altering the eyeshadow palette he did in collaboration with a makeup brand called Morphe.
The Internet was buzzing about the topic, and it didn’t take long for famous YouTubers like Philip DeFranco, PewDiePie and Jeffree Star to tune in. Jeffree is a rather controversial yet very successful beauty influencer, with whom James worked on his merchandise called Sisters Apparel. He tweeted and snapchatted a number of statements in which he supported Tati’s story, calling James “a threat to the society”. He soon deleted all of them.
The social media analysis
The number of mentions for both ‘James Charles’ and ‘Tati Westbrook’ spiked soon after Tati’s video.
Since the 10th of May, the number of mentions and the number of impressions for both protagonists of this story has increased immensely. James was mentioned 61,760 times, which is an increase of almost 21 500% in comparison to the period before the feud. Tati was mentioned 42,356 times, with a 9440% increase in the number of mentions.
But, the number of impressions is in the category of billions. In terms of PR, the amount of exposure both have achieved, willingly or not, is simply astonishing.
Major news outlets reported about the event, including the likes of BBC, CNN, The New York Times, and The Business Insider.
The platform on which the topic was most talked about was Twitter. YouTube is the following. Interestingly, the third place with most mentions for the term ‘James Charles’ is taken by Reddit.
When it comes to the sentiment analysis, almost one-third of all mentions of ‘James Charles’ has been negative in the period between the 10th and the 17th of May.
How the tables have turned
On the 18th of May, James uploaded the video titled ‘No More Lies’. It was viewed 34 million times in just three days and currently has 2 million likes. This video was the complete opposite of his first apology video, which seemed very rushed and emotional. It was very thought through, concrete and clear, and as James himself said, it was “planned and practiced”.
He addressed all the allegations and provided screenshots and evidence to back his side of the story. Many people then noticed proof is what Tati lacked in her video. Among many topics, James explained the reasons for promoting Tati’s competitor brand. Furthermore, he proved the relationship with the person in question was consensual. The reactions to the video were overwhelmingly positive.
On the other hand, Tati has soon after unlisted the video ‘Bye Sister’ from her channel. It is not deleted, though, so you can still access it through a link. If we take a look at the comments from a week ago…
…and some of the newest ones, it’s obvious how the tables have turned.
Tati ‘exposing’ James so publicly was praised in the start. But, many people changed their opinion soon after James’ last video. He talked about how it affected him and his family, calling it some of the darkest moments of his life.
She did explain her motivation and reasons for talking about things on YouTube rather than in private in her ‘Why I Did it’ video, but it was not enough to justify the amount of hate and even death threats James received as a consequence (and nothing could ever be).
Tati is now losing support and subscribers as well, while James has quickly rebounded and gained a million and a half subscribers back to his channel.
Even Jeffree Star published a number of snapchats and a video in which he took back allegations placed towards James Charles and publicly apologized for his actions. This is the point at which the public concluded this ‘drama of the century’.
What to take from all of this
The very public feud between James Charles and Tati Westbrook is proof of just how powerful social media can be. The numbers are more than impressive – thousands of mentions, millions of followers and billions of impressions.
From a PR standpoint, this situation was a true media crisis for both parties, each in their respective time. Such amount of public exposure and rumors spreads like a wildfire. Furthermore, it can cause some serious damage to a person’s reputation.
What we can learn from this situation is that ‘resolving’ issues in such a public way is almost never a good option. Whatever the matter in question is, there will always be both positive and negative reactions to it. The only thing that varies is the amount of which will prevail.