Inside the controversies and feuds of beauty influencer James Charles

Jon Kopaloff / Stringer / Getty ImagesJames Charles attends the 2018 People’s Choice Awards.
  • James Charles is a beloved beauty influencer with nearly 24 million YouTube subscribers.
  • The 21-year-old has also faced a string of scandals throughout his internet career – starting with a joke he made about contracting the Ebola virus while visiting South Africa in 2017.
  • His most famous controversy, however, began in 2019 when he feuded with YouTuber Tati Westbrook and their former mutual friend Jeffree Star.
  • He’s also been criticised on various occasions for strongly editing his photos and criticising other celebrities, among other things.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

James Charles is widely known as one of the biggest beauty creators online. He’s also faced a plethora of scandals and feuds throughout his internet career.

Many people might recognise the 21-year-old makeup artist from his previous feud with Tati Westbrook and Jeffree Star — dubbed “Dramageddon 2.0.” He’s also faced backlash for making inappropriate jokes, allegedly manipulating people, and describing influencers as a marginalised group, among other instances.

From his first controversy in 2017 to his most recent feud, here’s a look back at the beauty mogul’s controversial past.

James Charles faced his first major backlash after joking about Ebola in February 2017.

Donato Sardella/Getty ImagesJames Charles attends a Dior event in February 2017.

On February 16, 2017, James Charles posted a now-deleted tweet in which he joked about contracting the Ebola virus while visiting South Africa. He shared the tweet shortly after being named CoverGirl’s first CoverBoy.

“‘I can’t believe we’re going to Africa today omg what if we get Ebola.’ ‘James we’re fine we could’ve gotten it at chipotle last year’….” Charles said on Twitter, according to The Cut.

Twitter users were quick to criticise the then 17-year-old, and called his message “stereotypical and degrading.”

According to Seventeen, Charles also began to block users who called him out, and shared a tweet in which he seemingly told himself to “block and move on james block and move on.”

The makeup mogul later said on Twitter that he was “extremely sorry” for his tweet, and was “aware” that his message was “extremely offensive and degrading.” He also referred to the continent of Africa as a country.

In September 2017, Charles found himself in the middle of a feud with cast members from the horror film “It.”

Frazer Harrison/Getty ImagesJames Charles (not pictured) once fought with ‘Stranger Things’ actor Finn Wolfhard.

Seven months later on September 7, 2017, Charles wrote in a tweet that he was “excited” to see the film “It.” But, according to BuzzFeed, the makeup artist quickly changed his mind about the film, and called it “awful” and “predictable” in a series of now-deleted tweets.

Fans of the movie weren’t the only ones to disagree with his tweets. Finn Wolfhard, an actor who starred in “It,” also sent Charles a message over Twitter.

“Why are you on your phone in the movie theatre? Rule 1.” Wolfhard said on Twitter.

Charles first responded by saying he was “kinda honoured” to be “dragged by a legendary child actor,” and then shared a two-minute-long video in which he apologised to Wolfhard and fans.

Charles also asked people on Twitter to “please shut up about using your phone during a movie,” as he felt that there were “more important things to worry about like, idk, the world ending.”

One month later, Charles was widely criticised for creating an “It”-inspired makeup tutorial on YouTube.

James Charles/YouTubeCharles uploaded an ‘It’-inspired makeup tutorial to YouTube in October 2017.

On October 8 2017, Charles uploaded a makeup tutorial titled “It Pennywise Glam Halloween Makeup Tutorial.” He opened the video saying, “I know everybody’s gonna say that this is the most hypocritical, ironic video of 2017 so far, and you’re probably right.”

“It would be way too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Charles continued. “Even though I personally did not enjoy the movie, Pennywise was the best.”

The following day, “It” actor Wyatt Oleff took to Twitter with a message that was seemingly about Charles, according to BuzzFeed.

“When you decide to exploit a movie that you hate for money & attention cause why not,” Oleff wrote on Twitter.

Charles faced backlash for calling Ariana Grande the “rudest celebrity” he’s ever met in March 2018.

Evan Agostini/Invision/APJames Charles said Ariana Grande unfollowed him on Twitter in 2017.

