Screenshot Instagram/@shanedawson, Twitter/@shanedawson
Shane Dawson disappeared under growing backlash against his old racist content, along with his conduct and statements regarding children and pedophiles that many deemed to be inappropriate.
Dawson's explosive written response and video apology were drowned out by angry comments and exposé videos — which also targeted his frequent collaborator Jeffree Star.
Together, Dawson and Star have spent the past two years cultivating controversy for their own benefit, but the tide has now turned against them, and they're losing friends and followers.
Notably, Dawson was called out by Jada Pinkett Smith and Jaden Smith, Target removed his books from shelves, and Morphe removed his and Jeffree Star's makeup collections from stores.
On Saturday, Star posted a long-awaited video addressing the controversy.
On August 1, 2018, the YouTuber Shane Dawson posted "The Secret World of Jeffree Star," his debut documentary-style video about the title beauty CEO and influencer. That first video (followed by 12 more) has been viewed close to 50 million times and broke ground on a path that would see Dawson and Star collaborate on the buzziest beauty launch of 2019: the Shane X Jeffree Conspiracy Collection.
Dawson and Star's rise as a YouTube powerhouse duo over the past two years was meteoric, but the past month has left a serious dent in their star power. Both A-list influencers disappeared under a pile of damning resurfaced content from their decade-long careers in the social-media spotlight until this Saturday when Star posted a video addressing the controversy.
The most recent drama has included accusations of manipulation from beauty influencer Tati Westbrook. Both Dawson and Star have bled followers across platforms, including some of their YouTube-famous friends, along with business deals.
But as drama channels, the first-line reporters covering influencers and YouTubers, will tell you, the crash has been a long time coming.
Both Dawson and Star have had long internet careers, sparking storied controversies over the past decade. Starting in 2018, Dawson and Star rebranded as a powerful YouTube duo with their successful videos and merchandise. They seemed more popular than ever.
Dawson, now 31, started YouTube when he was 19. Most of his early work was based in sketch comedy, and he developed characters based on offensive cultural stereotypes, including a Black character named Shanaynay and a Mexican character named Guadalupe. These caricatures helped Dawson gain notoriety on YouTube from 2008 to 2010, but they later resurfaced as "receipts" of Dawson's controversial and oftentimes racist past content that sometimes included blackface.
From 2013 to 2017, Dawson also hosted a podcast called "Shane and Friends" that has been the source of other "receipts" of questionable conduct, particularly his comments about pedophilia and children.
Dawson became know for his videos covering internet "conspiracy theories," which sometimes caused controversy, such as his video where he put forth the idea that Chuck E Cheese served customers leftover pieces of pizza. Chuck E Cheese denied the claim, as did a former employee who spoke with Insider.
Three months before he debuted his first video with Star, Dawson pivoted his YouTube channel in a documentarian direction after Tanacon, the failed YouTube convention spearheaded by Tana Mongeau.
Once Dawson began partnering with Star in 2018, his channel and public persona underwent a massive resurgence. The views on his documentaries far exceed any of his old videos and content, and the two say they made millions off their branded merchandise, advertisements, and sponsored content.
The pair appeared to be at a career high.
In between Dawson's two YouTube series with Star, the events known as "Dramageddon 2.0" occurred, severing major ties in the beauty community. After attacking James Charles, Star never produced evidence for the serious allegations he made. Dawson was not publicly involved, but speculation would later percolate that he had a role to play.
The first series Dawson made with Star was about exploring Star's public persona since his early days as a Myspace-famous musician up to his evolution into a makeup YouTuber. Dawson documented Star's impressive wealth and assets, including his massive estate (he recently moved into an even bigger $14.6 million mansion), and he featured Star's then-friend and teenage collaborator James Charles.
In between that first series and Dawson's "The Beautiful World of Jeffree Star" series, the events known online as "Dramageddon 2.0" occurred. In mainstream culture, this is more widely known as the feud between Charles, his beauty YouTube mentor Tati Westbrook, and Star.
It began when Westbrook uploaded the explosive "Bye Sister" video, where she alleged that Charles had questionable interactions with straight men.
Star followed the video with his own accusations against Charles, elevating the petty drama into serious claims about Charles being a "danger to society" over unsubstantiated allegations that he was a sexual predator.
