James Charles: The making and ‘cancelling’ of a YouTube superstar
Earlier this year, the beauty vlogger set a record for losing over 1 million subscribers in less than a day. But has the rise and fall and rise again of James Charles turned the tide on influencer culture, asks Sirena Bergman, or shone a light on how much we love watching celebrities fall from grace?
Last month, Time magazine released its list of the 25 most influential people on the internet. Nestled among politicians, royals and activists of household-name status are hugely popular YouTubers many may not have heard of. The endlessly relatable Emma Chamberlain, with over 8 million subscribers, features. As does 16-year-old tween sensation and former Dance Moms star JoJo Siwa, with almost 10 million followers.
And then you come to the name James Charles, who up until this spring was relatively unknown to the masses, despite more than 16 million people subscribing to his YouTube channel. Like many influencers, he existed in a curious celebrity middle-ground, where despite being mobbed by thousands of adoring fans, the traditional media pretty much completely ignored him. But all that changed on 10 May, when fellow YouTuber and former friend Tati Westbrook uploaded a 43-minute video which can broadly be described as a character assassination of Charles, kickstarting what would become one of the most talked-about, consequential feuds in influencer history.
The making of James Charles