On March 30, 2018, Charles uploaded a YouTube video in which vloggers Shane Dawson and Ryland Adams apply his makeup. Approximately 11 minutes into the video, Dawson asks Charles to name the rudest celebrity he’s ever met. He quickly replies, “Ariana Grande.”

“I haven’t really talked about it because I really like Ariana, I guess I just had a really crappy experience with her,” Charles said in his video.

According to Charles, the star followed him on Twitter, and exchanged direct messages with him following one of her concerts. But once fans called out Grande for following Charles in the midst of his “Ebola scandal,” the popstar unfollowed him so as to “not disappoint” her fans.

Grande’s fans immediately defended the star, according to Billboard, and said she did the right thing by unfollowing Charles.

Six months later, Charles found himself in another feud, this time with makeup mogul Marlena Stell.

Jon Kopaloff / Stringer / Getty ImagesJames Charles feuded with Marlena Stell in 2018.

YouTube’s beauty community saw tons of drama in August 2018, most notably between vloggers Jeffree Star, Manny MUA, Gabriel Zamora, Laura Lee, and Nikita Dragun.

Shortly after their feud subsided, Marlena Stell, the founder of the beauty brand Makeup Geek, took to Twitter on September 27, 2018. In a now-deleted tweet, she announced that she was working on a Netflix documentary about the beauty industry.

Charles responded to her tweet, saying, “Wait what?” He continued to tweet Netflix, saying he wanted to make an unbiased documentary “on the behind the scenes of the beauty industry and why the community is plummeting.”

He continued to say that he felt “livid” and “defeated” because “everything that [he puts his] heart and love and a ton of work into is always stolen by someone.” He then sent two tweets to Stell.

Stell first responded to Charles by saying she was approached by Netflix, and that “it would be great” to hear from an influencer for her documentary. Charles, however, did not accept her response, and the feud continued for hours, according to Dazed Digital.

Leading up to the release of his first-ever makeup product, Charles was accused by fans of creating fake eye-shadow swatches.

MorpheThe James Charles x Morphe palette retails for $US39.

James Charles announced his first-ever beauty product, the $US39 James Charles x Morphe eye-shadow palette, in a YouTube video on November 2, 2018.

While swatching a black shade named “Spooky,” Charles is seen swiping the shadow across his arm, and appears to do so over another layer that he applied previously. Fans noticed the second layer, and began questioning Charles on Twitter.

Charles admitted to “pre-swatching” some of his eye-shadow shades on Twitter, and then conducted a live Instagram video in an attempt to prove that he created a high-quality product.

That same month, some fans said that pink shadows from the James Charles palette stained their eyelids and gave them hives.

KodeeRants/TwitterKodeerants describes her experience using the James Charles eye-shadow palette.

Twitter user @kodeerants uploaded a video on November 19, 2018, in which she accuses Charles of failing to advertise that some shades in his palette are not meant to be used on the eyes.

According to the Twitter user, her eyelids were stained pink and broke out in hives after she applied the shade “Skip.”

“You should never, ever, ever try to promote a product that does this to another human being,” she yelled in her video.

Charles defended himself in a tweet, saying “most pinks, purples, & reds all stain certain skin types.”

“You accusing me of lying to fans & not caring about people is a ridiculous cry for attention,” Charles continued. “If you have hives, consult your dermatologist, not me for likes on Twitter.”

Kodeerants did not accept his response, writing on Twitter: “Your lack of sympathy for someone who was harmed by a product with your name on it is truly shocking.”

Some called the makeup artist a hypocrite after he destroyed a James Charles x Morphe palette — something he criticised another YouTuber for doing.

Jeffree Star/YouTubeJames Charles burns his namesake Morphe palette for a YouTube video.

At the end of December 2018, a YouTube star named Lauren Godwin shared a video of her destroying a James Charles x Morphe eye-shadow palette to TikTok.

“There are people who can’t afford the palette, can’t get it because it’s sold out, or who have been scammed by knock offs,” Charles replied in a now-deleted tweet, according to We the Unicorns. “And she’s gonna buy one just to destroy for likes… on tiktok? this ain’t it sis.”

