Culture Feature

TikTok at Your Own Risk: The Case of SailorJ and Stolen Art on TikTok

“Now you can tell the truth and stop playing a part in my being exploited by a whole ass APP worldwide without my permission,” Jahkara Smith wrote.

Jahkara Smith attends 2019 WonderCon

By Eugene Powers (Shutterstock)

"If the men find out we can shapeshift, they're going to tell the church."

That's one of Jahkara Smith's most memorable lines from her most well-known YouTube video titled "Contouring 101," which accrued over 4.4 million views before Smith deleted her account in 2020.

Keep ReadingShow less
Culture Feature

NikkieTutorials' Coming Out Story Is a Giant Leap for Normalizing Being Transgender

The popular YouTube beauty guru revealed she's transgender in an emotional video.

Nikkie de Jager @ The Costume Institute Benefit celebrating the opening of In America: A Lexicon of Fashion - The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Photo by Stephen Lovekin (Shutterstock)

This week, Nikkie de Jager—better known as NikkieTutorials—posted a YouTube video titled "I'm Coming Out," in which the massively popular beauty guru revealed that she is a transgender woman.

Keep ReadingShow less

Michelle Phan

Photo by Amy Sussman (Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

Michelle Phan has lived the influencer dream to its fullest extent, from YouTube sensation to makeup mogul to burnt out Millennial who either had to disappear from the web or collapse in on herself like a neutron star.

Keep ReadingShow less

Debunking Weird Celebrity Beauty Secrets

The desire for youth and beauty has produced more conspiracy theories than Area 51.

Photo by Sunny Ng (Unsplash)

Just like crystals won't align your chakras, smearing your own blood on your face won't make you look like an ageless vampire.

Keep ReadingShow less

Did James Charles Come Out on Top of the Tati Westbrook Saga?

After James Charles, Tati Westbrook, and Jeffree Star presented their sides of the story, each called to lay the drama to rest. Now, fans are beginning to question who won the war — and if the cease-fire will last.

Over the weekend, James Charles, Tati Westbrook, and Jeffree Star decided to put their gummy vitamin-catalyzed feud to bed after weeks of explosive drama, serious allegations, and potential cancellations.

The news came after Charles, the most recent victim of cancel culture, released his response to Tati's since deleted "Bye Sister" video and presented his side of the story in a receipt-heavy 41-minute video on Saturday. In it, Charles responds to each aspect of the scandal––from the initial weekend at Coachella that started it all, to the allegations of sexual misconduct––and shares a comprehensive slew of text receipts to disprove the misinformation that's been spread about him. Before concluding his thoughts, Charles gets emotional as he discusses the impact of the widespread hate had on his mental health. "The last few weeks of my life have been the most painful time I've ever had to deal with. My head and brain, for a hot minute, went to a place so dark that I didn't think that I was gonna come back from." A more in-depth breakdown of that video can be found over at Buzzfeed.

After Westbrook's initial video, many angry fans gleefully watched Charles' subscriber count fall from 16 to 13.4 million, as hers soared from 6 to 10 million. Now that the controversy is coming to a close, Charles appears to be back in the beauty community's good graces and regaining followers as quickly as Tati loses them. Tati then uploaded another video, entitled "Why I Did It," where she calls for the hate and abusive memes on both sides to stop. However, after seeing James Charles' response, Tati tweeted that she would be going on a digital break, and said she was disappointed to see Charles' video "littered with so many lies & half truths."

In the same response video, Charles went on to show some "brutal" and "vicious" texts received from fellow beauty guru Jeffree Star, who publicly called Charles a "danger to society" in the height of the scandal. Following the video, Star warned his followers not to believe Charles and threatened to put out a video of his own exposing the lies.

"Everyone keeps asking me for my RECEIPTS," the 32-year-old beauty guru wrote in a now-deleted tweet posted on May 18. "I have so much to say and some really sad, disgusting things to show you guys. James Charles tried to mass manipulate you all today. When I show you the proof and WHY I tweeted that tweet about him, you will all finally understand."

However, Jeffree Star apparently opted to take the high road and, instead of furthering the drama, he apologized for his actions and inflammatory texts sent to James and his tweet towards Ian, James' younger brother. Jeffree claimed that there were people telling him things behind the scenes that led him to call Charles a predator who should be locked up in jail, among other things.

In the shortest of all the videos that came out from those embroiled in the drama, Jeffree's boiled down to this sentiment: "I inserted myself into something publicly that I shouldn't have."

After Jeffree posted his video, Tati posted an apology note accompanied by a broken heart emoji. "Although I do not regret raising my concerns, I completely regret the way I went about saying them," she adds. "Even in this moment, I still have so many things I'd like to clear up, however, the continued call for 'receipts' is nothing more than a call for the never-ending bloodshed."

Charles thanked the two for their sentiments, and decided to not speak on the matter any further but alluded to meeting up with them to discuss it all in the future. "Thank you @jeffreestar & @glamlifeguru for your sentiments. 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."

For now, it seems like the storm has finally calmed down. But if this week showed us anything, it's that Youtube is on track to become the most pervasive and influential force in pop culture. While once seen as a fringe form of entertainment, Youtube ought to be taken seriously as one of our generation's most consumed (and wide-reaching) forms of media. Because of the unprecedented magnitude of YouTube stars' influence, much of the drama surrounding the vloggers is unpredictable––making for good TV but seriously untameable drama. We don't yet have measures set in place for these situations, because we've never lived in a world where controversies unfold at hyperspeed, spread like wildfire through viral memes, and leave digital footprints to be shared and ridiculed.

The fact that these content creators have complete agency over their content, without being tempered by the opinion of a team, and can choose to film and upload any content to millions of people in a matter of minutes, is what makes YouTube so exciting — but also what makes it dangerous. While film and TV are also susceptible to controversy, it's usually subject to more rigorous restrictions and regulations and goes through a series of checks and balances before going public. This lack of overhead is what makes YouTube the perfect environment for scandals, where someone's career can be defamed and canceled in less than 24 hours. But this instability and unpredictability are also what makes it impossible to stop watching.

For now, James Charles (probably with the help of a stellar PR team) seems to be on track to redemption, Tati's brand is thriving and her following has grown, and Jeffree will likely recover from the hits he took while getting caught in the crossfire. At the end of the day, all three figures have invariably gained exposure that will, in the long run, contribute to their fame. In some sense, all of those involved appear to not only have salvaged their careers but boost them along the way.

The close of the beauty blogger fight that shook the world feels like a series finale, but perhaps it's just the end of Season 1.

Sara is a music and culture writer.