Star never produced evidence to substantiate his claims and later said he didn't know if they were true.
Dawson was publicly uninvolved in the feud but came out in support of Westbrook's brand during the drama.
Later, speculation that Dawson had a behind-the-scenes role in the feud would percolate.
After the dust from Charles and Westbrook's explosive feud settled, Dawson seemed to stoke tensions by teasing coverage of the feud in a coming documentary with Star.
About three months after Charles' "No More Lies" response video, Dawson released the trailer for "The Beautiful World of Jeffree Star." In that trailer, Dawson included clips suggesting that the documentary would include coverage of the drama.
But in the actual documentary series, Dawson didn't include any of the teased scenes, nor did he provide any new details about "Dramageddon 2.0," which disappointed some viewers. Later, Dawson apologized for teasing drama in the trailer, writing:
"Putting drama in the trailer was something i regret more than anything in the world and I'm mad that I chose tea over my morals. Im really sorry to Tati and James if me putting their drama in the series at all felt like I was reopening up wounds. Although I did speak to both of them privately about the trailer I should not have even done it AT ALL."
One of Charles' close friends Cassiee MUA responded to Dawson's apology about teasing the drama in a YouTube comment, writing "james kindly asked him not to post that trailer, because it would reopen wounds that he was still trying to heal from."
—kayden 🧷 (@safetypinjames) June 24, 2020
Now, the incident is being pointed to as one of the reasons for Dawson's "cancellation."
Star appeared on the "Mom's Basement" podcast in April 2020, further poking at the feud by reopening claims he made against Charles and discussing Dawson's speculated role in the past drama.
When Charles first released "No More Lies," Star angrily ranted on Snapchat that he would be releasing "receipts" that countered what Charles said in his video. He later changed course and released an apology video instead, saying he would never involve himself in drama that didn't concern him again because it was too reminiscent of the "old Jeffree." Before becoming a makeup guru and famous YouTuber, Star courted controversy as an intentionally offensive Myspace persona.
But Star did eventually tease those "receipts."
In late April 2020, he appeared on the "Mom's Basement" podcast hosted by Daniel "Keemstar" Keem, and Star was asked about the conclusion of "Dramageddon 2.0." Star then told the podcast hosts that he had a voice memo on his phone of an "alleged victim of James Charles." Star said he would play the voice memo for the podcast hosts if they wished to hear it so they could understand his justification for tweeting that Charles was a "danger to society."
Star has never expanded on the identity of the person speaking in the voice memo, but in "No More Lies," Charles showed texts Star had sent him privately that detailed the names of the people Star said would accuse Charles. In "No More Lies," Charles expanded on his experiences with the three names Star mentioned and denied the accusations. The three people mentioned have not publicly accused Charles of sexual misconduct.
A representative of Charles' previously declined to Insider to comment about what Star said during his "Mom's Basement" podcast appearance, while a representative of Star's directed Insider to the podcast episode for Star's statement.
In June, exposés about Star and Dawson started gaining traction on YouTube.
In June, multiple drama channels — or YouTubers who make videos about things like Dramageddon 2.0 and YouTube drama — made exposés about Star. The first channel to do so was Ashlye Kyle. Sanders Kennedy and The Viewer's Voice followed suit.
Kyle in particular said that Star would direct-message her and send her his own thoughts on Charles along with information she could use for her videos. She and other drama channels have apologized for their role in shifting public opinion against Charles without hearing his side of the story first. Star has not responded to these allegations.
These exposés made waves in the YouTube drama community, a loose network of people who make videos and post on social media about YouTube drama to an audience of their peers and fans. The videos popularized the belief that Star and Dawson may have had more involvement in Dramageddon 2.0 than originally thought. Many of these accounts, such as Sebastian Williams, publicly collected the "offensive/inappropriate jokes" made by Dawson and Star in the past in viral callout threads.
A Black beauty micro-influencer also accused Star and Dawson of "manipulating" him.
Kameron Lester, a micro-influencer who worked with Star on makeup campaigns for Jeffree Star Cosmetics, made an exposé that gained traction in the YouTube drama community and among fans of beauty YouTubers. In his video, Lester said both Star and Dawson "manipulated" him and used him as a "token Black boy" on their social-media profiles (and for Star, in his makeup advertisements) to appear more diverse.