Read more:
People are destroying their James Charles makeup following his feud with fellow beauty YouTuber Tati Westbrook

Godwin followed up with a YouTube video, in which she said she had no harsh feelings towards Charles, and even bought an extra palette to use. Charles then replied in a tweet where he apologised to Godwin, saying it wasn’t that deep,” and that she shouldn’t receive hate.

A few days later, however, Charles appeared in a Jeffree Star YouTube video where the two makeup moguls are seen destroying makeup, including their own palettes. Many felt the video was hypocritical, and questioned Charles about it on Twitter.

In March 2019, Charles was accused by Reddit users of editing his Instagram photos.

James Charles/YouTube and InstagramThe image on the left is from YouTube, and the one on the right is from Instagram.

According to Revelist, people on Reddit began to accuse Charles of “faking his skill level” in March, as many of his makeup looks are extremely refined and proportional.

While the makeup artist has frequently admitted to using the photo-editing app Facetune on his photos, people on Reddit claimed that Charles was taking his editing too far.

“Photoshop absolutely can be art,” Reddit user jimmyjrdanceparty wrote. “But when you’re selling yourself specifically as a makeup artist and you’re editing your makeup to the point where it’s clearly not your skills in the final product, that’s incredibly disingenuous.”

Charles was called out by people on social media for his use of the phrase “the house” in YouTube video.

James Charles/YouTubeJames Charles does his makeup in alphabetical order in March 2019.

On March 22, 2019, Charles uploaded a YouTube video in which he is seen applying his makeup in alphabetical order. He also uses the video to teach his followers the basics of “Sister Speech,” or the slang language he frequently uses.

When he gets to the letter “T,” Charles says it stands for a phrase called “the house.” Charles then says he learned the phrase from YouTuber Rich Lux, and defines “the house” as the “best way to put emphasis on anything.”

According to BuzzFeed, people on Twitter were quick to correct Charles, informing him that the phrase was meant to be “the house down,” rather than “the house,” and that it actually stems from drag culture, coming from the late drag performer Erica Andrews who created the phrase “the haus down boots.”

Charles was widely criticised for saying he’s not “full gay” because he’s been attracted to women and transgender men.

James Charles/YouTubeJeff Witteck does James Charles’ makeup for a YouTube video.

On April 12, 2019, Charles uploaded a YouTube video in which vlogger Jeff Witteck does his makeup. The two discuss dating and sexuality, among other topics, and at one point talk about the Kinsey Scale.

“So the Kinsey Scale is from like, zero to six,” Charles says to Witteck in his video. “Zero being like, completely straight, and six being like, completely gay. I truly believe the amount of people that are a flat-out zero, or flat-out six, is very, very small.”

When Charles says he would put himself on the scale at 5.5, Witteck replies, “So you’re not even full gay?”

Charles then says, “I mean, no. There have been girls in the past that I’ve thought have been really, really beautiful. There’s also been like, trans guys in the past too that I was really, really into for a moment in time.”

According to Nylon, the response from Charles upset many fans, who felt his answer was offensive, and discredited transgender men as “actual” men. Charles later apologised on Twitter.

After attending Coachella with Charles, YouTuber Gage Gomez accused the makeup artist of “manipulating” him.

Gage Gomez/YouTubeGage Gomez speaks about his experience with James Charles.

Gage Gomez posted a YouTube video on April 29, 2019, in which he claims he was manipulated by Charles from January up until Coachella. Throughout his video, Gomez claims that Charles “pressured” him to hang out, and tried to “manipulate” him.

“James saw this as an opportunity to manipulate me as a person who may or may not have been trying to figure things out about their sexuality, after the fact that I told him I was straight multiple times,” Gomez says in his video.

Charles took to Twitter with a statement, in which he said Gomez “never” told him he was straight. Charles also claimed that Gomez was looking for “an opportunity” to spend time with influencers.

While attending the 2019 Met Gala, Charles was accused by fans of copying a red-carpet look worn by Zoë Kravitz — which he previously mocked.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP and Kevin Mazur/MG19/Getty ImagesZoë Kravitz at the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party, and James Charles at the 2019 Met Gala.

