While taking a long stroll by the Brooklyn waterfront on Saturday, I noticed a teenager dressed in a cap and gown, carrying a pig-shaped backpack she surely had just received as a graduation present, judging by how frequently she flipped the bag around to squeeze it. I recognized the backpack immediately as $80 merch from YouTuber Shane Dawson, released around the same time he began collaborating on makeup with BeauTuber Jeffree Star. I felt pretty hip and cool to what young people are interested in until I learned that carrying the bag was some sort of political statement: the beauty YouTubers were fighting again, and by toting the pink vegan-leather bag, the new grad was probably showing her support for Dawson. Identifying the backpack, however, is not enough to keep up with the ever-evolving drama cycle that plagues and sustains YouTubers, and so I’ve tried to figure out what happened.
According to Cosmopolitan, the drama began two weeks ago when beauty YouTuber Kameron Lester posted a 27-minute IGTV video detailing racist experiences he had while working as a model on beauty campaigns with Jeffree Star. “I just felt like it wasn’t a friendship, it was never a friendship in the beginning to start with, it was always something, like, I was kind of like the token Black kid,” he said in the video. “I felt like he was trying to send a message in some way that I was replaceable as a Black boy.” Lester said that poor treatment in the YouTube beauty community didn’t end there, adding that he was also removed from working on Shane Dawson’s YouTube series about Jeffree Star after witnessing Dawson speak ill of James Charles. Lester also alleged that Dawson and Star knew Tati Westbrook was going to post a video chastising James Charles long before she actually did in May 2019, sparking the biggest Beauty YouTube controversy in recent memory dubbed “Dramaggedon 2.0.”
In case you don’t remember the details of “Dramaggedon 2.0,” it was a dramatic blow-up that began after James Charles partnered with Sugar Bear Hair vitamins at Coachella, the direct competitor to his then-friend Tati Westbrook’s brand Halo Beauty. Westbrook posted a video accusing Charles of a slew of bad behaviors, none so damning as the allegation that he was sexually inappropriate with straight boys. Other makeup gurus got involved, including Jeffree Star, who co-signed Westbrook’s allegations. (Of course, regardless of any poor treatment, Star stood to benefit from a direct competitor’s “canceling.”)
During the fallout, both Charles and Westbrook posted a series of followup videos until, I guess, people began to forgive and forget. Lester’s revelation that Dawson and Star knew about Tati’s video before it was released seemed to indicate to fans that the duo was directly involved in its release and may have orchestrated the entire thing, as Teen Vogue reports. It is in conflict with Dawson’s public persona as a truth-teller–an innocent, outside observer who exposes conspiracies and makes documentaries. (Dawson’s affiliation with Dramaggedon 2.0 has long been questioned, especially since he teased his reaction to the controversy in a trailer for his “The Beautiful World of Jeffree Star” series in September 2019. When the episodes came out, neither party addressed Dramaggedon 2.0, and its inclusion in the teaser was never explained.)
A week and a half after Lester’s video and days of fans bombarding Dawson with accusations that he’d was at least partially responsible in the planning of “Dramaggedon 2.0,” Dawson tweeted and deleted that “The beauty gurus who are ALWAYS involved in scandals are ALL THE F*UCKING SAME... They are all attention-seeking game playing egocentric narcissistic vengeful two-faced ticking time bombs ready to explode. And I’m OVER it.”
Dawson also announced he will no longer work in the beauty world, but not before admitting that part of the allegations were true: he did know Tati was going to post the video, although he said he did not have a part in its orchestration (and, allegedly, neither did Jeffree Star.) Fans still took offense to his statement, in particular, this line he wrote about James Charles: “Do I think he was a young egocentric power-hungry guru who needed to be served a slice of humble pie the size of the f*cking Empire State Building? YES.”
The comment was another throwback to a video Charles released in May of last year, a 41-minute long vlog titled “No More Lies” in which he revealed details behind allegations from Star, who labeled him a “predator” and a “danger to society,” allegations that Charles said made his “head and brain, for a hot minute, [go] to a place so dark, [that] I didn’t think I was going to come back from.” Obviously suicidal ideation is a far cry from “a slice of humble pie,” even one “the size of the f*cking Empire State Building,” and fans made it known. Apparently those criticisms got to Dawson, and he followed up his deleted Tweet with another, writing, “This will be my last and only addition to what I posted. Do I think it was ok for the internet to bully james? NO. Of course not. Me saying he needed to be humbled isn’t mean it’s honest. And he said that in his own video. Should the humbling have happened OFF camera? Yes.”
It’s pretty clear here that Dawson is not a James Charles fan, and that he will come to the defense of Jeffree Star whenever he feels he needs to–and why wouldn’t he? The man makes him millions with their joint cosmetic collaborations. If only some of that wealth and attention was placed with Kameron Lester, the Black YouTuber who was brave enough to come forward with some less than savory truths. Of course, all this only serves to prove his point. He was tokenized, and now, it’s likely his career could suffer for saying enough is enough, even though he appears to be the only honest person involved.
Meanwhile, Star is busy apologizing for flirting with Nazi iconography and glorifying self-mutilation in his past.