Screenshot Instagram/@shanedawson, Twitter/@shanedawson
Shane Dawson disappeared under growing backlash this week 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 Saturday by Jada Pinkett Smith and Jaden Smith, and on Monday, Target told Insider that they were in the process of removing his books from shelves.
On Tuesday, Dawson was demonetized by YouTube and his makeup was dropped by Morphe.
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On August 1, 2018, YouTuber Shane Dawson posted “The Secret World of Jeffree Star,” his debut documentary-style video about the famous 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 two weeks have left a serious dent in their star power. Both A-list influencers have disappeared under a pile of damning resurfaced content from their decade-long careers in the social media spotlight.
The most recent drama has included public condemnation from the Smith family (as in Jada Pinkett and Jaden), and has led to both Dawson and Star bleeding 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.
Dawson and Star have both had long internet careers, sparking storied controversies over the last 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.
Shane Dawson / YouTube
Dawson, now 31, started YouTube when he was 19. Most of his early work was sketch comedy-based, 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.
Between 2013 and 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 to 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.
James Charles / YouTube
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.
In his response video “No More Lies,” Charles denied Star’s allegations and revealed private messages that Star had sent him and an aggressive tweet Star had sent his brother.
Star never produced evidence to substantiate his claims and later said he didn’t even 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 an upcoming 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. [sic].”
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. [sic]”
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.
James Charles / YouTube
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 that they could understand his justification for tweeting that Charles was a “danger to society.”
Star has never expanded further on who the “alleged victim” speaking in the voice memo is, 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 explained that Star would DM 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 individuals who make videos and post on social media about YouTube drama to an audience of their own 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.
Screenshot Instagram/@kameronlester, Twitter/@shanedawson
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 that 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 that 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, although 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 that Charles mistakenly believes that Dawson and Star worked together to “ruin his life.” Star denied it, but also stated that Charles apparently believes this “conspiracy” and has 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 alleged 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 that he knew Westbrook was making a video, but he 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. ” […] 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. [sic]”
Over the next week, frustrated YouTube fans began dredging up “receipts” of Dawson’s past bad behavior, including racist remarks and inappropriate comments about children.
ShaneGlossin / YouTube
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 entire 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 Dawson’s past bad behavior 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 does not sexualize children.
Dawson also deleted billions of views off 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 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,” although 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 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 in an unprecedented way. A clip that shows Dawson pretending to masturbate to a post of 11-year-old Willow Smith while sexualizing the lyrics to her song “Whip My Hair” caught the attention of Smith’s older brother Jaden Smith and her mother Jada Pinkett Smith.
The two A-list celebrities tweeted at Dawson, shaming him for the old stunt, and Dawson has yet to respond. Jaden wrote the clip “IS 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 up 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 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.
Dawson and Star both used controversy in their early internet careers to gain notoriety, at a time when internet culture wasn’t considered mainstream or profitable like 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 by speaking out against third-wave feminism, Islam, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
In her video, White also claims she has heard the voice memo that Star referenced on the “Mom’s Basement” podcast. White says that she Facetimed with Star and he played the recording, which she claims is “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 that 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 alleged voice memo with the intent of her talking about it on her own platform, so that the voice memo gets more attention without Star having to talk about it himself. White says that 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 their 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. Morphe didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment, but 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.
Additionally, the social media analytics website SocialBlade shows Dawson is no longer making money from any of his three YouTube channels. YouTube confirmed to Insider that the platform itself suspended monetization on all three of the 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 claimed 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.
Shortly after posting the video, Dawson took to Instagram Live claiming that Westbrook was being manipulative in the video.
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