One of the many things Shane Dawson is known for are his conspiracy theory videos on YouTube. Dawson has been on the platform for over a decade and has gone through several incarnations. Among them have been comedic skit actor, vlogger, and podcast host. Those other three have been at the center of controversy lately due to the problematic nature of Dawson's humor.
However, in order to understand why Dawson is at the center of this controversy, we need to understand how this all started. In May of 2019, a beauty YouTuber named Tati Westbrook uploaded a video calling out fellow beauty YouTuber James Charles. The video accused Charles of using his fame and wealth to lure straight men into having sex with him. Jeffree Star, another beauty YouTuber, followed Westbrook's video by posting a series of tweets accusing Charles of being a "predator" and "a danger to society."
People have dubbed this series of events, "Dramageddon 2."
During all of this controversy, Charles was losing followers and subscribers at an alarmingly high rate. He soon uploaded a response video where he debunked the allegations made by Westbrook and Star. In the video, Charles cleared his name by providing evidence, which included text messages. Charles started to gain his subscribers and good reputation back.
Westbrook and Star both claimed to stand by their statements, but provided no evidence to back up their claims. They initially claimed they wanted to put this matter to rest. However, Star went on the "Mom's Basement" podcast earlier this year and was asked about James Charles. Star claimed to have a voice memo which was from an alleged victim of Charles. He claims this is what led him to tweet his allegations against Charles.
YouTuber Blaire White uploaded a video where she claimed that Jeffree Star played her the voice memo. White says it's from a YouTuber who she will not name, but says she finds it credible. It's important to note that (according to those who have heard it) the content of this voice memo is merely an alleged victim recounting their allegation. This isn't evidence of a crime. White also claims Star told her another YouTuber is an alleged rapist. White claims to believe Star even though he didn't provide any evidence.
Her belief in Star's claims is questionable, since she states earlier in her video that Star lied to her about the Dahvie Vanity situation. Vanity has been accused of sexual assault by a number of underage girls. Star initially tweeted against Vanity, but took back his statements and continued to tour with him. Star was a guest on Chris Hansen's online show talking about his role in the Dahvie Vanity situation. White claimed that what he told Hansen contradicts what he told her in private.
So where does Shane Dawson fit into all of this?
At the time of the James Charles scandal, Dawson was working on his makeup palette with Jeffree Star. He was also in the process of filming his docu-series for his YouTube channel. The series would follow the making of the palette and promised to dive deep into the beauty community of YouTube. Ever since Star's appearance on the "Mom's Basement" podcast, rumors of Dawson's possible involvement in the scandal kept brewing. This was due to Star's mention that Charles thought he and Dawson were behind it.
Dawson initially posed a four-page statement on his Twitter, which he quickly deleted. He claimed to have known about Westbrook's planned video, but denied he was involved in it. Dawson said it amounted to no more than Westbrook coming to him for advice. Dawson also claimed he didn't warn Charles about the video. The most damaging part of Dawson's statement came when he said Charles deserved "a slice of humble pie the size of the fucking Empire State Building."
Before deleting the statement, Dawson posted a clarification on the "humble pie" portion of the statement, which he also deleted. After this, several videos from Dawson's past resurfaced. The clips included Dawson wearing blackface while impersonating Black celebrities, making jokes regarding pedophilia, joking about sexual acts with animals, as well as using racist, homophobic, and transphobic slurs. The clips were taken from Dawson's past skits, vlogs, and podcast.
At the time, I thought this was inevitable given the controversy and attention Dawson was at the center of. After all, this is the same thing that happened to Colleen Ballinger. Earlier in the year, a fan posted a video exposing how Ballinger sent him a bra and panties when he was just 13 years old. Ballinger didn't address it publicly at first and instead of the story subsiding, the target on Ballinger grew larger. Past clips of her racially insensitive skits and comments many called "fat-shaming" resurfaced. This forced Ballinger to do a video explaining the situation and apologizing for her past content.
This is exactly what Dawson ended up doing. He uploaded a video titled, "Taking Accountability," where he addressed the clips from his past content. He apologized and claimed it was wrong of him to make those jokes. He also apologized to James Charles, specifically in regards to the "humble pie" comment. Dawson's video, however, didn't have the desired result. Instead of calming the controversy down, people dismissed it as insincere and riddled with excuses.
