The beauty influencer drama rocking the Internet is pretty inescapable. If you’re not up to speed (where have you been?!) here’s the story: Tati Westbrook, YouTube beauty vlogger, and owner of a beauty vitamin company is feuding with her mentee, former friend and fellow beauty influencer, James Charles.
Last Friday, Westbrook posted a 40+ minute tell-all video titled “Bye Sister…” rehashing their fight and explaining how Charles “completely blindsided” her by posting an ad for a direct competitor to her beauty vitamins. She also detailed personal grievances she has with Charles’ recent behavior and romantic pursuits. Charles followed up with an apology video on his channel.
Westbrook’s video currently has 47 million views since it was posted and she gained around three million subscribers. Charles meanwhile has continued to lose millions of subscribers to his YouTube channel. Although Charles’ subscriber count has been reduced, his video views are actually up and climbing.
Drama in the beauty influencer world is not a new phenomenon. Reputation slinging and apology videos are par for the course among mega beauty vloggers. There are even drama channels on YouTube and Reddit threads devoted to covering YouTube beauty influencer drama.
While brands could perceive the Tati x James drama as negative for the influencer industry as a whole and want to avoid partnering with influencers – we at gen.video have been debating internally what the actual implications are for the industry.
Moving beyond the “he said, she said,” it’s important to recognize this moment as a cultural phenomenon and appreciate that the power and draw of influencer content continues to spread and is now truly a mass medium.
While working with polarizing or drama-prone mega influencers can pose a risk, it can also pay off and provide huge reach and exposure which can ultimately benefit a brand. For example, Westbrook’s vitamin company Halo Beauty and competitor SugarBearHair are both trending right now and getting incredible brand visibility and recognition from this whole firestorm.
On the other hand, aligning your brand with an influencer who has fallen out of favor with fans or who is known for creating controversy or drama does have its downside. Morphe and Covergirl are likely evaluating how this bad press surrounding Charles is affecting their brand reputation and whether this partnership is worth the headache. Former fans are finding creative ways to destroy Charles’ Morphe palette. One dropped the palette into a bathtub full of water in a video posted on TikTok and angry comments on the palette’s Ultra product page are full of ire for Charles: “Beautiful palette, but I will no longer be supporting this predator and fake person.”
Another interesting thing to note is how viewers are reacting to the story. At one point in her video, Westbrook describes the betrayal she feels because she and her husband helped Charles build his business and brand for years. “Life will never stop being painful. No matter where in the world you are, no matter your circumstances, you are always going to experience heartbreak, and that’s part of being human,” she says. Her viewers were here for her honesty and realness. “Tati is no longer a beauty guru… she’s a freaking legendary life guru,” a fan wrote in a comment that received a hundred and seventy-four thousand likes.
Successful influencer marketing hinges on an influencer’s authenticity and relatability. Unlike celebrities, influencers offer a more attainable lifestyle to the average person and fans identify in some way with the influencers they follow. When brands partner with influencers they are aligning with the archetype that an influencer represents – whether that’s a busy mom or a tech-obsessed millennial.
Aligning your brand with influencers who have this type of fan-loyalty, trust and respect is certainly still a brave act; one that we believe can pay off in a big way.
With the influencer economy being predicted to be worth $10 billion by 2020 and Instagram announcing shoppable influencer posts and enabling direct sales on the platform, influencers now hold more financial power than ever before. Instead of shying away, brands should embrace influencers as a powerful marketing tool.
What do you think? Is there no such thing as bad press or should brands steer clear of this drama? We’re curious to see how things play out for Tati and James Charles. In the meantime, we’ll be following this story and living in awe of the power of hair supplements.