Do you ever take a look back at all of the beefs, dramas, and social media scandals of 2020 and just think, "Wow, that’s a lot?" 2020 has been fraught with public debates about the presidential election and how the government has handled the coronavirus pandemic, and YouTubers had their fair share of controversy too. When looking back at all of it, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
While you’re no stranger to YouTube drama, the "scandals" of 2020 weren’t your run-of-the-mill, petty back-and-forths between YouTube’s biggest influencers of the moment. 2020 was a challenging year marked by tragedy and loss. It saw beauty gurus and longtime vloggers alike taken to task for racist jokes they made years ago and offensive displays of privilege that had gone unaddressed for far too long.
Audiences finally holding creators accountable made a major impact, teaching creators and their audiences lessons about racism and privilege that could potentially change YouTube forever, and for the better. Read on to get the full recap on how this year led to YouTube’s most popular faces finally facing consequences for their actions.
Influencers Sparked Outrage For Ignoring Social Distancing Guidelines
Jake Paul was one of the first YouTubers to spark major backlash for holding a party at his Calabasas mansion on July 11 amid the global coronavirus pandemic. Footage from the party made its way to social media, demonstrating to his followers just how little regard the prankster and boxer had for California’s social distancing guidelines. The story made national headlines and sparked a larger conversation about how wealthy influencers were conducting themselves during the outbreak.
The initial public outrage did not act as a deterrent for Paul’s party-boy behavior, though. On Nov. 28, he threw another massive rager to celebrate his victory in a boxing match against former NBA player Nate Robinson. The event, once again, drew the ire of the public, including Calabasas mayor Alicia Weintraub. She condemned the event, telling TMZ Paul "should be ashamed of himself for allowing it when so many are suffering from the virus."
Paul is not the only celebrity who came under fire for flouting social distancing guidelines. Several YouTubers faced backlash for their behavior, including Paul’s ex-wife, Tana Mongeau. She attended an influencer-packed Hype House party on July 21. Other YouTuber attendees of the now-notorious party included James Charles, Nikita Dragun, and Emma Chamberlain.
YouTubers Faced A Reckoning For Past Racist Videos
In the wake of multiple senseless killings of Black Americans at the hands of police, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, in early 2020, YouTube audiences began waking up to the reality of the racism Black people and people of color still face in the United States. In turn, they began resurfacing videos of popular creators who perpetuated the use of racist and offensive jokes in their early videos, demanding they take accountability. Apology videos flooded in thereafter.
First, in a May 12 video, Colleen Ballinger apologized for impersonating and perpetuating negative stereotypes about Latina women in past videos. Then, in a June 25 apology, Jenna Marbles apologized for her use of blackface and jokes about Asians in old videos. Days later, former couple Liza Koshy and David Dobrik, who faced backlash for their joint uploads featuring racist impressions of Japanese people and Dobrik’s use of the N-word, both apologized for their actions — Koshy via Twitter on June 28 and Dobrik via his podcast on July 1.
All four industry titans said they’d learned from their actions and promised to be better role models in the future. Since they’ve had relatively scandal-free reputations in recent years, Ballinger, Marbles, Koshy, and Dobrik’s audiences seemed to cautiously view their apologies as genuine, and they all continue to post videos (with the exception of Marbles, who quit YouTube altogether). For other creators whose careers have been defined by consistent controversies, however, audiences were less inclined to accept one more too-little-too-late apology like usual.
In a June 26 video, Shane Dawson addressed numerous resurfaced clips of him performing in blackface and using the N-word. As for Tana Mongeau, on top of videos of her saying racial slurs resurfacing, former collaborators of color like Kahlen Berry and Nessa Briella spoke out about their negative experiences working with her, accusing her of racist microaggressions against them. Mongeau ended up uploading an apology video on Sept. 4 promising she would be better moving forward (and insisting she meant it this time).
But after getting called out for various offensive behaviors countless times over the years, Dawson and Mongeau’s videos left their viewers divided over whether they were genuine, with many audience members (and Berry himself, in Mongeau’s case) calling them hollow. While Mongeau continues to upload videos, Dawson has yet to return to YouTube since posting his apology video in June.
Tati Westbook Implicated Dawson & Jeffree Starr In "Dramageddon"
Tati Westbrook broke the internet with her notoriously now-privated "Bye Sister" video calling out her fellow beauty guru (and friend) James Charles for a variety of shocking accusations all the way back in 2019. Westbrook faced consequences after the release, with many of her followers criticizing her behavior and decision to wade into YouTube drama she had long avoided throughout her almost 10 years on YouTube. 200,000 even unsubscribed as a result.
Fast-forward a year later to June 30, 2020, and Westbrook wasn’t leaving Dramageddon in the past. She had a major change of heart, uploading a 40-minute tour de force apologizing for her actions. It was a tearful apology to Charles directly, as well as an attempt to explain why she wrongly accused him of predatory behavior(accusations that took a serious toll on Charles’ mental health).
Ultimately, the video marked her reconciliation with Charles, and it was also a good start in terms of making amends with her fans, but she also dropped another Dramageddon-sized bombshell before it ended.
More shocking than her formal apology was Westbrook’s claims two other gurus manipulated her into kicking off the "Bye Sister" beef: Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson.
While Star was indirectly involved in the 2019 drama through his own statement on Twitter, Westbrook revealed Star and Dawson’s involvement was more than just Twitter commentary. She claimed Star and Dawson manipulated her into posting her original video because they were threatened by Charles’ best-selling palettes and star power and wanted to end his career, claims they denied.
Her claims angered Dawson so much, he took to Instagram Live soon after and accused her of lying (one of his last social media posts of 2020).
The D’Amelio’s Dinner Drama Highlighted Influencer Privilege
The Nov. 16 episode of Charli and Dixie D’Amelio’s family supper series, Dinner With The D’Amelios, triggered a series of dramatic callouts towards the TikTok-famous sisters for their "spoiled" behavior.
While filming, the sisters’ blatant displays of disgust towards a private chef’s snail dish seemed insignificant to them, but it wasn’t to the general public or their fellow influencers, who expressed anger over the segment. Fans were particularly angry with Dixie throwing up the dish and Charli requesting "dino nuggets" instead, and they were also offended by Charli expressing disappointment that she didn’t hit 100 million followers yet.
Fans were pretty divided over the spat, with some pointing out that the YouTubers seemed ungrateful for what they have during a year of immense economic and emotional hardship. The topic of Charli’s follower count seemed petty to some when compared to the businesses decimated by closures and lockdowns due to COVID-19.
Since the incident went viral, both sisters apologized, and James Charles, who was a guest during the dinner, revealed the snail moment was scripted for the cameras in the Dec. 9 episode of The Dixie D’Amelio Show. Still, Dixie revealed she was more aware now of how her actions and humor can be perceived by the public in totally different ways than she perceives them.
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