Beauty Influencers: The Good, The Bad and the Petty

Alison Pfaff, Managing Editor

Cat Fight

I have been watching various YouTube influencers and channels for a long time. The idea of a real person giving their honest opinion about something without the use of a big team of producers and directors appealed to me as a kid. Afterall, YouTube’s original slogan was “Broadcast Yourself.” Through this community, I have seen it go from teenagers sitting in their bedrooms, connecting with an online audience, to money hungry, greedy social climbers.

This is not what the beauty community should be. This is not what the community was. No matter who you side with, the beauty community is a place for artistry, honesty and the love of makeup. Social media fame and money have drastically changed the community, and it is a sad thing to see. Money, fame and influence have clouded people’s judgement. It is an unfortunate reality we live in where young people are now idolizing influencers who may not be the most genuine.

Throughout my time as a viewer, I have seen many changes within the beauty community. Influencers coming and going, losing the hype they once had on the platform. More recently, I have noticed a more toxic element that has invaded the internet: cancel culture.  Scroll through Twitter, and you may see a hashtag saying some person is “cancelled.” Cancelling refers to no longer supporting or following an influencer or celebrity after that person exhibited problematic behavior. An example of this could be a racist past, or a person being caught in a lie.

An incident picked up by mainstream media and drama channels alike has been the Tati Westbrook and James Charles drama. Westbrook is a beauty influencer who has been creating content since 2010. James Charles is a 19-year-old influencer who shot to fame in 2016 after becoming the first male spokesperson for CoverGirl. Westbrook owns a company, called Halo Beauty, that sells hair/nail vitamins, with its direct competitor being called SugarBear Hair. Charles, who has been friends with Westbrook for years, promoted SugarBear Hair on his Instagram story after their team reportedly helping him with security at Coachella.

Following this, Westbrook posted Instagram stories saying how upset she was and disappointed in the community. Fans figured it was about Charles’ post, and they were correct.

Westbrook, who is reported to have helped James in many aspects during the beginning of his career, released a video entitled “Bye Sister.” This 40-minute video goes into her relationship with Charles and accusations against him about his relationships he has pursued with straight men. Charles has since responded to the accusations with his side of the story.

I will be honest. Following Charles’ response video, which was also about 41 minutes long, I don’t know what to believe. Perhaps time will tell. I do feel like this incident could have been avoided if it were talked about in private. The feud being public has sensationalized it, and I think it has done more harm than good.

In terms of the beauty community as a whole, this is a huge example of “cancelling” someone until they are proven innocent. It is one thing to not like a person, or not believe what they are saying, but it is another to consistently harass them, saying horrible things. Following Westbrook’s video, Charles lost 3 million subscribers and consistently received hate, with viewers picking “teams” to support. Other influences have expressed their opinions, threatening to “expose the truth.” Only time will tell who is innocent here.

While this is the latest in beauty community drama, it is not the first. Throughout the years, various influencers have had public arguments.

While the community may seem superficial, the underlying pettiness and greed is disheartening. I hope that the community will return to the artistry and love of makeup it once had, without the drama.