Who Is James Charles? Everything to Know About the YouTube Influencer Feuding with Tati Westbrook
The 19-year-old makeup guru first started his YouTube channel in December 2015
At just 19 years old, James Charles is one of the biggest names in the YouTube beauty industry. But following his recent fallout with former friend, mentor and fellow YouTuber Tati Westbrook amid allegations of sexual predatory behavior, Charles — who at one point had 16 million YouTube followers — has lost over 3 million subscribers (and counting) in the past three days.
Although the majority of Charles’ fans are teenagers, people of all ages are now discovering him after Westbrook’s accusations sparked the #JamesCharlesIsCancelled hashtag to trend on social media. (A rep for Charles has not responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment.)
But before Charles boasted millions of fans (or as he likes to call them, his “sisters”) and befriended stars like Kim Kardashian West, Kylie Jenner and Katy Perry, he was simply a makeup-loving teen from Bethlehem, New York. Below, we look back at Charles’ career rise and fallout in the spotlight.
December 2015 – James Starts His YouTube Channel
Charles captured everyone’s attention with his masterful skill and artistry when he first started making YouTube videos in late 2015 at 16 years old.
He quickly garnered thousands of followers thanks to his wildly popular tutorials, from glitter festival makeup to a blue brown serpent look.
October 2016 – James Becomes the First Male CoverGirl
Charles made history when he was 17 by being named the first male brand ambassador for CoverGirl. At the time, he had 427,000 followers, but the publicity he received from CoverGirl’s platform helped him gain even more fame.
A representative from CoverGirl confirmed that Charles’ contract with the brand ended in October 2017.
November 2016 – James Appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show
After becoming landing his prestigious CoverGirl contact, Charles made a major television appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where he opened up about coming out as gay to his parents at age 12.
“It was easy for me. Everyone was very supportive,” he said.
February 2017 – James Slammed for Offensive Comments
A little more than a year after launching his YouTube channel, Charles faced his first controversy when he tweeted offensive remarks about Africa. The tweet read: “‘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’ ….”
His followers immediately called him out for the ignorant comment, as the World Health Organization had lifted Public Health Emergency of International Concern related to Ebola in West Africa a year prior.
Charles later wrote a short apology on Twitter. “I am extremely sorry. Regardless of my intentions, words have consequences. I take full responsibility and will learn and do better,” he said.
March 2017 – James Gets Called Out for Lying About His Graduation Photos
In September 2016, Charles went viral on social media when he shared his high school graduation photos and revealed he had them retaken with special lighting so his highlight would look better. During his November 2016 appearance on The Ellen Degeneres Show, Charles said this helped him get CoverGirl’s attention and ultimately become a brand ambassador.
But months later, one of Charles ex-friends released text message receipts that confirmed Charles lied about the entire high school photo incident. Fans begin to question Charles’ honesty and intentions.
November 2017 – James Answers Vogue‘s 73 Questions
A-list celebrities like Lady Gaga, Gisele Bündchen, Priyanka Chopra and Emma Stone have all participated in Vogue‘s famous 73 Questions series, and Charles joined them when he shot his own video for the iconic fashion magazine.
October 2018 – James Films With Kylie Jenner
Charles famously features other big time YouTube beauty gurus on his channel, but he landed his most famous guest star yet when Kylie Jenner joined him for a Halloween makeup tutorial.
November 2018 – James Creates an Eye Shadow Palette
After much anticipation and begging from his fans, Charles finally launched his own eye shadow palette and makeup brush collection via a collaboration with Morphe Cosmetics.
The eye shadow palette sold out multiple times (at one point, in less than 10 minutes) upon its launch.
April 2019 – James Announces His First-Ever Tour
Charles announced his Sisters Tour, where fans could spend anywhere from $52.50 to $500 for the chance to watch the YouTuber do makeup in person.
“We’re gonna have, of course, makeup live on stage with maybe a few sisters from the audience, we’ll be playing games, you guys will be coming up, we’ll be doing Q&As, of course there’ll be music as well, and duh – a whole lot of Instagram selfies,” he explained in a YouTube video.
Charles’ tour kicks off June 26 as he visits major U.S. cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and more.
May 2019 – James Attends the Met Gala
Charles attended the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute benefit as a guest of YouTube and was dressed by Alexander Wang.
“thank you so much @youtube for inviting me and @alexanderwangny for dressing me! 💕 being invited to such an important event like the ball is such an honor and a step forward in the right direction for influencer representation in the media and I am so excited to be a catalyst,” he wrote.
May 2019 – Tati Westbrook Publishes “Bye Sister” Video
The tension between Charles and his former mentor Westbrook hit a fever pitch in April, after he posted a sponsored advertisement from Coachella for Sugar Bear Hair vitamins to his Instagram Story.
The company is a direct competitor to Westbrook’s supplement brand, Halo Beauty. At the time Westbrook, 37, lashed out on Instagram, explaining in a video that she felt “betrayed” and “lost,” but did not call out Charles directly.
But when some of Charles’ fans came out against her, Westbrook put everything out to the public.
On Saturday, she uploaded a 43-minute video titled “BYE SISTER” in which she accused Charles of being unsupportive, attacked him for spreading lies about her, slammed him for alleged comments he made about other beauty influencers, and also claimed he had a habit of sexually harassing straight men.
“You are using your fame, your power, your money, to play with people’s emotions,” she said. “You’re threatening to ruin them. You’re threatening to embarrass them. And you’re doing that to have them behave sexually in your favor, even if they’re straight. And you know what, that’s not okay. That behavior is not okay.
She continued: “Whether you’re a woman, a man, gay, straight, bi — whatever sexual orientation you are, that is your personal call. It is not someone else’s to take. it’s not someone else’s to play with. It’s not someone else’s to mess with.”
Reps for Charles and Westbrook have not responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment.