James Charles is back, proving that nobody stays canceled for long.
The 20-year-old beauty vlogger’s feud with his former mentor Tati Westbrook over his sponsorship of her company’s rival hair vitamins rocked social media. In her now-deleted takedown “Bye Sister” — a play off Charles’ chipper video introductions, “Hi sisters!” — Westbrook publicly ended their “transactional” friendship and said her former protégé sexually harassed other men, knowing that they identified as straight and wouldn’t return his advances.
YouTube drama is often contained to the community; when vloggers begin feuding and stans take sides, it rarely extends beyond the people who already religiously follow the creators involved. But last year’s explosive Dramageddon showed that when the drama is juicy enough, even the most offline people will follow along.
The James/Tati feud was no exception. After Westbrook posted her video, social media exploded with memes and hot takes. Charles’ paltry (also now-deleted) apology only fanned the flames. Others on social media pointed out that Westbrook must have known about his problematic behavior, and wondered why the spurned vlogger waited until her brand was threatened to speak out. As others questioned her motives and beauty mavens like Jeffree Star got involved, she uploaded another now-deleted video titled “Why I Did It,” explaining that her original takedown was a “last-ditch effort for me to really be loud and vocal and to wake up someone that I really love.”
Two days later, Charles dropped a 41-minute encyclopedic screenshot-laden explanation from his side, where he cited specific texts between himself and every person involved in the conflict. With receipts out in public, Star posted a video denouncing drama and declared that he would never get involved in feuds again. The war came to an anticlimactic conclusion via Notes app, in which Westbrook called for an end to the receipts and acknowledged her own immaturity in the situation.
Following along? To summarize: We canceled Charles, then canceled Westbrook, and we may have canceled Star for getting involved despite his own problematic past, then we uncanceled Charles and Star, Westbrook invoked a Notes app truce, and now all is forgiven and nobody is canceled.
Do people actually want to get rid of problematic YouTubers, or is everyone just bored? All of the creators involved in the spat took a short break from social media, but resumed posting again within weeks. None of them seemed to have faced consequences for their actions.
Sam Cooke, one of the men Westbrook alluded to being the victim of Charles’ harassment in her original “Bye Sister” video, said he felt “pressured” to pursue a relationship with Charles. Cooke originally detailed their relationship in May, alleging that when he didn’t want to go further than kissing, Charles tried to use his celebrity status to convince him to stay in his hotel room. In a follow-up video posted on Sunday, Cooke publicly apologized for painting Charles in a bad light, and blamed himself for leading him on.
“We villainized him for our own good and that was wrong,” Cooke stated, explaining that his family and friends pressured him into maintaining a relationship with Charles.
As tea accounts pointed out, Cooke appears to read off a script. Some YouTube users commented that Cooke seemed terrified, wondering if Charles had threatened him with legal action. Some joked that Charles was behind the camera, coaching him, and one person even commented, “This feels like a hostage situation.”
Regardless of the actual circumstances, Cooke’s video didn’t stir up much talk. It had been more than a month since the initial drama went down, and everyone seems to have moved on — so much so that when Charles returned to YouTube with a triumphant video titled “Hi Sisters” two days after Cooke’s apology, he was welcomed back with open arms.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of his lost subscribers, Charles hasn’t experienced any long-term repercussions from the drama. If anything, the month of laying low and then emerging with a Pride-themed makeup look only upped his clout; the video reached #1 on YouTube’s trending within hours of being posted. His SocialBlade page, which tea accounts gleefully livestreamed to show his rapidly falling subscriber count, shows that he has well over 15 million followers again — back to where he was before the hair vitamin debacle.
Sure, Charles, Westbrook, and Star may have broken a few friendships, but YouTube cancelations never last long. The drama-hungry stans are satiated for now, and even though Cooke’s apology would have incited days of memes and think pieces last month, everyone has lost interest. Knowing the spirit of YouTube bonds, all three are sure to find new allies to collaborate with.
That’s not to say that everyone has forgotten, though; Twitter users were surprised that people were so ready to accept Charles again.
I’m sick of seeing James Charles manipulating people to get his way and always trying to have his name being talked about in the drama community. He clearly is mad people are not paying attention to his sister stupid ass. We need a break from you Mr. Dickinson. You’re annoying.
— ᴋᴏᴅᴇᴇʀᴀɴᴛs (@kodeerants) June 17, 2019
While avid drama chasers joked that Charles’ career tanked with the feud, his return video proves them wrong. YouTubers only get canceled when audiences get bored — just look at Star, who’s survived controversy after controversy, and sits at the throne of a multimillion dollar makeup empire. You can attribute it to second chances, but more often than not, creators survive even the most turbulent cancellations because people don’t care enough to keep up the hate. While pundits lament how quick the general public is to fall into “cancel culture,” it’s rare to find someone who actually stays in canceled jail.
Until, of course, the next feud breaks out.