Bye Sister: James Charles needs to be in prison edition


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Image from one of James Charles’ apology videos.

By Kaitlyn Fehr, Chief Copyeditor

TW: This article contains mentions of sexual harassment, pedophilia, and grooming.

In 2021, YouTube will seemingly never know peace, and it’s time for beauty community superstar James Charles to face the music for allegedly grooming and sexually harassing several young boys and men. And yes, you read that right, several. 

Charles rose to fame in 2016, after his high school senior photos went viral for his stellar  makeup and bright highlight. It was later revealed that Charles had edited the pictures, and that a ring light was not the cause of the highlight, as he had originally claimed.

Soon after, Charles became the young darling of the YouTube beauty community, and today has around 25 million subscribers on YouTube. Even from the beginning, apart from the ring light debacle, controversy followed him. 

In 2017, Charles posted a now-deleted tweet that reads, “‘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.’”

Rightfully so, fans called out Charles for the racist joke. After his plane landed in South Africa, he issued a notes app apology where he acknowledged his privilege as a white male. 

The next scandal Charles faced was in 2019 when he made a comment in a video about how he wasn’t “fully gay” since “there’s also been trans guys in the past, too, that [he] was really, really into for a moment in time.”

Charles faced backlash from the LGBTQ+ community for the transphobic remark, and he issued an apology to Twitter claiming he should have chosen his words better. 

The final scandal unrelated to grooming is ironic, as it involves Charles pretending to pose for a mugshot. In April 2020, across TikTok and Twitter, influencers and audiences alike were applying makeup and posing for fake mugshots. In many of the TikToks, the creators created a story for the mugshot, but when Charles posted his now-deleted version to Instagram, he simply said nothing.

Fans reacted negatively to the post, claiming that it trivialized domestic abuse. Charles reacted to the controversy by tweeting “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.” His response shows how Charles seems to view getting ‘canceled’ as something to laugh about.

This scandal stands out more now in 2021, as James Charles could very well have a real mugshot in the coming months for his alleged crimes. 

But first, we have to backtrack to Summer of 2019, when fellow beauty guru Tati Westbrook, close friend and mentor of James Charles, uploaded a now-deleted video titled “Bye Sister,”, launching the wave of cancellations and callouts that would come to be known as “Drammageddon 2.” 

In “Bye Sister,” Westbrook discusses how Charles posted an ad during Coachella for Sugar Bear Hair, the direct competitor to her hair vitamin brand, Halo Beauty. This event, and betrayal, made Westbrook reconsider her friendship with Charles, and look at past events in a new light. 

One of the many incidents that Westbrook discusses involves a waiter named Sam Cooke and how Charles made inappropriate advances on him at Westbrook’s birthday dinner.

After this video, Cooke initially came forward backing Westbrook’s story, saying that Charles forced him, a 19-year-old straight man, into uncomfortable sexual situations. Later, Cooke came out and admitted that everything was a lie, and that he felt pressured by his friends and family to make a video villainizing James Charles. However, fans were not convinced by this admission, as Cooke honestly looks scared in the video. Many believed that he recanted the story because of a possible cease-and-desist from Charles and his lawyers. 

Another beauty guru, Jeffree Star (controversial in his own right), came forward after Westbrook’s video and said that Charles had been banned from his home for being a predator. 

Star continued to smear Charles’ name even a year later in 2020, claiming on a podcast that he has a voice memo from an alleged victim of Charles explaining his story. The voice memo and the victim have never been made public, and as Star seems to thrive on drama, it’s somewhat hard to believe him.

Back in 2019 soon after Westbrook’s video, a 20-year-old man named Gage Gomez came forward about a situation that happened during the same fateful Coachella weekend. Gomez alleged that Charles knew he was straight, but continued to pressure him into sexual situations. Charles posted a notes app explanation to Twitter, claiming that everything that happened between him and Gomez was consensual.

For a brief period of time, Charles experienced relative peace, until February 2021 when 16-year-old Isaiyah posted a video to TikTok alleging that Charles had an inappropriate relationship with him. Isaiyah included screenshots of their conversation and claimed that Charles sent him unsolicited nude images and sexually explicit messages, even after finding out Isaiyah’s real age. 

Later that same day, Charles posted a notes app apology once again, where he admits to “flirting” with a minor, but victim-blames Isaiyah for lying about his age. Charles’ defense is that Isaiyah reached out to him first as an excited fan, and that after finding out he wasn’t really 18, as he claimed, he removed him from his Snapchat. Charles states that in the future he will “ask to see the ID or passport of every guy [he has] a conversation with.” 

First of all, the burden of proof is on the adult, and in a court of law, Charles claiming he simply didn’t know that Isaiyah was underage would hold no weight. 

Second, as someone who is the same age as Charles—21–there is no way I would ever be able to see an 18-year-old as anything other than a child. 

Third, as a celebrity, if someone comes to you immediately professing that they are a huge fan, wouldn’t you see something wrong with taking advantage of that power imbalance and pressuring someone into a sexual situation? 

Isaiyah’s confession unleashed a tidal wave of accusations, and to date, around 16 different men have come forward with stories, 10 of whom are underage. The youngest of these alleged victims is 14. If I sat here and discussed all of these accusations, we would be here forever. Instead, I leave you with the @defnoodles Twitter thread that breaks down every allegation. 

On April Fool’s Day, amid the wave of accusations, Charles uploaded a video titled “holding myself accountable.” In the video, Charles addresses two of the victims, and admits that if he looked into the victim’s social media presence he would have known they were minors.

Charles explains that he was so “reckless” in checking the ages of these victims because he is desperate to be in a relationship. Desperation is not an excuse for grooming and pedophilia. 

James, if you really want to hold yourself accountable for these actions, Google the directions to your nearest police station and turn yourself in. You can’t “hold yourself accountable” for pedophilia and grooming.

In the video, Charles also acknowledges that it looks like he is actively seeking out younger people, and claims that’s not true. However, a recently resurfaced clip from Logan Paul’s podcast shows Charles saying he simply doesn’t find older men attractive, and that he would willingly date an 18-year-old. 

So far, Charles has not been dropped by any of his sponsors or the brands he works with, such as Morphe, Sephora, and Chipotle. The only true consequence he has faced so far is being removed from the second season of his YouTube show “Instant Influencer.”

For someone like me who’s been on the internet for a long time, the most disheartening part of this situation is seeing Charles’ young fans defend him. It reminds me of when I was young, and defended people like Shane Dawson and Onision, and so many band members accused of sexual assault.

These young kids are being conditioned to think that lying about your age makes you responsible for getting groomed. Not only that, but they are watching James Charles face no consequences for his actions, and they’re learning that grooming is fine, as long as someone posts a half-assed apology on Twitter.

I look back at the people I defended, and I’m ashamed, but proud to have unlearned what defending those predators taught me. I can only hope that one day these young fans realize and unlearn what James Charles has taught them.