beauty

The Tati James Charles drama has nothing to do with ethics, and everything to do with greed.

The biggest news story in the world right now started with a fight over beauty supplements.

For Tati Westbrook, it wasn’t the repeated ‘bad behaviour’ of her friend James Charles that urged her to call him out publicly. It wasn’t the allegations of predatory behaviour, or the time he joked about contracting Ebola because he was travelling to Africa. It wasn’t when he put his foot in his mouth while trying to explain his sexuality.

In all those instances, 37-year-old Tati seemingly excused her friend, believing that people make mistakes, especially when they’re teenagers, and that doing one questionable thing doesn’t define a person’s character.

Then James Charles endorsed a rival vitamin company to her own.

In a 43-minute video uploaded to YouTube last Friday, the 37-year-old described how she felt “gutted,” “disrespected,” and “really lost in the [beauty] community”.

“It wasn’t specifically just about vitamins or about Halo,” she said, referring to her supplement brand, Halo Beauty. “But it was just about being lied to.

“James Charles had nine days after Coachella to talk to me… he could’ve come face to face… because he knew this would hurt me.”

What had happened was that James had posted an Instagram ad for SugarBearHair, a brand of gummy vitamins that claim to be ‘revolutionary’ for hair growth.

Listen: Mamamia’s daily news podcast The Quicky on the James Charles controversy. Post continues after audio.


“I always like to tell people: pain is pain,” Tati said in her video, which is now approaching 50 million views. “Life will never stop being painful, no matter where you are in the world, no matter what your circumstances.

“For me, I always like to say that just because the person next to you is in a full body cast, doesn’t mean your broken arm doesn’t hurt. Pain is pain.”

And this particular ‘pain’, while it would have been “better handled privately” in Tati’s own words, was played out in front of millions.

It started a conversation about entitlement, calling people out for their behaviour, and questioning who deserves a public platform.

But let’s not pretend that this feud, between two millionaires who make their money from doing makeup on YouTube, has anything to do with morality.

It’s about ego.

It’s about business.

And it’s about greed.

That much is clear from the dozens of times Tati Westbrook mentions Halo Beauty in her 43-minute video about James Charles. It’s clear from the link to Halo Beauty’s website in the description of that video.

It’s clear from the meticulously timed pop up in the right-hand corner of the video, which appears when Tati compares her own brand to SugarBearHair.

halo beauty
Note: The icon in on the far right. Image via YouTube.
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She's been praised for not running any ads throughout the video, but she didn't need to. The video itself is the best advertisement a brand could hope for.

Tati calling out one of the most influential people in the beauty industry over a rival endorsement was, from a business perspective, genius.

Three quarters of the way through her viral video, she said, "If you don't have my back, at least have your subscribers' back".

"You say you don't like this brand... so stick to that. You say you can't be bought, well you just were.

"Have some loyalty to your fan base who have put all that money into your bank account, instead of lying to them. Because you say you don't like the brand."

She then explained that James Charles couldn't have tried the product he endorsed for more than a week, and implored him to "do better research".

"Melatonin over time, not good for you. Look into the formula before you promote it."

Referring to her competitor, Tati said, "I'm not going to put $100,000 into an Instagram post.. I'd rather put that $100,000 into research and creating a really dope product. That's my standard when it comes to building my business and my brand."

My business. My brand.

That's what this feud was always about.

Almost a full week after her original video, Tati Westbrook uploaded a follow up on Thursday afternoon, titled 'Why I Did It'.

"I don't hate James Charles. I don't want you guys hating on him," she said.

"It's painful to watch someone you have cared about be dragged."

In the last week, she said, she's had repeated requests for interviews.

"If I really wanted to take him down and ruin him and cancel James Charles, I would've been at every studio, and I would've been sharing every little detail that I could," she said. "And just know I didn't."

Merciful.

Forgiving.

Compassionate.

Somehow, Tati Westbrook has managed to weave her brand of beauty supplements into a narrative about morality: good vs. bad, maturity vs. naivety, honesty vs. exploitation.

Like Tati, Halo Beauty is framed as genuinely wanting to help people, while James (and by extension SugarBearHair) are all about the relentless pursuit of profit.

It's one of the most well-executed marketing ploys in recent memory. And we all fell for it.

For more from Clare Stephens, you can follow her on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

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