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Inside James Charles' Trailblazing Rise to YouTube Superstardom and the Endless Controversies That Just May Be His Downfall

Katy Perry, James Charles, CoverGirl


One of the biggest names in the YouTube beauty industry—which, yes, is a big deal; ask any Gen Z-er in your life—the 19-year-old vlogger's subscriber count once topped out at over 16 million. But ever since his former friend and mentor (not to mention fellow YouTuber) Tati Westbrook called him out in a scathing 43-minute video entitled "BYE SISTER," accusing him of being unsupportive of her and her business endeavors and spreading lies about her, as well as having a habit of sexually harassing straight men—it's a real mess, y'all—he's had to watch as his follower count has, if not gone into total free fall, then taken a serious tumble.

Meanwhile, those watching from the sidelines are left to wonder if the once-rising star's young career is strong enough to ride out this storm or if it, the latest in a surprisingly long list for such a brief career, might derail him for good.

"I get really negative comments all the time, but the comments that really bother me are the ones that question my character," James told Allure in January 2017. "I try so hard to stay a positive role model. It's sad to say, but you get used to it after a while, and I have a very thick skin, so I can take it."

At that point in his career, James was only 17 years old. He'd yet to graduate from high school. His YouTube channel was barely a year old. And he'd yet to even face down his first scandal.

No, that first year for James contained such good news and such a rapid ascension that it would've made anyone's head spin. After launching his channel on December 1, 2015, the aspiring and entirely self-taught make-up artist—"YouTube videos and practice have taught me all I know," he told Cosmopolitan in October 2016. "I've been watching tutorials for years now, so when I started makeup I did have a semi-idea of how to do things."—saw a tweet with his high school graduation photos go viral in September (thanks, in part, to a retweet from Zendaya), landed a truly historical gig as the first male brand ambassador for CoverGirl in October (propelling his 427,000 followers truly skyward), and appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in November.

To say his life changed practically overnight would be an understatement.

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