Lester appeared in Star's "Magic Star" concealer and setting-powder advertising campaign in April 2019, and he posted his Instagram Live exposé on June 10. Lester didn't respond to Insider's request for comment, and no one else has verified his specific claims.
Lester also said that he overheard Dawson "curse out" Charles during a Facetime call between Star and Dawson. Lester said he knew the two had drama with Charles during the lead-up to Dramageddon 2.0, and he says he feels guilty for not warning Charles about what was coming.
Following Lester's video, Star left him a voicemail and denied Lester's allegations against him. The voicemail was leaked to drama channels and contributed to the negative wave that would soon erupt after Dawson acknowledged the rumors about his role in the feud between Charles, Westbrook, and Star.
The specific rumors about Dawson's involvement started with what Star said on the "Mom's Basement" podcast, though drama channels have long speculated — without providing evidence — that Star and Dawson manipulated the feud between Westbrook and Charles.
On "Mom's Basement," Star said Charles mistakenly believed that Dawson and Star worked together to "ruin his life." Star denied it but also said Charles apparently believed this "conspiracy" and had shared it with others.
"Everyone wants to make me out 'You ruined James Charles' career,'" Star said on the April 2020 podcast. "No, Tati did, and uploaded a 40-minute video about him and she should never have uploaded that. But she did, and for some reason, James thinks that me and Shane tried to ruin his life and orchestrated the whole thing like we f---ing care."
Star also said he would play the voice memo on his phone for Charles if Charles ever wanted to meet privately and discuss "exactly what happened behind the scenes."
"But I'll be real, he messaged one of my close friends and basically said that he unfollowed that guy because my friend follows me and Shane who 'tried to ruin his life,'" Star said on the podcast. "So the fact that he still thinks that a few weeks ago is scary. Tati did that. We didn't."
Under pressure from drama channels and frustrated fans, Dawson posted a poorly received note on Twitter announcing he would leave the beauty community.
In response to the rumors that were circulating about his involvement in the original feud between Charles, Westbrook, and Star, Dawson posted an explosive rant to Twitter that was poorly received. In it, he denied planning or orchestrating the feud behind the scenes. He also said he knew Westbrook was making a video but didn't know how "intense" the "Bye Sister" video would be, so he said his shocked reaction in the Conspiracy series trailer was genuine.
"So did I 'plan' dramageddon? Are you SERIOUS? NO," Dawson wrote. "Do people in the Youtube world come to me like a grandpa and ask me for advice? Yes. Is it easy for me to get wrapped up in something potentially toxic if I think someone I love is hurting or upset? Yes. It's an issue I need to work on and have been working on."
Dawson also wrote that Charles needed to be "humbled" but later clarified that the humbling should have taken place off-camera. He criticized beauty gurus and announced he would no longer be participating in the beauty community, which he said wasn't just for money. Dawson also later said his rant was written in a joking manner, including about Charles needing "a slice of humble pie."
"The beauty gurus who are ALWAYS involved in scandals are ALL THE F---ING SAME. They are all attention seeking game playing egocentric narcissistic vengeful two faced ticking time bombs ready to explode," Dawson wrote in the original statement, adding: "Yes, jeffree is in that list of dramatic gurus (and he would admit that) and he will always be family to me and I love him despite those characteristics. He's VERY aware of the fact that I don't agree with many of the ways he approaches situations and I have been very honest with him about needing to make some changes."
Over the next week, frustrated YouTube fans began dredging up "receipts" of bad behavior by Dawson, including racist remarks and inappropriate comments about children.
Dawson's rant didn't go over too well with the beauty community or the YouTube drama community. Other beauty YouTubers and creators in the YouTube space criticized him for generalizing the community as "dramatic" when he chose to collaborate with Star, who is the only beauty guru involved in both "Dramageddon" scandals.
As anger over Dawson's dismissal of the beauty community boiled over and his name trended on social media, a race to find "receipts," or evidence, of bad behavior by Dawson began. This culminated in several viral Twitter threads and a lot of drama YouTube videos about everything from old, racist remarks — Dawson used the N-word on camera — to questionable remarks that Dawson made about young children and pedophiles. These included comments he made to young female fans on video chat sites like Omegle and TinyChat, but Dawson also used his podcast platform to call a young female Instagram user "sexy," and he compared pedophilia to a foot fetish.