More clips from Dawson's past kept resurfacing, including a skit where Dawson pretends to masturbate to a poster of Willow Smith, who was 11 at the time. This caught the attention of Jaden Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, who both tweeted, condemning Dawson. It is completely understandable how both of them feel angry at Dawson. That is their sister, their daughter. However, for the sake of devil's advocate, I'd like to offer a possible explanation nobody seems to be considering.
At the time of Dawson's skit, Willow Smith was a huge star. Her song "Whip My Hair" was a huge hit and you couldn't escape it no matter how hard you tried. All of this fame and success was given to a girl who was only 11 years old. When a child is that famous, it's no question there are probably pedophiles looking at said child in the wrong way.
In the context of a comedy skit, maybe Dawson was making a commentary on that exact problem. Perhaps his target wasn't Willow Smith, but the creepy pedophiles following her in an unhealthy way. Maybe he was making fun of the adults and not sexualizing the child. I'm not saying people shouldn't be offended by Shane Dawson's past content. People can be offended by jokes if they feel uncomfortable. People can withdraw support from certain creators if they feel that's the right thing for them to do.
The controversy regarding Dawson's possible involvement in the James Charles scandal also showed no signs of wavering. Tati Westbrook uploaded a 40-minute video titled, "Breaking My Silence." The video showed Westbrook reading a statement prepared with her legal team. In the statement, she accused Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star of manipulating her intro making her video.
Westbrook claimed she was already witnessing an overgrown ego on Charles' part. She also claimed Star was saying mean things about Charles. She claimed Dawson came to her house and told her that Charles allegedly has several victims, including minors. She even claims to have heard the same voice memo Jeffree Star has been teasing. Westbrook claims it was part of a larger conversation and it wasn't enough to take to the authorities.
In addition to Dawson's alleged support of her video, Westbrook said Dawson offered to edit the video, title it, and design the thumbnail. She also claimed Dawson was planning on interviewing Charles' alleged victims for his docu-series. When the trailer for the docu-series came out, many were shocked to see footage regarding the scandal. Even though Dawson claims to have gotten Westbrook and Charles' permission, she claims he never shared the trailer with her.
Westbrook said she is considering pursuing legal action to cover her damages. She also apologized to James Charles. However, she claims to have not lied in last year's video, when that simply isn't true. She claimed the waiter Charles was flirting with was straight, when he was bisexual. This is a fact that Charles proved in his rebuttal video. She also says she thought if she uploaded her video, Charles would wake up to the supposed error of his ways.
This sounds exactly like Dawson's "humble pie" comment from his Twitter statement. I also find it ironic how she claims she was gaslit into making her video, while her reasoning for uploading said video is a perfect example of gaslighting. If she was so close to James Charles, why couldn't she just reach out to him privately? Westbrook claims Charles forgave her and while I think that is very big of him, I would keep her at a distance.
Westbrook claims she believes Dawson and Star were both jealous of Charles. She said it's her opinion they plotted the scandal in order to marginalize Charles. Westbrook believes this would keep him out of the way so when Dawson and Star's palette was released later that year, they would have no competition. When reviewing Dawson's docu-series last year, I came to the same conclusion. Although I had no reason to think Dawson was involved at the time.
I think all three of them are responsible in their own ways.
As expected, Dawson wasn't happy with Westbrook's video. He went on Instagram Live for two minutes venting his anger while watching Westbrook's video. Dawson's fiance, Ryland Adams, took to Twitter to vent his anger at Westbrook. He claimed Westbrook was a "two-faced liar" and said she repeatedly told Dawson she was "a big girl doing this only for herself."
Adams' statement seems to give unintentional validity to Westbrook's claim that Dawson offered to edit and title her video. After all, why else would she feel the need to tell him she was "a big girl" and only doing this for herself? While I understand Adams' need to defend his fiance, it wasn't a good look for either of them to react the way they did. This is especially true if this turns into a serious legal matter.
So where is Jeffree Star in all of this?
