2020 Wrapped: The Beauty YouTuber Edition

Tracking the year’s biggest winners and losers from Dramageddon 3, from James Charles to Shane Dawson.

If there’s one thing beauty YouTubers have become known for over the past two years, it’s being cancelled. Sure, other well-known public figures and celebs have had their fair share of bad press (Kardashians, we’re looking at you), but beauty YouTubers in 2019 and 2020 – man, oh man, have they copped some backlash.

But despite the many cancellations, one beauty YouTuber in particular appears to have not only kept his fan following, but somehow managed to grow it: James Charles.

To celebrate the end of 2020 (and the last of Dramageddon 3, we hope) we take a look at James Charles, arguably the biggest winner in the beauty YouTuber game this year, and some of his not-so-fortunate counterparts:

The ‘cancelling’ of James Charles

So, how did James Charles get cancelled in the first place? Though the 21-year-old has had some hiccups in the past, including an offensive tweet about getting ebola while in Africa and that terrible and potentially life-threatening decision to party during a raging global pandemic, his biggest scandal to date has been his involvement in the 2019 beauty YouTuber war, Dramageddon 3, which cost him a whopping 1.7 million YouTuber subscribers, the most lost in just days in the platform’s history.

In May 2019, fellow beauty YouTuber Tati Westbrook, who was also Charles’ mentor, published a 43-minute-long video titled “Bye Sister”, in which she announced she was ending her friendship with him after she was blindsided by his paid endorsement of Sugar Bear Hair vitamins, a competitor to her own brand, Halo Beauty.

In the clip, Westbrook also laid out some serious accusations against Charles, including that Charles, who’s gay, had used his money and fame to manipulate straight male guys, and that he’d made inappropriate sexual comments about a waiter. Star then chimed in, calling Charles a “danger to society” and revealing Charles wasn’t allowed in his home.

The video, which racked up more than 47 million views before it was deleted by Tati at the behest of YouTube execs, caused Charles to lose over 1.7 million subscribers.

How James Charles got his followers back 

After Charles published his “No More Lies” video, in which he denied all accusations of predatory behaviour and went into more detail about the Sugar Bear Hair deal, his follower number quickly began to climb again.

Over the next seven months, Charles was able to regain the 1.7 million YouTube subscribers he’d lost and today has since grown his follower count to larger than Westbrook’s and Star’s. Westbrook’s subsequent video claiming Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson manipulated her into making “Bye Sister” in the first place sealed James Charles’ favourable return.

It’s not just YouTube Charles is mastering – he’s also killing it on TikTok (he’s uploaded 198 videos and has a cool 31 million followers), Twitch (he films himself playing video games) and in the makeup world (he’s still working with Morphe, dropping updated eyeshadow palettes and brush sets).

How Charles’ fellow beauty YouTubers are faring

Meanwhile, things haven’t been quite so peachy for the Charles’ fellow Dramageddon 3 players this year, namely Jeffree Star, Tati Westbrook and Shane Dawson.

Though Star has never been a stranger to controversy, he’s had a particularly bad year in 2020. Tati Westbrook’s aforementioned follow-up to “Bye Sister”, called “Breaking My Silence”, in which she claimed Star and Dawson had gaslit her, did more damage to his reputation. Then there was of course the bombshell Insider investigation, published back in October, that quoted several people alleging that Star had physically and sexually abused others during his MySpace days. So, yeah, while he’s never had a stellar reputation, these allegations are among some of the most serious Star has faced. A serious drop in video views and makeup products consigned to bargain boxes are likely ringing alarm bells over at J* HQ.

Dawson, however, has had a worse year still, and rightly so. Of course, this year was the year where more old videos of him using blackface, spouting various offensive words against POCs and joking about paedophilia resurfaced, prompting him to lose endorsement deals and partnerships, the suspension of ads on his channel and finally, for him to go underground for a while. Unfortunately, after a lovely few months, there are signs that Dawson is trying to edge his way back into public life.

Westbrook, for her part, has remained relatively mum of late. She hasn’t uploaded a YouTube video since “Breaking My Silence” and, as a result, has steadily lost subscribers every month.

Currently, Westbrook’s YouTube subscriber count is just below 10 million. Jeffree Star is now just below 17 million. Dawson has around 21 million, and started the year with a reported 23.1 million.

Charles was the only one of the four who made YouTube’s top 10 creators list of 2020, ranking 10th. At the time of writing, his YouTube subscriber count is at 24.5 million.

There’s no arguing with the stats: James Charles has come out on top this year.

Written by Sangeeta Kocharekar, an American-born, Sydney-based writer at MTV. Photos from her pre-COVID-19 days as a travel writer are here.

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