Old videos and captioned photos of Dawson with children also resurfaced that depicted him sexualizing children, talking to children about sex, and imitating predatory behavior in a mocking way. Later, Dawson said he did not sexualize children.
—raina (@misshemlock) June 26, 2020
—Sebastian Williams (@sebas_williams) June 27, 2020
Dawson also appeared to lose more than 1 billion views from both his main YouTube channel and his past side YouTube channels by removing old content, according to statistics from the social-media analytics website SocialBlade. He also dropped from 23 million YouTube subscribers to 22 million.
The next weekend, Dawson followed his friend Jenna Mourey's lead and released a video called "Taking Accountability."
On June 26, as more unearthed content flooded the internet, Dawson made an apology video styled after his friend Jenna Mourey, the YouTuber known as Jenna Marbles who announced she would be leaving her channel after criticism of old racist and sexist videos.
"Blackface was something that I did a lot ... on my channel," Dawson said in the video. "And there's no excuse for it. There's literally no excuse. I made a video six years ago talking about it, and I gave excuses and it was wrong ... But I didn't do the work."
Dawson also said he would never talk about a child "in a way that is inappropriate," though more resurfaced videos and fan testimonies showed Dawson making controversial and sometimes sexual statements about children for content.
"At this point, realizing how many people I've hurt or how many people I've inspired to say awful things or do anything awful, to finally just own up to all of this and be accountable is worth losing everything to me," he said.
But Dawson's video backfired, and one resurfaced clip of him pretending to masturbate to a then-11-year-old Willow Smith prompted her famous brother and mother to respond.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
One of the videos that resurfaced after Dawson's apology caused it to backfire. A clip that shows Dawson pretending to masturbate to a post of a then-11-year-old Willow Smith while sexualizing the lyrics to her song "Whip My Hair" caught the attention of Smith's brother Jaden Smith and her mother, Jada Pinkett Smith.
—Jada Pinkett Smith (@jadapsmith) June 27, 2020
—Jaden (@jaden) June 27, 2020
The two A-list celebrities tweeted at Dawson, shaming him for the old stunt, and Dawson has yet to respond. Jaden wrote the clip was "THE FURTHEST THING FROM FUNNY AND NOT OKAY IN THE SLIGHTEST BIT," while his mother wrote, "I'm done with the excuses."
Following the callouts, Dawson lost famous followers and lots of subscribers across platforms.
Dawson has now lost subscribers across platforms, and he's also lost some of his famous followers who are his YouTube peers. No one besides his remaining fans have publicly spoken up in support of Dawson, including Star.
Charles, who followed Dawson until June 21, unfollowed him. So did Gabbie Hanna, one of Dawson's former friends and collaborators, along with RawBeautyKristi and Manny MUA, two major beauty YouTubers.
Target also announced that it would stop selling Dawson's autobiographies in its stores, and petitions to drop Dawson and Star from the makeup brand Morphe and other sponsors began circulating after the Smith family members' disavowals of Dawson. Star also dropped from 18 million YouTube subscribers to 17 million and lost followers that included Dawson's soon-to-be sister-in-law, Morgan Adams, who had appeared with Star on Dawson's channel.
Both Dawson and Star used controversy in their early internet careers to gain notoriety, at a time when internet culture wasn't considered mainstream or profitable as it is today. While they only met and started to collaborate in 2018, their reputations have become so conjoined in the past two years that their subscriber losses are occurring simultaneously.
Then another controversial YouTuber, Blaire White, put out an exposé calling Star a "monster" and said Star played his voice memo of "an alleged victim of James Charles" for her.
On June 28, a YouTuber named Blaire White made an exposé video about Star and disavowed Dawson, a friend and former collaborator of hers. White has a controversial reputation, supporting President Donald Trump and speaking out against third-wave feminism, Islam, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
In her video, White also says she has heard the voice memo Star mentioned on the "Mom's Basement" podcast. White says she Facetimed with Star and he played the recording, which she describes as "credible" for her. White also did not elaborate very much on the recording but said it was another YouTuber speaking and described it as "blackmail" against Charles.
