The drama between famous YouTubers James Charles and Tati Westbrook generated publicity that rivalled that of Princes William and Harry’s brotherly feud. By now, even those who don’t follow the beauty YouTube community know about it, even if not they’re not keen on following its minute-by-minute updates.
It’s the classic tale of friendship and betrayal, but this one’s played out on social media, including Instagram and Twitter, although they gained fame on the video-sharing platform first. The exchange of accusations, rebuttals, tales of half-truths and half-lies, and then professions of love and gratitude from these two legendary beauty vloggers have held spellbound their combined almost 30 million followers, give or take a few, owing to unsubscribes, re-subscribes and new subscribers.
Other media platforms, not wanting to be left behind, gave the ongoing event massive coverage. Magazines and TV studios spun the story and scrutinized it from all sides, squeezing the news for all it was worth. The bitter squabble between mentor and mentee is far from over, but thus far, in the aftermath, here are social, financial, and personal consequences:
James Charles, makeup artist beauty influencer, lost 3.1 million subscribers in a week, including celebrities and cosmetic brands. From relative obscurity to sudden fame to disgraceful notoriety, Charles calls the past few weeks “the darkest time in my life.” The high school senior from New York started with 400,000 followers on Instagram and moved on to 16.6 million subscribers on YouTube. After Westbrooks’ Bye Sister video, his followers fell to 13.4 million.
The good (or bad, depending on whose side you’re on) thing is, subscribers are coming back. The current climb seems to be irreversible for now, especially after Tati ended the squabble on a positive note. Charles’ net worth was $12 million a year, including his social media channels and brand sponsorships. Losing 3 million subscribers means less ad revenue from YouTube. But influential brands have not abandoned him, and the fight raised awareness for Morphe, the beauty brand that makes James’ eyeshadow palette. That could translate into sales, from which Charles gets a cut.
Tati Westbrook, while having been around longer than James Charles, has fewer followers. But YouTube watchers flocked to her side when the spat started, raising her subscriber count from six to ten million in the week that followed. Her estimated net worth is $4 million, mainly from YouTube. She owns Halo Beauty, a skin care line. Tati does not accept sponsorship from cosmetics brands.
One loss that James Charles will probably have a hard time recouping is the trust his subscribers had in him. Promoting a brand that competes with the company of the person largely responsible for his stellar success and wealth destroys his credibility and integrity. His apology video had so many down votes that it made it to the list of most disliked vids on YouTube.
Only time will tell if he can win the trust and his followers back. But with a subscriber base composed of Gen Z girls, barely out of their teens and having short and selective memories, and considering the valuable beauty tricks they learn from Charles’ channel, they’ll be back in no time.
Tati Westbrook has no problem with trust and credibility. Her channel was built on it, and her Bye Sister video only reinforced her beliefs on the importance of those values.
One winner that didn’t have to join in the drama is Sugar Bear Hair, the hair vitamin product that unwittingly started it all. It’s not yet possible to quantify the effects of its promotion via the fight, but suffice it to say that it didn’t expect the huge recognition that came with the feud.