Radar Watchlist: James Charles
In the age of social media and content creation, we often see influencers and online personalities grabbing significant attention, whether the attention is positive or negative. Unfortunately, YouTube influencers have a bad reputation for predatory behavior towards their fans, most of which are children. The most notable one is James Charles, a beauty influencer with an extensive history of sending inappropriate messages to minors and coercing people into having sexual relations. His content has always been rather innocent, showing off his beauty tips and tricks for his underage audience. But he has been accused of some rather serious stuff. This includes multiple allegations of grooming people of all ages, including uninterested adults and unsuspecting minors. That's a big no-no, folks.
In a leaked DM, he specified that there is no monetary incentive for becoming his "boyfriend," even for his fans who are curious and underage.
Charles denied the allegations, but admitted to messaging minors, which he claimed was not inappropriate. The screen shots beg to differ. “I saw you on my fyp [TikTok] and thought you were super handsome so just wanted to say hello,” one of them read. He later admitted to inappropriate contact with minors…and using TikTok as a dating app.
But the grooming didn't stop there. In February 2021, James Charles was accused of sending lewd photographs and inappropriate sexual messages to a then-16-year-old fan (The Cut, 2021). Multiple media reports indicate that at least 15 victims have accused Charles of predatory online behavior (The Cut, 2021). Almost immediately after Charles posted his statement denying the allegations, more alleged victims spoke out. On February 27, a 17-year-old boy accused Charles of flirting with him, even after he was made aware that the boy was under 18. Another fan accused him of sending manipulative, aggressively sexual messages in 2019 (The Cut, 2021).
In April 2021, Charles admitted to sending sexually explicit messages to two 16-year-old boys (BuzzFeed News, 2023). He said he was "reckless" when he messaged the boys whom he believed to be legal adults (The Independent, 2023). Charles admitted that he could have searched for them on other social media platforms and found their real ages…but didn't take the time to do so (BuzzFeed News, 2023). Multiple comments and tweets show him bragging about using his celebrity status to coerce strangers into romantic relationships (The Cut, 2021; Vulture, 2021).
The allegations had a significant impact on his YouTube career and personal life. He was demonetized by YouTube and lost business relationships (Business Insider, 2021). He took a short break from social media to reflect and "educate himself" on these issues, which should just be common sense (The Cut, 2023). He vowed to never again use social media for dating and promised to be more careful moving forward with every single person that he speaks to.
Charles has even faced legal consequences for his actions. In August 2021, he was sued by a former employee who accused him of wrongful termination and sexual conversations that were not suitable for work (Variety, 2021).
The allegations against James Charles have sparked conversations about the responsibility of influencers and the need for better protections for minors online. There are intense power dynamics at play when interacting with underaged fans online, but obtaining informed consent is non-negotiable. Minors cannot consent, James. Hopefully he has learned his lesson by now. But we can't help but notice a pattern. Taking accountability applies to everyone, regardless of how many likes, subscribers, or eyeshadow they've accumulated over the years. Where there's smoke, there is usually fire – and Mr. Charles has some explaining to do.
Benicia Paw. (2022, April 1). A Short Timeline of All James Charles Scandals, Allegations, and Controversies. Retrieved from https://beniciapaw.com/2022/04/01/a-short-timeline-of-all-james-charles-scandals-allegations-and-controversies/
BuzzFeed News. (2023, September 26). James thought about suicide after the grooming allegations surfaced and was cut off by his younger brother. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/leylamohammed/james-charles-suicide-grooming-allegations-minors-brother
Business Insider. (2021, April 2). Teens said beauty YouTuber James Charles sent them sexual messages. Here's how the explosive sexting scandal unfolded. Retrieved from https://www.insider.com/james-charles-allegations-snapchats-teens-accusations-controversy-apology-cancelled-drama-2021-4
Cosmopolitan. (2023, October 5). James Charles Reveals His Brother Cut Contact With Him Following Child Grooming Allegations and Says They Haven’t Spoken in Two Years. Retrieved from https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/a44535376/james-charles-interview-2023/
Independent. (2023, July 19). YouTube star James Charles breaks silence on 'grooming' allegations as he asks internet to 'un-cancel' him. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/james-charles-cosmopolitan-interview-grooming-cancel-b2377963.html
Mohammed, L. (2023, September 26). A guide to the many, many scandals of James Charles. The Cut. Retrieved from https://www.thecut.com/article/james-charles-allegations-and-accusations-explained.html
Vulture. (2023, September 21). A complete timeline of the James Charles allegations and controversies. Retrieved from https://www.vulture.com/2021/05/james-charles-allegations-controversies-timeline.html