YouTuber James Charles is finally catching his breath and reflecting on his very public feud with once-close friend Tati Westbrook, six months after their falling out went viral. “When everything went down, it was a really horrifying moment,” the 20-year-old vlogger said in an interview with Paper Magazine.
The interview was part of the beauty guru's comeback, as Charles has launched a new makeup palate in partnership with Morphe and continues to release more and more of his signature makeup tutorials. But, the upstate New York-native admits, “I thought by this time, I would be good – back to normal, if you will – super happy, but that’s not the case.”
The drama began last spring when Westbrook posted YouTube video, titled, “BYE SISTER ….”
Westbrook, Charles’ 37-year-old mentor from Los Angeles, claimed in the since-deleted video that the young makeup artist's attendance of Coachella was sponsored by her rival, SugarBearHair, despite having rejected Westbrook’s request to support her own brand Halo Beauty at the music festival.
“My relationship with James Charles is not transactional," Westbrook said in the video. "I have not asked him for a penny. I have never been on his Instagram. It was about being lied to and feeling disrespected.”
She also spoke to other rumors that have plagued his career, including his alleged behavior toward men who were not heeding his sexual advances.
“You tried to trick a straight man into thinking he’s gay yet again, and somehow, you’re the victim?" Westbrook said. "It’s really disgusting to manipulate someone’s sexuality. You are using your fame, your power, your money, to play with peoples’ emotions."
Even though Charles quickly came back with his own now-deleted response video, apologizing sincerely to Westbrook, explaining his side of the story and denying any claims of sexual misconduct, Charles told Paper Magazine the damage had been done.
"Cyberbullying, hating and cancel culture is getting stronger," Charles said. "I can say firsthand, they got to me. I was so grateful to be surrounded by close friends and family that were checking on me all day long, every single day, in the middle of the night, every 10 minutes, to make sure I didn't do something that I could never take back."
Not only had fellow YouTubers, beauty gurus and influencers quickly stepped up to denounce or “cancel” Charles, his follower count dropped rapidly, he said. While once the face of one of the biggest social media accounts, with more than 16 million subscribers on YouTube, Charles' numbers dropped by 3 million.
“Literally losing millions and millions of subscribers and losing a lot of other ‘friends’ that I once thought I was so close to in the community, within literally in minutes, over false accusations, really showed me who the true people in my life were and how to really judge somebody and their character,” Charles said.
Charles has since seen his follower count improve and worked to rebuild his reputation, focusing now on the positives in his life, he said. "I'm really grateful to have a platform and a job where I can support myself, my friends, family and my team that works for me,” he said.
Charles' interview was part of Paper Magazine’s Break the Internet series, which has also featured K-pop band BTS and Ariana Grande’s ex Pete Davidson, and it is his hope to use his influence for the better. "I want to make sure my fans are looking up to somebody that is making good choices, and is learning from their mistakes," he said.