The world of beauty influencers is shaken over a feud between YouTubers James Charles and Tati Westbrook. The longtime close friends have severed ties, both released video statements, and—most significantly—gained and lost followers. Charles has lost three million subscribers while Tati has gained nearly four million.
So, why is this happening, and when did it start? Allow us to explain everything, ahead:
First, let's meet the parties involved. Tati Westbrook
Tati, 37, is an O.G. beauty YouTuber who first started posting to her channel as GlamLifeGuru in 2011. She does product reviews, tutorials, makeup challenges, and life vlogs. In February 2018, she launched her own supplement brand, Halo Beauty. Halo Beauty currently has two products, a multivitamin for hair, skin, and nails, and another multivitamin for clear skin.
James, 19, is another YouTuber who has only had his channel only three years ago but amassed a viewership that, at its peak, was 16 million strong. The vlogger, who famously calls his fans "sisters," made headlines as the first male face of CoverGirl and has had a lucrative partnership with makeup brand Morphe.
The two were frequent collaborators on videos and Tati was a mother figure/mentor to James. He calls her "mom" and first contacted Tati through DMs. Tati was an early fan of his and constantly promoted his channel, work, and product launches. They were so close that he even did her wedding makeup.
The Drama: A TimelineApril 22, 2019
It all started at Coachella, when James posted a "swipe up" Instagram story promoting Sugar Bear Hair, the insta-popular gummy bears loved by Kar-Jenners and other influencers. They're a direct competitor with Tati's supplement brand, Halo Beauty. Obviously, this did not sit well with her.
Tati followed up with an Instagram story where she looked visibly upset and said, according to BuzzFeed which captured the story, "Everybody says what they need to say and uses who they need to use, and I have had about enough. It's not right."
James then posted another Instagram story with a public apology to Tati.
"She has been like a mother to me since my first days in this industry and has given me more love, support, resources and advice than I could ever ask for," he wrote. He claimed that he only promoted Sugar Bear Hair because they helped him get security when the crowd around him at Coachella became dangerous. He also claimed he did not accept any money for the post.
"I'm devastated that I hurt someone that I truly love and have endless respect for," he said.
May 4, 2019
Tati had yet to address James' apology when another beauty YouTuber, Gabriel Zamora, inserted himself in the drama. It's a 40 minute makeup tutorial in which he addresses the Tati-James feud.
"All these videos are being made where James is made out to be this horrible human being, and I'm just confused as to what happened. Oh it's about 'loyalty.' It's the 'loyalty' aspect of it. For me, it looks like someone posted IG Stories. And, someone cried," he says in the video. "I'm, like, confused because what did James do?...Well, Sugar Bear Hair was around before her. Homeboy is exclusive to her?"
He basically reasons that it's ridiculous for Tati to be upset over James promoting Sugar Bear Hair because any beauty influencer has a right to promote different brands. "Girl, sit on the internet and talk about it, then," he addresses Tati. Tati would eventually use this clip as the opening of her video explanation.
May 10, 2019
Tati finally uploaded a bombshell of a 40-minute video explaining her relationship with James and all the reasons she no longer wants to associate with him beyond the Sugar Bear Hair fiasco. It has over 34 million views to date. Here are some major points she made:
Tati doesn't know Gabriel Zamora.
His video is partly what instigated her to make her own. "I don't know Gabriel Zamora. We've never had any beef. But we are not friends," she says. Apparently the two have only seen each other in passing at events and "there's no relationship."
Tati says James didn't warn her about the Sugar Bear Hair post.
Part of what bothered Tati about James' actions is that he did it without a heads up—he didn't call or text her until the post was already up. She also claims he never supported the brand. "We've had plenty of in-person conversations about other influencers doing the same deal and about him not liking Sugar Bear Hair and him dragging other people and being like Tati, I'm on your side, you've got me. I will support you. You've got my loyalty," she says. Later on she elaborates, "The reason that James always said that he couldn't promote Halo on his channel is because he has a teenage audience and it'd be really inappropriate," a fact that didn't seem to stop him from promoting Sugar Bear Hair.
