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Editor’s Note: This article contains mentions of eating disorders and disordered eating. Please take care while reading, and note the helpful resources at the end of this story. This story does not contain photos or videos embedded in the article.
Name: Eugenia Cooney (Born: Colleen Cooney)
Birthday: 7/27/1994 (29 years old)
About Eugenia Cooney:
In 2015, viewers started to become concerned about Cooney because it seemed in her videos like she’d lost a substantial amount of weight. Fans were worried about her impact on young viewers and launched a since-deleted Change.org petition called “Temporarily Ban Eugenia Cooney off of YouTube.” In it, the creator wrote, “Eugenia Cooney has a serious medical condition and needs to seek help. … She has been influencing her viewers by her serious underweight condition.”
In a video response to the petition, Cooney denied that she had an eating disorder but apologized to anyone who thought she was a “bad influence.”
“I have never told anyone to try to lose weight or to try to change the way they look or to look like me,” Cooney said in the video.
In fact, Cooney has never talked about having an eating disorder or verbally glorified eating disorders, despite her body being the fixation of numerous “thinspiration” accounts. Thinspiration photos are shared on platforms to idealize and inspire certain mostly thin body types, the Journal of Eating Disorders explained, and are typically accompanied by weight-loss quotes or techniques.
The Statesman argued in a 2019 article that that is what makes Cooney’s YouTube channel basically untouchable.
“It would be difficult for YouTube to act in the strange case of Eugenia Cooney,” reporter Amelia Tait wrote. “Because her medical history is unknown and because she has never spoken about eating disorders, it would arguably be discriminatory for the site to ban her because of her extreme appearance.”
In 2019, fans feared Eugenia Cooney was dead
After three years of fans expressing concern over Cooney’s weight, they worried even more when she stopped posting on social media for a little over a week in early 2019.
In January, Cooney uploaded a video demonstrating a cosplay hair and makeup tutorial. The video has 8 million views and almost 80,000 comments, the majority of which were focused on Cooney’s body and weight.
“I am speechless,” one commenter wrote. “I’ve been watching in the shadows for years and today my heart sank. You are such a beautiful person, and it’s evident you are struggling with something so much bigger than we can imagine.”
“This is like watching someone die on camera,” another commented.
Then, toward the end of the month, Cooney’s social media went dark. She didn’t post for eight days on any platform, which for a YouTuber as big as Cooney had been, was immediately noticeable to her followers. Theories around whether she had died from an eating disorder or an unknown illness spiraled, and fans ended up contacting Cooney’s local police department in Greenwich, Conn.
In early February, Cooney shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, that she was just taking a social media break. The Greenwich police department also shared that it was “aware of the online communities concern” but to “please respect her privacy and wishes.”
It was five months later, in July, when Cooney uploaded another YouTube video. In it she explained that she had been in treatment with her doctor and went to a rehab program for a month, but she did not specify what for.
“I am doing a lot better now, which is good,” she says. “I wasn’t even realizing how bad things were getting and, I don’t know, it’s just a lot.”
She explained that she had been overwhelmed by commenters in early 2019 constantly hounding her to get help for her eating disorder. She said she started to consider getting help after she found her mom crying one morning about her weight, but a few days later, she was ambushed by friends who had called a psychiatric emergency team (PET).
Cooney, who was in Los Angeles at the time, said she was subsequently put in restraints and carried out on a stretcher to a psychiatric ward when the PET determined it was appropriate to 5150 her into treatment.
“Once you get there, it’s very scary because you see some crazy things going on,” Cooney tells Morton in the video. “There was a bunch of people screaming; there was one guy who was telling me how he’d just got out of a county jail.”
Shane Dawson’s documentary on Eugenia Cooney
Shane Dawson, who previously humanized other Youtuber controversies including those surrounding Tana Mongeau, Jake Paul and Jeffree Star, released an hourlong documentary about Cooney around the same time she rejoined YouTube.
It takes 33 minutes before the documentary shows Cooney discussing her eating disorder. For allegedly the first time in public, Cooney confirmed she had a problem.