The infamous figure in the beauty industry has kept quiet regarding Westbrook's allegations and Dawson's controversy. Even though Dawson said he considered Star "family" in his Twitter statement, Star hasn't exactly come to his defense. This isn't a small controversy, either. Dawson's videos are demonetized, Target vowed to remove Dawson's books from their stores, and Morphe stopped selling Dawson's makeup collection.
In 2018, following Dawson's first series on Jeffree Star, a group of beauty YouTubers were cancelled. These influencers included Manny MUA, Laura Lee, Gabriel Zamora, and Nikita Dragun. They were former friends of Star's and Zamora posted a picture of them on Twitter flipping the bird, seemingly throwing shade at Star. Fans of Star dug up various tweets which exposed possible racist behavior as well.
This was considered the first "Dramageddon."
Many people are convinced Star was involved in the cancellation of these influencers. There is a Snapchat clip of Star claiming he has "dirt on everyone and they know to keep their mouth shut." Many people feel this implies that Star blackmails people into silence.
In Blaire White's video, she claims that Star told her James Charles wouldn't come after him, because of the voice memo. She also expressed an opinion that Star hires people to keep tabs on influencers who might want to expose him. She claims that when she teased her video on her Instagram Story, she received a FaceTime call from Star, even though she didn't mention his name or tag him in the post.
I personally think there is something odd about the resurfacing of Shane Dawson's past content. Blaire White said that she was unaware of Dawson's previous content. Rapper CupcakKe also cut ties with Dawson, publicly slamming him. I find it hard to believe they were unaware of these kind of jokes, since these are both former friends of Dawson's. They were both guests on his podcast, where he made a lot of his problematic jokes.
A lot of other people are claiming they never knew of Dawson's past content either. While this might be true for some, I find it hard to believe the majority of these people had no idea of his past jokes. In 2018, a clip from his podcast resurfaced causing people to accuse him of being a pedophile. Dawson issued an apology on his channel, denying the allegations. He also discussed the matter on the H3H3 podcast.
In 2019, a clip from Dawson's podcast resurfaced where he joked about sexually abusing his cat. Dawson tweeted another apology, explaining he didn't do what he claimed and that it was just a bad joke. Both of these stories were huge trending topics on Twitter. The latter apology even became a meme on the platform, with users copying and pasting it on their status.
Perhaps watching Dawson's content has rubbed off on me, because this has caused me to develop a conspiracy theory of my own. I think Jeffree Star may have been behind the resurfacing of Dawson's past content. I think he may have hired people to dig up Dawson's past videos and post problematic clips. I think this could've been a strategic move on Star's part to keep most of the heat off himself. This would explain why he continues to stay silent while everyone is focusing on Shane Dawson.
Keep in mind that I'm not stating any of this as fact. This is just what I believe. I'm not trying to harm Jeffree Star's business or hurt his reputation. I hope he continues to do well in his ventures.
I'm also not saying that everyone should excuse Dawson's previous jokes. Like I said, it's up to everyone individually whether they choose to forgive and support certain creators. I can't tell anyone how to feel about humor, especially if the joke is targeting a group of people I'm not part of.
All I'm saying is this controversy may not have been as spontaneous as it seemed. Not only that, but I think it might be a deliberate distraction from the real problem at hand here. That of course being the scandal regarding Tati Westbrook's video about James Charles and Jeffree Star's allegations in its wake. I think Jeffree Star might be using the current climate surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement to distract from his role in last year's scandal.
At the end of the day, this isn't just silly YouTube drama. These are a series of serious allegations including sexual assault, blackmail, and spreading false information.
Was James Charles falsely accused or is the person on the voice memo telling the truth? Was Tati Westbrook manipulated into making her video? Did Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star deliberately attempt to destroy the career of their biggest competitor out of jealousy?
Whatever the truth is, I hope it comes out. I hope justice is served in whatever direction it ends up going in.
James Charles admitted that he considered suicide last year while he faced the backlash as a result of Westbrook's video. I hope those feeling the heat this year aren't considering the same thing. I hope they don't do something they can't come back from. Whatever the case is, there's always room for growth and learning from your past actions. You just need to make the choice to go down that path.
Let's hope those who are in the wrong make that choice.