Friendly, supportive texts Tati shared between the two before their feud.
Tati says James was not genuinely apologetic, but more concerned about his reputation.
After he posted his apology and Tati did not respond, she says he grew desperate and manipulative. "It got increasingly demanding. I don't deal well with someone telling me that I need to accept an apology on their terms to fix their problems," she says. "When you can't have any emotion for the other person who loves you so much and all you're caring about is your image—I'm not okay with that."
She adds, "I found out that he had been giving his side to drama channels he had been in contact with plenty of them. I knew this was all about damage control," she says. She herself has spoken to Here for the Tea and Tea Spill.
Tati is upset that James didn't apologize to her husband, who has supported James' career.
Tati's husband has a background in film and business development and always supported James when he needed business help. "My husband would spend hours, on the phone, looking over contracts, getting him in a better position," she says, moving on to say she and her husband helped him secure "millions" from brand deals and get thousands more revenue from YouTube videos.
Tati accuses James coerced guys into doing sexual acts with him.
In perhaps one of the biggest bombshells in the video, Tati says one reason she no longer wants to associate with James is because he coerces men. "Oh my god, you tried to trick a straight man into thinking he's gay, yet again. And somehow, you're the victim. It's really disgusting to manipulate someone's sexuality especially when they're emerging into adulthood and don't quite have everything figured out," she says, recalling a phone call of theirs where he shared details.
She also says he used his fame and money to "threaten," "ruin," and "embarrass" men who didn't reciprocate his advances. "To have them behave sexually in your favor even if they're straight—that's not okay," she says.
Tati claims the Sugar Bear Hair deal was pre-orchestrated.
While James says the Sugar Bear Hair ad was spur of the moment because they helped him secure security at Coachella, Tati claims that's not plausible. "No company would go out of their way to have an extra handful of passes that cost thousands of dollars a piece, just in case," she says. "That leads me to believe this was orchestrated beforehand and that was an emotional conflict, because of me and promises he made to me behind the scenes. So he had to come up with a clever story."
May 10, 2019
James posted a video in response to Tati's, significantly shorter at eight minutes. It has reached over 33 million views.
"To Tati and James Westbrook, I'm sorry for everything that is going on and everything I've put you through over the past few weeks," he opens. Then, he just goes on to a long apology and doesn't want to explain anything further because "it doesn't matter."
"A lot of the time when I’ve had to address things in the past, I’ve acted out of impulse and I’ve gone off and tried to pull receipts or facts or screenshots and play the victim and I’m not doing that today, I’m not,” James said. “That is all I have to say, I’m sorry.”
As for the claims that he took advantage of men, James has a pretty vague explanation. "Boys have been a topic that I've talked a lot about on my social media journey, and it's a topic that I wish I haven't," he says. "I've been involved in a lot of unique and strange situations that have left people confused and upset, and I've learned the hard way about boys that I'm interested in and ones I should or shouldn't be talking to."
May 12, 2019
Another feud-ridden YouTuber, Jeffree Star, made a since-deleted tweet where he called James "a danger to society." "Everything Tati said is 100% true," he wrote.
His only remaining tweets are ones congratulating Tati for her rising subscriber following. May 12, 2019
After James posted his video, Tati sent out a tweet saying she won't be posting another video on Monday—a day she always posts a video.
"There won't be a video tomorrow. My heart is still too heavy. I feel like I need to remind you that we can hold truth & inspire change without grabbing on to hate," she says.
So, what now?
In the days following both videos, James continues to lose millions of followers, including famous fans like the Kar-Jenners—Kylie who collaborated with him, Khloe, Kourtney, Kendall, and Kim—Demi Lovato, Katie Perry, Ariana Grande, and Miley Cyrus.
If you really want to keep track—there's a live ticker following of both Tati's and James' subscriber counts as they rise and fall, respectively.
Kristina Rodulfo Senior Beauty Editor Kristina Rodulfo is the Senior Beauty Editor of ELLE.com—she oversees beauty across ELLE's digital media platforms and is an expert in product testing, identifying trends, and exploring the intersections of beauty, culture, and identity.