“I’ve never heard you say (A.) that you have or had a problem and (B.) what it is,” Dawson asks Cooney in the video.
“So, yes, I was dealing with an eating disorder,” Cooney responds. She later struggles with defining the disorder further, which is interspersed with footage of Dawson also speaking with Morton about how many different kinds of eating disorders exist.
Cooney also said her eating disorder started before she joined YouTube, after experiencing years of bullying at school. But, she explained, YouTube comments pointing out her body were what made her feel “really badly.”
“I guess [the eating disorder] was just kind of progressing, and I wasn’t doing much to stop that,” she says. “Eventually it got to a point where I really realized it would be a good idea to get some help.”
In both Dawson’s documentary and her own video, Cooney said she felt she had been on the cusp of asking for help before getting 5150’d by her friends. But YouTuber Jaclyn Glenn, who said she was one of Cooney’s friends involved in the 5150, posted a video directly responding to Dawson’s documentary that contradicted that sentiment. In her video response, Glenn says Dawson’s documentary “made me feel sick.”
“The story that was told paints the situation in a very misleading way, whether or not that was the intention,” Glenn wrote in her video’s caption.
Glenn claimed that she, along with creators David Michael Frank and Evangeline DeMuro, felt that 5150 was the only option because they had exhausted other ways of trying to talk to Cooney about her eating disorder.
“It was pretty clear she had no intention of getting any kind of help,” Glenn says.
Glenn also alleged that Cooney’s home environment was not willing to let mental health professionals in to help.
“There were so many things that were going on that were toxic in that household,” she claims. “The conclusion was that the only thing I could do was if I had her out of her house and into my apartment or into some other area where the mental health professionals could come and talk to her, that I would be able to legally let them in to my own place.”
Speculation about Cooney’s mom, Debra, is part of the lore surrounding the YouTuber and her eating disorder. In a restricted subreddit dedicated to Cooney, a search for posts about Deb comes up with hundreds of results that date back to 2018, some of them debating whether Cooney’s mother could be held partly responsible for how severe her eating disorder had gotten.
In a recent stream from April, Cooney brought her mom on camera. A clip captured from the stream shows Deb looking irritated in response to a comment about her daughter’s weight.
“I know she eats, she takes good care of herself,” Deb responds. “She does look skinny minnie, but she does take good care of herself.”
Despite the millions of people who watched Dawson’s documentary on her, in 2020 Cooney disappointed fans again after denying she had an eating disorder while streaming on Twitch. During another stream later that year, she replied “I’m not forcing you to watch my content,” to a fan who expressed concern over her size.
Eugenia Cooney, Jeffree Star and TikTok
Since joining TikTok, Cooney has picked up doing almost nightly TikTok Live battles, wherein creators compete for users to send them monetary gifts in order to “win.” In August, she added former beauty YouTuber Jeffree Star to be a moderator on her TikTok Live chats, after she faced backlash for publicly agreeing with him that “there are only two genders.”
During a Sept. 24 stream, viewers noticed she disabled green heart emojis on her TikTok Lives. Green heart emojis are commonly understood online to be a symbol of “recovery,” especially from an eating disorder. Initially, Star was allegedly blocking users who were sending green hearts because Cooney had said in a prior stream she found them “a little weird.”
But some fans are confused by Star and Cooney’s relationship. In a video edited by reaction YouTuber OhLordyItsJordy, there are some instances on TikTok Live in which it looks like Star is making fun of Cooney.
In a Sept. 25 TikTok Live, Cooney laughed at commenters claiming Star “secretly hates” her. As more comments popped up of users expressing concern for Cooney, Star said, “You guys, if Eugenia can go LIVE, then she’s fine, OK?”
“I know you guys, I’m enabling,” Star says later in a sarcastic tone. “You guys, leave me and Eugenia alone, we’re just two petite girls trying to live our lives.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating habits, contact the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237. You can also connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor at no charge by texting the word “HOME” to 741741. Visit the NEDA website to learn more about the possible warning signs of eating disorders and disordered eating.
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