On March 11, 2019, Charles was featured in one of Tana Mongeau’s YouTube videos in which the two “brutally roast celebrity fashion.”

When discussing the gold-and-black mesh ensemble Zoë Kravitz wore to the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party, both Charles and Mongeau say they don’t know who she is, and rate her outfit a zero out of 10. Charles also says Kravitz looks like “she didn’t finish getting dressed.”

But while attending the 2019 Met Gala in May, Charles arrived wearing a similar outfit, which included a mesh top and black pants.

According to Revelist, many Twitter users pointed out similarities between the two outfits and were upset with Charles for wearing a style that was similar to one he previously mocked.

After the Met Gala, Charles was criticised yet again for talking about social-media influencers as if they were a marginalised group.

Charles Sykes/Invision/APJames Charles attends the 2019 Met Gala.

After attending his first Met Gala, Charles took to Instagram to share a photo from the event. In the caption of his photo, he thanked YouTube and Alexander Wang for inviting him to the ball.

“Being invited to such an important event like the ball is such an honour and a step forward in the right direction for influencer representation in the media and I am so excited to be a catalyst,” Charles wrote on Instagram.

According to Revelist, people on social media criticised Charles for seemingly describing influencers as a marginalised group, and felt that his caption was ignorant.

Arguably his biggest scandal to date occurred in May 2017, when YouTuber Tati Westbrook publicly ended their friendship in a YouTube video.

Tati Westbrook/YouTubeTati Westbrook discusses the end of her friendship with James Charles.

On May 10, 2019, Westbrook uploaded a 43-minute long video called “Bye Sister” to her YouTube channel. She said in the video that she’d be ending her longtime friendship with Charles because she was “completely blindsided” when he endorsed Sugar Bear Hair – a direct competitor of her Halo Beauty vitamin brand.

Westbrook criticised the YouTuber for being influenced by “fame, power, and a fat bank account,” and called him a “bad role model” for creating “over-sexualized” content.

She also made serious claims about Charles, alleging that he leveraged his fame to sexually manipulate boys. Charles denied the unsubstantiated claims and Westbrook went on to delete the video, though it’s since been reposted by fans.

Charles’ reputation ultimately took a hit as a result of the feud. He lost 3 million YouTube subscribers at the time, and some people even destroyed his merchandise.

Star later involved himself in the falling out by calling Charles “a danger to society.”

James Charles / YouTubeJeffree Star and James Charles were friends prior to their 2019 feud.

Hours after Westbrook released “Bye Sister,” Charles apologised in a video of his own called “Tati.” However, Star then ignited the feud once again by saying in a tweet that Charles was banned from his home and “is a danger to society.”

Star never produced substantive evidence to back up his claims, and later said during an appearance on the “Mum’s Basement” podcast that he didn’t know if a recording he claimed to have from an alleged victim of Charles’ was real.

Some influencers, like Gabriel Zamora and Nikita Dragun, came to the defence of Charles, who defended himself in a video titled “No More Lies” on May 18. In the video, he said: “I have never and would never and will never use my fame, money, or power to manipulate or get any sexual actions from a guy. That is disgusting, it is not me, and the fact that Tati brought this up blows my mind because she knows the real story.”

He also directly addressed Star in the video, saying the beauty influencer’s tweets and private messages to him were “hurtful, defamatory, extremely excessive,” and “based on lies.”

Charles said that he stands by his previous apology to Westbrook, and thanked both her and Star for taking some responsibility for their feud. Still, Charles shared screenshots showing that Tati and her husband did not respond when he tried to address their argument privately, and said one of the “most hurtful” things Westbrook did was publicly criticise his mother’s parenting.

All three YouTubers seemingly came to an agreement by March 19, when Westbrook and Star shared separate statements about how they’d no longer discuss their feud.

#JamesCharlesIsOverParty began trending on Twitter in January when some people thought he sang the N-word in a video posted to his Instagram story.

James Charles/InstagramA screenshot of the video James Charles posted to his Instagram story on New Year’s Eve.

At the start of the new year, Charles posted a video of himself singing “My Type” by Saweetie on New Year’s Eve. As Insider’s Rebecca Harrington reported at the time, some people thought it sounded like Charles sang the N-word to the lyrics: “Rich n—-, eight-figure, that’s my type / That’s my type, n—- that’s my type.”

