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Why Do Influencers Keep Getting Away with Bad Behavior?

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Wed, May 08

Whether it's beauty gurus like James Charles or vloggers like Colleen Ballinger, many influencers and YouTubers have been subject to getting ‘canceled’, but somehow they always make a comeback, and despite the negative press with evidence, there is always an audience waiting for them. They tend to drop a sob story and an apology, and while many fans do not continue to follow them, others simply buy these apologies and forgive them.

Why do these people continue to have platforms? Is it the responsibility of sites like YouTube and Instagram to disable their accounts? To what extent are we as consumers of their content responsible? Let's dive into a few popular cases of cancel culture and explore these questions.

James Charles

Photo: Lone Fox on Wikimedia Commons

James Charles, currently 24 years old, is a makeup and beauty YouTuber. Having started his YouTube channel in 2015 with makeup tutorials, his content blew up in 2017, and he ended up being the first male brand ambassador for Cover Girl. Everything in his career seemed to be going really well with some amazing collaborations videos with celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Zendaya.

James' most notable scandal is that of the allegations of non-consensual and predatory behavior. In 2019, Gage Gomez (20) claimed that James was sexually inappropriate towards him despite Gage not even being attracted to men. Things took a turn in 2021 when James defended Tiktokers Ondreaz and Xavier Lopez after they had been accused of grooming, and the story of James being inappropriate with a 16-year-old surfaced on the internet.

Three other boys, all minors, also brought up allegations against James, and it looked like the internet had turned against him. While James made initial attempts to defend himself, he ended up issuing an apology. However, the internet had already “canceled” him as more such issues came to light.

James Charles Addressing the Controversy

After getting canceled, he went radio silent only to come back and launch his own makeup brand called Painted. While his comment sections are still filled with negative statements on his prior behavior, many influencers have participated as brand ambassadors for him despite his actions.

Many have not only criticized him because of his behavior, but they have also talked about his ineffective marketing tactics and mediocre and overpriced products. Like other social media feuds, despite not being as popular as before, James still has an audience as well as other influencers who continue to collaborate with him. The question that arises from this is did him getting canceled really do anything? He still has a career and supporters, and no social media platform has made an attempt to remove someone who is proven to be dangerous from their platforms.

Colleen Ballinger (Miranda Sings)

Colleen is now mostly known for her infamous ukulele song “Toxic Gossip Train”, which was a response to the various allegations made against her. The 36-year-old YouTuber, creator of her viral character Miranda Sings, has been under fire since many of her ex-fans have taken to the internet to claim that they were groomed by her and members of her team as well as family. Adam McIntyre, one of the victims in the situation, has been speaking up about this since 2020 on his YouTube channel, and things really took a turn in 2023.

The Toxic Gossip Train Video by Colleen Ballinger

More and more victims came around to talk about the situation, following which Colleen released her toxic gossip train video which quickly became a meme on the internet because of the fact that she pulled out a ukulele and launched into song for some extremely serious and damaging allegations was absolutely ridiculous.

Many more things started to come to light, including how Colleen befriended Trisha Paytas, started a podcast with her and shared her explicit photos with minors, encouraging them to make fun of her body. While Trisha has had her own problematic past, Colleen's victims have spoken in support of her in this situation. Swoop, a filmmaker on YouTube has covered the entire story in extreme detail.

While Colleen has received an intense amount of backlash, there are people like Jojo Siwa who continue to support her, and there are Colleen fans who have gone to the extent of doxxing Adam McIntyre, making him worry for his safety. He ended up moving to a different city. Despite the events that have unfolded, Colleen continues to make vlogs on YouTube, and there are people who still consume her content.

Once again, how much did the backlash harm her? It looks like unless serious legal action is taken (such as in the case of Ruby Franke, who got arrested) these influencers continue to use their platforms without even properly acknowledging that they did something wrong.

Lizzo

Photo: Raph_PH on Wikimedia Commons

Lizzo, a popular rapper and singer, went viral on social media in 2019 due to her catchy songs, some notable ones being Good as [censored] and Juice. She has been widely known for lyrics highlighting self-love and has built a brand called Yitty around the message of body positivity. As a plus-size woman, she has received her share of comments on her body, and she has constantly talked about wanting to normalize all kinds of bodies and help more women love their bodies.

Lizzo came under fire in 2023 when some of her former dancers alleged that Lizzo created an extremely toxic work environment. The allegations also state instances of sexual harassment, body-shaming and intense work hours. While the lawsuit was initially filed by three dancers, six more brought up similar complaints.

Other claims stated that Lizzo pressured dancers to participate in sexual activity against their will at clubs in Paris and Amsterdam. These allegations were extremely shocking considering that a huge part of Lizzo's brand has been self-love, self-acceptance and body positivity. Religious harassment has also been a part of the allegations. Many YouTubers have given their own take on the situation.

Adam McIntyre's Coverage of the Lawsuit

Shirlene Quigley, the dance captain of Lizzo's tour was also sued for similar reasons. Lizzo has denied all allegations made against her. However, the internet seemed to be collectively on the side of the dancers.

As of February 2024, certain parts of the lawsuit were dismissed. However, the judge allowed the rest to go ahead to trial.

In 2024, nobody seems to be talking about this anymore. Lizzo made an appearance at the Met Gala and even made a post on Instagram that said “Did y'all hear about Lizzo & her dancers? They threw a Yitty Swim Pool Party!” While we still don't know the outcome of the trial or to what extent the allegations were true, Lizzo continues to have a platform. However, one thing that is important to note is that regardless of what Lizzo might have done, it is not an excuse to fat-shame her.

Conclusion

These three cases talk about how easy it is for influencers to come back and continue to have an audience that is already waiting for them. The scandals all three people are involved in are extremely serious and disheartening. Since many of us are only outsiders in such situations we may not know to what extent these allegations are true.

There are many problematic statements and actions that have been proven which makes such influencers dangerous, yet they have fans and a platform where they can propagate dangerous ideologies. Many other influencers and celebrities such as the Kardashians, Shane Dawson, Jojo Siwa, David Dobrik and more have been under fire because of their behavior, and all of them continue to post content, influencing people of all ages.

It also sends out a message to other up-and-coming influencers that it is possible for them to continue their careers no matter what they do. It has been very rare that influencers have lost their accounts, gotten arrested or simply disappeared from the internet. We as consumers of this content have a responsibility to not continue to support such people.

Social media platforms should also take up accountability and have stricter rules to make sure that they are not misused. As consumers, I would encourage you to do your own research to understand such situations before deciding to continue to support someone.

Sapna Kappal
10k+ pageviews

Sapna is a graduate of Psychology with a Literature minor from India. She enjoys discussing and writing about pop culture, music, mental health, travel, language, and diversity and is going to do research in the field of language and intercultural communication in the UK.

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