I'm sure if any of you have been on the internet for at least five minutes, you know that there's a bit of a sister situation within the beauty community of YouTube. If not, well, here's a brief rundown:
James Charles, a famous beauty influencer with previously over 16 million followers, has been caught between a rock and a hard place as information has come out alleging him to be not only a user but also a predator. Tati Westbrook, another beauty influencer with almost 6 million subscribers on Youtube before the situation, created a 43-minute video called "Bye Sister …" where she described in detail the disturbing behavior from the 19-year-old star. She gave insight into him using her to gain fame through business deals and collaborations but also talked about him preying on straight men and taking advantage of his fame to force them into doing activities they didn't willingly consent to.
As this situation has grown, James Charles has lost over 3 million subscribers and Tati now sits at almost 10 million. More people have come out sharing their own personal experiences with James and as more and more evidence comes out, his career seems to be going down the drain.
The situation has brought to life so many different things, but mostly, how fame and fortune can change a person so drastically to the point where they feel like they're above doing the right thing.
James Charles' platform mostly consists of 12 to 16-year-olds. These 12 to 16-year-olds are growing up looking up to a fellow teenager who defies the standards by being a male in the makeup industry, by becoming one of the most successful (well, previously) YouTubers ever. But, they're also looking up to a boy who insists on face-tuning all of his photos to the point where he looks completely different. They look up to a man who thinks that it's okay to flirt and hit on straight men despite them being uncomfortable with it because he's famous. They look up to a man who isn't grateful for the wealth he has, asking his fans to pay up to 500 dollars for meet and greet tickets. That's right, meet and greet tickets for 500 dollars a piece. They're idolizing someone who has promoted vitamins consisting of mostly sugar.
These children are looking up to someone who has done so many things wrong, yet some of them are still supporting him unconditionally despite all of the news.
Why is that? Can they not see the dangerous habits, the manipulative behavior?
They can't, because they're seeing that behavior as right.
We live in an age of social media where influencers are praised even more than movie stars because they seem more real because they share a little tiny sliver of their life and claim that they love you. They say they care about you, this big person with millions of subscribers cares about you, someone who is just an average person. Social media stars are all the rave because they seem like just one of us, just a normal person who happens to share a portion of their story on the internet, but that mentality leads a lot of younger people to fall for them and think so highly of them.
Quite honestly, I don't really like the idea of idolizing anyone famous, I don't like the idea of looking up to a stranger for guidance because I don't know them. They don't know me either. They can claim that they know me and show me their lives to make me feel comfortable. They can claim they're a good person that can be a role model to kids everywhere, inspiring them to do great things but in the end, the truth always emerges. The truth comes out and the truth is a nasty thing sometimes.
Young teenagers and preteens see them as their best friends when in reality all they ever care about is the paycheck put in their pocket by them. Whether it's watching the ads on their videos, purchasing merch, or going to see them live on tour, the audience is just a ploy to buy a house a little bigger, a car a little fancier and more luxury clothing. There's no way to deny it, we can see case after case of the same behavior.
This is what kids are learning is okay, and it needs to stop.
The likelihood of getting famous on YouTube is slim, yet because these people defied the odds they're given a godly status. Sure, what they're doing is cool and even I enjoy some of the content they produce, but we don't need to worship the ground they walk on.
The idolization of these influencers is unhealthy. It can possibly lead to harassment of the influencer and hurt people in the process. It can give children unrealistic expectations of the world and what's right and wrong. It's a difficult pill to swallow but no matter how truthful someone seems online, they're talking to a camera, not you.
These younger audiences will do anything to protect these influencers because they feel a connection that doesn't really exist. The wall known more formally as a phone screen is nothing to them when in reality that wall is thousands of miles high and wide.
The fact that I've seen some people vouch for James Charles and say that he made a mistake is awful. The fact that young children and teenagers think that it's okay for anyone to sexually prey on an individual just because they're famous is absolutely disgusting but you can clearly tell who they're learning it from. The fact that they even think for a moment that blackmailing someone in order to get sexual favors is okay, let alone for the activities to happen again and again and again is horrifying. They're growing up in a society where this kind of culture is okay because "James Charles did it so I'll do it!" It's a mob mentality where one person is the leader and the rest are the followers. It's a cult formed by doing makeup on YouTube.
In general, the whole topic of idolization is something else for another day, but the fact that people idolize YouTubers is a really big problem. We trust them, we see them as angels that can do no wrong because they're funny and charming online and when the truth comes out we don't want to believe it. We don't want to believe that they're hurting people because they helped us so much on our rough day, they gave us a way to escape reality and laugh a little, we want to see them as people that can only help the world. That's why this is such an issue. The younger generations are being caught in this mentality of trust in a cyber realm and it's a big issue no one seems to be talking about.
The actions done by James Charles are things that can't be taken away with an apology, people's lives have been ruined, people are afraid of coming out, telling their story because of the possible blackmail. It's scary, it's really scary that someone with so much power can use it to harm others.
People need to see that this behavior is unfortunately not unique. Throughout time, scandals have come out of racist pasts from Youtubers and these situations have almost always been blown over. People want to believe that these people are saints and can forever be trusted which leads us into the same cycle again and again. We'll believe they're perfect until they do something wrong, then we'll vouch for them and say it was a mistake and then they'll do something else wrong and we vouch again.
We can't keep looking up to these people, not because they're famous because they're teaching people that it's okay to get away with certain behaviors because of their fame and status. It's not okay, and it will never be okay.
Stop looking up to influencers, it's their job to influence you, and quite frankly, they're steering you in the wrong direction.