How One YouTube Video Changed the Course of Online Culture

On May 10, 2019, the famous YouTube beauty influencer Tati Westbrook posted a 43-minute video that forever changed the course of internet culture.

The video was a takedown of Westbrook’s fellow beauty influencer James Charles, who had, until that point, been her close friend. In the video, Westbrook said her feelings were hurt because Charles promoted a hair care vitamin that was a competitor to one Westbrook sold. (Charles denied taking money for the promotional post; instead, he said he got artist passes for Coachella in exchange.) Westbrook said she confronted him over text, and their conversation did not go the way she had hoped. At the time, she saw Charles was giving statements to YouTube drama channels about the hair care vitamin situation, which prompted her to share the video.

Westbrook also said she was uncomfortable with some of Charles’ actions and accused him of using his fame to coerce straight men into sex. She also said Charles lied about details regarding the sponsored post for the hair care vitamins.

The YouTube community waited with bated breath for Charles to respond, which he did in a hastily made video titled “tati” that was panned for being “inauthentic.” Charles later deleted the video, and released another response, “No More Lies” on May 18, which still lives on his YouTube channel. In it, he attempted to clear the air, saying Westbrook’s accusations hurt him. He apologized for promoting her competitor’s product. Charles also addressed Westbrook’s claims about his alleged behavior, saying, “I have never and will never use my fame, money, or my power to manipulate or get any sexual actions from a guy. That is disgusting.”

The back-and-forth caught the attention of —a beauty YouTuber with a brash personality who had collaborated with Charles in the past—who also joined in making allegations against Charles. In “No More Lies,” Charles reads texts from Star that pile on more insults and accusations.

Westbrook, Charles, and Star did not immediately respond to TIME’s requests for comment on the effect and influence of the moment online, which came to be known as “Dramageddon 2.0” or “Sistergeddon,” on the occasion of its five-year anniversary. (This saga followed another one, called “,” which took place in August 2018 and also involved Jeffree Star and the breakup of his friend group of beauty content creators—an influential moment, but just a precursor to the bigger drama to come.) Following Sistergeddon, Star apologized in a video titled, “Never Doing This Again,” saying he regretted making hurtful comments toward Charles. Westbrook also uploaded a video called “Why I Did It” and called for the hate directed towards Charles to stop.

2019 was a wild year for beauty influencers, but let’s talk about the drama that has stuck with all of us for years: tati westbrook vs. james charles in sistergeddon (aka sistergate)

Their videos each racked up millions of views, bringing the YouTube community a new level of attention. The story was covered in mainstream publications, like and that did not typically dive into YouTube dramas. The moment stood out because Westbrook, Charles, and Star learned how to harness the power of the drama rather than let it diminish their influence, bringing along a wave of influencers with them. With this, the modern playbook for how drama can be wielded as a force for online clout was written.

Sistergeddon marked a shift in how we view YouTubers and influencers, says Brooke Erin Duffy, a communications professor at Cornell University. There was an increase in “efforts to dissect their ins and outs that brought people that maybe weren’t attuned to the influence of these personalities into the conversation about what YouTubers are, what they do, what they represent,” Duffy says. It also “defied the ethos of like support and community that early YouTubers were predicated on.” Before both Dramageddons, YouTubers were in community with one another, making collaborative videos, supporting each other, and seeming to be genuinely being friends.