Beauty influencer James Charles is launching his own makeup brand. But who will buy it?
On April 12, Charles announced Painted, a line of cosmetics slated to release sometime this summer. “4 years of hard work later… my own makeup brand is finally coming. I’m beyond excited to share these products with you, but for now, here’s a teaser of what’s to come,” the content creator captioned a brief video debuting the brand.
The launch of Painted marks the 23-year-old’s first major business move since he admitted to sexting and flirting with minors, allegations that had swirled online for years. In April 2021, Charles addressed the accusations head-on, characterizing his behavior as “reckless” and claiming that the minors falsely represented themselves as 18. One boy who messaged with Charles later disputed the influencer’s version of events, telling Insider that Charles never asked for his age.
This wasn’t the first time Charles’ behavior precipitated controversy. In 2017, the YouTuber tweeted about a school trip he was on: “I can’t believe we’re going to Africa today omg what if we get Ebola?” He later apologized for the offensive post. In 2019, fellow beauty influencer Tati Westbook cut ties with Charles, a turn of events that the internet would later dub “Dramageddon.” In an addition to airing personal grievances with Charles, Westbrook also accused the creator of aggressively flirting with other men. “You were talking in detail about things you wanted to do to the waiter, and when I said, ‘James, he’s straight,’ your response was, ‘Doesn’t matter I’m a celebrity,'” she said. Charles vehemently denied her allegations.
Combined with his track record, Charles’ sexting scandal was the final straw for his business partners. In the weeks following, he lost several lucrative brand deals, including a collaboration with Morphe and his hosting gig on Instant Influencer, a YouTube original series. YouTube also demonetized Charles’ channel, where he earned an estimated $25,500 per video.
Today, Charles boasts over 21 million followers on Instagram. On TikTok, he has over 37 million. Clearly, he’s managed to retain much of his following, scandals and all — but his cultural cachet has plummeted. Case in point: the demise of Morphe, a makeup brand that banked on partnering with prominent YouTubers such as Charles. As customers began to turn on Morphe’s roster of controversial collaborators, which also included Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson, its once lucrative partnership model began to backfire. In January, Morphe announced it would close all its stores in the United States.
It’s becoming increasingly risky for companies to align themselves with potentially “cancelable” influencers. The solution for Charles, it seems, is to bypass partners and go out on his own. But will Painted pay off? Given Charles’ shaky reputation and celebrity beauty brand burnout, its future looks uncertain.