White also said Star told her about another unreported rape allegation against a famous YouTuber, and she described Star lying to her about his past and being manipulative.
"I don't view something like this as gossip that you hold over someone's head. This is something serious. This is a crime," White said in her video. "Just the fact that he's blackmailing people with this is disgusting, and the fact that I am supposed to hold onto this information as well [...] and just the shocking fact that this is our first interaction ever and he's telling me this, I'm like 'How many other people know this and have heard this voice memo?'"
White also clarified in an Instagram story that it's possible that Star played her the recording for attention, with the intent of her talking about it on her own platform. White says both Star and Dawson "were frantic" about her video and didn't want her to put it out.
Star has not responded to White's video.
Morphe seemingly dropped Star and Dawson's collection from its website, and YouTube demonetized Dawson's three channels.
Shane Dawson, Morphe
On June 30, members of the YouTube drama community noticed that the Shane X Jeffree Conspiracy Collection had disappeared from Morphe's website.
The makeup brand previously collaborated with Dawson and Star to market the collection and sell it in their stores and on their e-commerce platform. Now, searching "Conspiracy," "Shane Dawson," and "Shane Dawson X Jeffree Star" on the Morphe website fails to bring up results. The brand is still, however, selling Star's standalone makeup products.
In an email to a customer, Morphe wrote it did "not condone or agree with the actions and behavior of Shane Dawson, and they do not in any way reflect Morphe's beliefs," writing that it no longer carried the Conspiracy collection.
—𝙩𝙚𝙖 𝙨𝙚𝙨𝙝 (@TeaSeshYT) July 1, 2020
Morphe still, however, still sells Star's products outside the Conspiracy collection.
"Jeffree Star has acknowledged mistakes made in the past and has apologized, taken accountability, and worked hard to make amends within the community," the email added.
YouTube also confirmed to Insider that the platform had suspended monetization on all three of Dawson's channels: Dawson's main channel, "Shane"; his archive channel of old content, "Shane Dawson TV" (he has removed all content from this channel); and his ill-fated makeup channel, "Shane Glossin'."
On Tuesday, Westbrook posted a video alleging that Dawson and Star manipulated her into starting the 2019 feud between her and Charles.
Tati Westbook/ YouTube, Shane Dawson / Instagram
On Tuesday, Westbrook posted an explosive video seemingly backing up much of the speculation around Dawson and Star's involvement in the beauty war of 2019.
She said that she was "manipulated," "used," and "gaslit" by the pair and that posting the 2019 video was one of the biggest regrets of her life.
Among other claims, Westbrook said Dawson offered to edit her "Bye Sister" video as well as make the thumbnail and help her come up with a title.
Westbrook also said the previous statements made by Star and by Dawson about her involvement versus theirs in Dramgeddon 2.0 were "defamatory," and she threatened legal action, saying she was "well within" the statute of limitations.
Shortly after posting the video, Dawson took to Instagram Live claiming that Westbrook was being manipulative in the video, but his rants were poorly received, in part because he has so far failed to address the Smith family's tweets about him.
Westbrook also shared the theory that Star had partial ownership of Morphe Cosmetics, which the beauty company then told Insider was false.
Tati Westbrook/YouTube; Jason Koerner/Getty Images
During her "Breaking My Silence" video, Westbrook said she had been "informed" that Star had partial ownership of Morphe Cosmetics, the fast-growing makeup company that works closely with top beauty YouTubers and sold both Charles' eyeshadow palette and the Shane X Jeffree Conspiracy Collection.
"I have also recently been informed that Jeffree is allegedly a co-owner of Morphe," Westbrook said. "Before the scandal occurred, I had also been told that James Charles was about to develop an entire cosmetics line with the owners of Morphe. This entire situation opens up a Pandora's Box of speculation."
"We can confirm that Jeffree Star no ownership of Morphe," the representative said. "He's not an investor. He's not a co-owner. Our only relationship is through the retail distribution of Jeffree Star Cosmetics and our 2019 MorpheX collaboration."
So far many other YouTubers have chimed in, including Dawson's fiancé and Trisha Paytas.
Westbrook's video was instantly explosive in the YouTube community, drawing response videos and statements out from other YouTubers.
