Even if you aren’t a big fan of YouTube, you’ve probably heard of James Charles. The 18-year-old model and vlogger has already made a pretty big name for himself, making both history and headlines. But for James, it all began with the Internet.
When James started his YouTube account in 2015, he probably didn’t expect it to blow up the way that it did. Or perhaps he did — after all, he grew up in the earliest stages of online stardom, when people took to the Internet in hopes of gaining cult followings.
It started with makeup tutorials. The 16-year-old self-proclaimed makeup artist covered it all — tutorials for rock glam looks, Halloween costumes, festival makeup. Before long, he began collaborating with other YouTubers for a segment called “Beauty Battles,” where two vloggers compete in a makeup-related challenge, bringing in new fans who had yet to hear of James’s name. Through his online presence alone, James managed to amass half a million Instagram followers.
But James reached peak popularity when, in 2016, he became the first male spokesmodel for CoverGirl. He explained on Ellen that he first caught the makeup company’s attention when his senior photos went viral:
“I woke up very, very early to do my makeup for (the photo shoot) because I was like, ‘Oh, it’s a special occasion. Might as well try to look cute. And I went to go get (my photos) done and they looked so bad and I was like, ‘Wow, I know I did not wake up at 7 a.m. to get glam and this was the result?’ So, I emailed the photography studio like, ‘Um, would there be any chance for me to retake them?’ And they actually said yes, so I drove there right away and I redid my makeup and I brought my ring light with me, which is the light I use for makeup photography, and we retook them and they turned out really, really good so I posted them on Instagram and they went viral literally overnight. So, I guess CoverGirl then saw that and here we are.”
Many believe James’s role in the beauty industry is smashing stereotypes and paving the way for other men in makeup. But as with anyone who disrupts the status quo and finds themselves in the limelight, James soon found that just as he’d amassed a fandom, he’d also amassed plenty of haters.
“I get really negative comments all the time,” James told Allure, “but the comments that really bother me are the ones that question my character.”
But haters weren’t the only thing that James had to worry about. Like many people caught up in the limelight, he soon found himself in the middle of an online scandal after a tweet about Africa and Ebola that many believed was racist. And though he quickly deleted the tweet and apologized, many saw his past and present behavior as problematic.
It didn’t help when, only a month later, he had a falling out with his BFF and fellow beauty guru Thomas Halbert, who then released photos that proved James had lied about how he’d gotten famous — he hadn’t, in fact, retaken his senior photos like he’d told Ellen Degeneres, but had simply photoshopped them instead.
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Halbert later apologized for the tweet, claiming he’d been drunk and posted it due to adrenaline and anger. However, it was too late — James’s image had changed in the public eye for ever, to the point where even celebrities were afraid to follow him online due to public backlash.
But it’s been one year since James’s biggest controversies and they haven’t sunken him completely. He continues creating viral YouTube content, working hard to further not only his beauty brand but his singing career. The scandals of the past have seemingly done little to his YouTube following, which is bigger than ever.
So, what can we expect next from James? Little is known about what’s to come for the beauty guru and whether or not he’ll be able to overcome the public’s opinion, but at the very least, you can certainly expect plenty of YouTube videos in the future.