When asked about the clip on Twitter, Charles replied: “no? turn up the volume & listen, I skip over it. how stupid would I have to be to confidently record a video of me singing the n word and still have it up the next morning.”

He participated in the controversial “mugshot” trend in April.

Screenshot Twitter/@jamescharlesJames Charles originally posted this tweet without a caption explaining the mugshot trend.

At the time, it was trendy for TikTok users to post videos of themselves with “smudged mascara and costume makeup techniques to artificially roughen their facial features – some have even added fake bruises, black eyes, and bloody noses,” to create “attractive, staged mugshots,” as Insider’s Kat Tenbarge previously reported.

But many took issue with the trend as they felt it glorified abuse and harmed domestic violence survivors.

After Charles shared his take on the trend, he wrote in a now-deleted tweet: “only I could lazily smudge on some purple eyeshadow and fake blood to recreate a dumb tik tok trend and have it twisted into an actual scandal lol.”

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Charles attended a party alongside dozens of other influencers.

Phil Shaw, @ p.hil/InstagramFrom left to right, there’s Nikita Dragun, Larri ‘Larray’ Merritt, and James Charles.

On July 21, a birthday party for internet star Larri “Larray” Merritt was attended by dozens of influencers – despite record COVID-19 cases in California at the time. As Insider previously reported, guests included James Charles, Tana Mongeau, Nikita Dragun, Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, Emma Chamberlain, and more.

Charles and other attendees were not seen wearing masks or social distancing throughout the party, leading YouTuber Tyler Oakley to publicly call them “bad influences” on Twitter.

“hi @jamescharles @NikitaDragun @tanamongeau @larrayxo @charlidamelio @dixiedamelio & any others who have been partying in large groups,” he wrote. “please consider social distancing, mask wearing, & using your huge platforms to encourage responsibility during a worldwide pandemic.”

Charles later apologised by saying in a YouTube video that he wouldn’t share clips from the party to help set a better example.

“Even though I have been wearing a mask in public and have tested negative multiple times, going to a party during a pandemic was a selfish and stupid decision,” he said. “People’s safety and keeping COVID-19 contained is FAR more important than celebrating a friend’s birthday and unsafe partying is not something I want to promote to my audience.”

Charles criticised Alicia Keys for creating a beauty brand, and later apologised on Twitter.

Emma McIntyre/Getty ImagesAlicia Keys did not publicly respond to any of James Charles’ tweets about her.

In a now-deleted tweet from August, Charles voiced his opinion that “people who do not wear makeup should not be coming out with makeup brands.” He was seemingly referencing Keys, who will be launching a “lifestyle beauty brand” with e.l.f. Cosmetics in 2021, according to a press release from the brand.

The following day, he shared a lengthy apology on Twitter, and said he deleted the tweet because he feels it’s “childish” to indirectly tweet someone, and that he is “not the gatekeeper of makeup.”

“Yesterday I posted a subtweet about how I thought some celebrities shouldn’t launch makeup lines,” Charles wrote. “It was about Alicia Keys. A few years ago, she announced that she no longer would wear makeup, so I was bothered because many celebrities come into the beauty space as a cash grab without any actual passion and then leave.”

“I deleted the tweet after a few mins because it’s childish to indirect tweet someone & I am not the gatekeeper of makeup,” he continued. “Anyone should be able to secure their bag and it’s not up to me which brands people should or shouldn’t support. I’m now glad that I DID delete it because after reading further, I learned that the beauty line is SKIN CARE.”

Charles added that he felt he made a mistake, and that he “should have read more before tweeting.”

“Regardless of my intention with my tweet, it ended up being a microaggression against someone I respect, so to Alicia Keys I owe a direct apology – I’m sorry,” he said. “It wasn’t my place to gatekeep this industry. I can’t wait to support and try out the products and I know the brand will be worth a billion in a few years.”

He faced a similar feud with Lauren Conrad after she accidentally sent him empty products from her namesake makeup line.

Instagram/@jamescharles, Rachel Murray/GettyImagesLauren Conrad said she accidentally sent the empty packaging from her makeup line.

Back in August, Charles filmed himself ranting about receiving a press package full of empty beauty products from someone who he said had “no business” creating a makeup line. Though Charles didn’t name Conrad in the video, he did hold up easily-identifiable products from her brand.

Conrad then confirmed in an Instagram comment that Charles was talking about her brand, and said she was the person who accidentally filled his package with sample bottles in place of real products. Charles then apologised in an Instagram story after her comment, and the two seemingly reconciled a few days later.

The duo also reunited for a video with YouTuber NikkieTutorials in November.

He was later accused of stealing clothing designs from internet stars Ethan and Hila Klein.

James Charles/YouTube/HilaKleinH3/TwitterJames Charles’ hoodie is on the left, and the Klein’s design is on the right.

Charles announced in September that he’d be selling pastel colour-blocked variations of his Sisters apparel.

But shortly after sharing pictures of the clothing, YouTuber and podcaster Ethan Klein – of the H3H3 productions channel – suggested that Charles had copied the colour palette used in hoodies from the Teddy Fresh apparel brand he runs with his wife Hila.

“I know we didn’t invent colorblocking but I’m having a hard time w the new james charles merch, it’s the same exact design as Hila’s,” Klein wrote in a tweet. “Combined with the fact that his audience is so huge, many people will assume he designed it and start accusing us of plagarism. What do you think?”

In response, Charles wrote on Twitter: “When you DM’d me yesterday, I sent you the original photo that inspired my collection, explained I’ve never seen your brand, but also asked what you wanted me to do… You didn’t reply. After last year, I vowed to keep conversations private and create solutions, not drama.”

“If you’d like to continue our conversation and find a solution, my DMs are still open!” Charles added.

Klein continued to speak about the similarities on Twitter, share text messages sent to him by Charles, and compare the situation to Charles accusing makeup brand Wet n Wild of copying his namesake eye-shadow palette. Charles did not publicly respond further, and he later released his colour-blocked clothing line.

Charles defended TikTok star Charlie D’Amelio after she was widely criticised online — leading to a minor feud with internet celebrity Trisha Paytas.

Thomas Petrou/UTA, Dia Dipasupil/FilmMagic/Getty Images21-year-old James Charles defended 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio.

In late November, Charli and her family released a YouTube video in which they ate dinner together and talked with Charles, their close friend and fellow internet star.

People have since taken issue with various clips from the video, in which Charli and her sister Dixie complain about gourmet food made for them by a private chef. Some were also upset by Charli saying she wishes she could reach 100 million followers instead of 95 million followers on TikTok in the coming weeks.

In response to the backlash, Charles wrote on Twitter: “this charli situation is NOT sitting right with me… 100M followers in one year & y’all expect her to know how to be a perfect role model? death threats because she’s a picky eater & made a joke about a milestone? 30+ year olds dragging someone half their age? feels familiar.”

When fellow internet star Trisha Paytas joined in on the criticism, and claimed Charles’ relationship with Charli is “predatory,” Charles replied in a now-deleted video: “I didn’t want to respond to this because I didn’t want to give Trisha the attention that she’s clearly craving, however, I have now been accused of being a child groomer and this is not an accusation that I’m going to take lightly.”

“To insinuate that the relationship between Charli and I is anything other than just a friendship is absolutely disgusting,” he said. “I don’t need Charli and Charli does not need me. I became friends with the D’Amelio family as a whole very, very early on because this was all very, very new to them and I wanted to be a friend and a mentor in any way that I possibly could. And Charli and I, despite not being the same age, had one thing in common, which is coming into the spotlight at a very, very young age.”

He continued: “This is something that Trisha has never experienced because the only reason she is in the spotlight is because she has said racist things, she has said the N-word, she’s done blackface, she offended the trans community, she offended the DID community, she said Hitler wasn’t that bad of a guy, voted for Trump, and has started a fight with about every single other creator on this platform.”

“You are in no position to be talking about me and my career so I highly recommend that you stop starting fights with people that are half your age, pack it up, and work on holding yourself and your best friends around you, because they and you are the problem,” Charles said.

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