Tati Westbrook weaponised gay stereotypes to make James Charles look predatory

Hell hath no fury like a beauty guru scorned


It's impossible to have logged on to Twitter in the past few days and not see something about that James Charles and Tati Westbrook scandal.

To recap: Tati called out longtime friend and colleague James in a 43-minute-slam-video titled 'Bye Sister', addressing his predatory behaviour towards straight men and his neglect for supporting her vitamin product, 'Halo'. People started leaking DMs, a bunch of celebs unfollowed him, beauty palettes got smashed. Yikes.

By no means is James wholly innocent: sending provocative messages to straight men is intrusive.

But James' humiliation was fundamentally engineered and born out of vengeance. Tati Westbrook’s now-deleted-video cunningly implicates James Charles as the outdated archetype of the bitchy, promiscuous Queen through tentative language and crudely recapitulated events.

Sandwiching the accusation of Charles' promiscuity between complaints about him not promoting 'Halo' is an example of Tati's attempts to intertwine the two offences, which would therefore, guarantee hostility towards Charles' neglect of her product.

Tati's statement: "Oh my god, you tried to trick a straight man into thinking he’s gay yet again" not only paints Charles as a persistent predator, it also polarises sexuality into an either/or dynamic, leaving no space for fluidity.

Although portraying herself as the voice of liberation: "whether you’re a woman, man, gay, straight, bi, [sexuality] is your personal call", lingering beneath the beauty guru's language is the assumption that Sam Cooke was perpetually straight. Tati's video, ultimately, is another example of bi-erasure as she selectively ignores Sam's initial-coming-out to James Charles as bisexual.

It was the public's eagerness to believe, exaggerate, and lie, however, which really made this drama so prominent. Singer Zara Larsson, for example, claimed "I'm cackling cause he hit up my boyfriend [Brian Whittaker] in the DMs several times knowing damn well he's straight".

Zara then had to amend her statement: "I feel like deleting this cause I checked and it wasn't several times, only one DM and some comments under pictures".

Zara has since apologised, but her involvement in the James Charles scandals exemplifies how everyone was eager to join this persecution of Charles. In Sam Cooke's response video, for example, he claims that whilst waiting at Tati's birthday party: "They just kept looking at me, but especially James".

This soundbite captures what I believe to be at the heart of James' persecution: A cultural anxiety towards the reconfiguration of the male gaze.

By no means do I intend to endorse any kind of objectification, but it is simply interesting to witness the disproportionate outrage when it is an LGBT individual is caught ga(y)zing, as opposed to the actions of predatory straight males. James gestures to this when he questions why straight women, like Zara, can make sexual comments publicly but he, as a gay man, cannot flirt privately with a boy he believed to be bisexual.

The Daily Mail joined this persecution when they wrote that James "coerced straight men into committing sexual acts". A pronouncement clearly inspired by Tati's inflammatory assertion: "You are using your fame, your power, your money […] to have them behave sexually in your favour".

The connotations of rape in both statements were disarmed when James declared that he was a virgin and that Sam consented to kissing him. Tati, however, evades accusations of defamation and deception through her ambiguous phrasing, "have them behave sexually in your favour", as whilst this heavily implies intercourse, it also covers minor erotic acts such as kissing.

Tati's demonization of James draws upon historic conceptualisations of gay men as sexually exploitative bourgeois tyrants: One only has to read Giovanni’s Room or The City and The Pillar to realise the prominence of this stereotype in the '50s. Tati Westbrook's attempt to cancel James Charles shows that this stereotype is alive and well.

While James Charles' Youtube channel has regained a large subscriber count after a loss of over 3 million, the whole incident reveals our eagerness to humiliate and critique based on half-truths and stereotypes. Gay stereotypes are still ever present in the cultural psyche.