Dawson's fiancé, Ryland Adams, issued a slew of tweets calling Westbrook a "two faced liar" and her video a "master class in manipulation."
—Ryland Adams (@Ryland_Adams) June 30, 2020
Eugenia Cooney and Brittani Taylor, two friends of Dawson, tweeted out their support of him. Cooney was also the subject of one of Dawson's documentary-style videos about her eating disorder, which was criticized by experts.
Trisha Paytas, a longtime friend of Dawson's and more recent friend of Star's, tweeted in support of Dawson and posted a video called "Tati dumb as hell" where she criticized Westbrook for re-upping the 2019 drama to shift blame. She also said Westbrook failed to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
"I'm not deflecting or defending past behaviors," Paytas said in the video. "Shane owned up to his s---, still waiting for Jeffree's apology. I will make it clear that Shane is literally my brother ... I will never stop loving him."
Paytas seemingly confirmed that Star bullied her on a February 2020 trip.
Screenshot Instagram/@trishapaytas, @jeffreestar
In one video that preceded June and July's drama, a former friend of Star's named Tab David made a series of claims about Star's behavior during a February 2020 trip to Las Vegas. David accused Star of making anti-Semitic and xenophobic comments, and David also said Star and his entourage made fun of a friend's weight, skin, and past drug abuse.
Since Paytas accompanied Star on the Vegas trip, it was widely rumored that the "friend" David was referring to was her. While responding to Westbrook's video, Paytas confirmed that Star left her "in tears" after the Vegas trip.
Then, when talking about drama during a drive-thru mukbang a week later, Paytas said Star had reached out to her to apologize, but she didn't feel like she could accept his apology. Paytas said the things Star said about her were "petty" but really hurt her feelings. She also said Star had been "working on himself" in the meantime.
A drama YouTuber said the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department was investigating Dawson.
Drama YouTuber Sanders Kennedy released a video that said Dawson was under investigation by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, which Kennedy said was urging "victims" to come forward. The video caused huge backlash in the drama community when other YouTube sleuths called in and found out that there was just a suspicious circumstance file but no official investigation, meaning that someone had sent in Dawson's old videos as evidence, but there were no first-hand testimonies or victims.
Kennedy confirmed to Insider that he had sent old videos depicting Dawson with minors to the LASD, while the sergeant who compiled the file told Insider that any reports of an investigation into Dawson were "misinformation."
Further, Dawson's lawyer told Insider that Dawson's legal representatives would "take appropriate action" against Kennedy for misrepresenting the suspicious circumstance report on Kennedy's for-profit YouTube channel.
In July, Morphe severed commercial ties with Jeffree Star Cosmetics.
Tati Westbrook/YouTube; Jason Koerner/Getty Images
On July 10, cosmetics company Morphe announced that it would sever all commercial ties with Star and his makeup brand, Jeffree Star Cosmetics. Previously, JSC products were only physically sold in Morphe stores around the US and Canada, and now customers can only buy the items online (besides the remaining stock).
"Today we've made the decision to cease all commercial activity related to Jeffree Star and affiliated products," the statement, posted to Morphe's Twitter account, read. "We expect this to conclude within the coming weeks."
Following the announcement, JSC posted a statement to Instagram that said "We are shocked and extremely saddened by the decision of our former retail partner Morphe Brushes on parting ways with our band and Jeffree." Star's cosmetics line is currently planning another upcoming launch slated for August 2020.
After his internet hiatus, Star returned to apologize to Charles.
In an apology video titled "Doing What's Right," Star apologized to Charles for his role in the 2019 feud. While Star didn't address Westbrook by name, he also said that many of the claims circulating YouTube about him were fake. Star said he has never blackmailed anyone, committed a crime, or gone to jail.
In his return video, which didn't address many of the claims about Star's conduct, Star reaffirmed his friendship with Dawson and said his silence didn't mean a loss of support. He invoked the names of victims of police brutality — a move that proved unpopular on social media — and said his lawyers were considering releasing "texts" and other evidence that could clear his name regarding some claims. He didn't specify which.
After posting "Doing What's Right," Star resumed his normal content on Instagram and Twitter. Dawson still has yet to make an online comeback.
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