Spilling the Tea on YouTube’s Beauty Drama Channels

The world of YouTube and the content you’ll find on the platform has immensely changed and grown since its inception in 2005. It’s no secret that many popular YouTubers (often called ‘Influencers’) have found a new sort of ‘fame’ on the platform, and have built successful careers from their audiences of hundreds of thousands, to tens of millions. With celebrity comes gossip, and a new breed of channel has found its footing – the drama channel. Rising to popularity in 2016, the drama channel is your TMZ of the YouTube world. They publish videos reporting on the latest scandals, gossip and happenings within the YouTube community. With YouTube being such a vast ocean of content, it makes sense that niche drama channels have popped up to highlight drama within specific sub-communities. This article will focus on the beauty sub-community, where drama is rife not only between big beauty influencers and beauty brands, but also between influencers themselves. These drama videos are incredibly lucrative and increasingly push the boundaries, with content creators saying just about anything to get your clicks.

We as fans and spectators are enthralled and intrigued by the lives of famous people. When it comes to traditional celebrities, we live for the gossip, so it’s only natural that we’re intrigued by “Youtube celebrities” too. The drama channel, like a gossip tabloid, rose from this hunger. Particularly within the beauty community, in-fighting between influencers is rampant and there’s always a new scandal involving a beauty brand or influencer for drama channels to report on.

Beauty drama channels arose from the need to keep successful beauty influencers ‘in check’. Beauty brands are increasingly using and working with beauty influencers to market products to their massive audiences. Working like a fourth estate (if you will), the drama channel originated to make sure audiences weren’t blindly handing over their hard-earned cash to “sell-out” influencers spruiking bad products. With the aim of informing and serving the customer, drama channels document when brands produce poor quality or dangerous products, ‘steal’ from other brands (whether it be copying other brands’ products, or stealing brand concepts), have bad customer service or a social media faux pas. Drama channels also love to ‘spill the tea’ (with all the relevant receipts of course), when influencers don’t disclose their sponsorship or affiliations, over-hype low-quality products, do something questionable, treat their subscribers poorly or get into fights with other influencers and beauty brands. These are just some of the many possible scandals that drama channels cover, and offer their own – sometimes biased, and often entertaining – opinions on.

Many drama channels truly do serve to inform the consumer and warn them against supporting a questionable brand or influencer. However, others exist purely to make a quick buck by taking advantage of drama’s popularity. Looking at drama channels like Karina Kaboom (who often disables comments on her videos) or John Kuckian, it’s often said that they can dish it out, but they can’t take it. Speaking of John Kuckian (who is a whole other kettle of fish, trust me), he managed to bring out his own makeup line from the popularity of his drama videos. Not only were the products less than impressive, but his website and launch ‘event’ were riddled with mishaps and controversy that would surely have warranted a clickbaity drama video from him – had it not been his own line.

While drama channels originated with some good intention, their popularity and clickbait nature have resulted in their videos rapidly deteriorating to become toxic, defamatory “exposés” based on rumour, with little or no proof. While this isn’t necessarily true for all beauty drama channels, it has become a toxic environment where other YouTubers are “dragged” and provoked purely for views. With video thumbnails and titles like “HOLLY BOON: THE RACIST & HOMOPHOBIC TWEETS”, “NICOLE CONCILIO LIES TO HER SUBSCRIBERS”, “KATHLEEN LIGHTS SAYS THE ‘N’ WORD! DELETED SNAP INCLUDED” (just a few from drama channel Here For the Tea), it’s no wonder that people feel compelled to click, because, aren’t we all just here for the tea? It has degraded to the point where many drama videos aren’t even about a bad product, but rather personal feuds and even Influencers’ private lives which really shouldn’t be aired out for the public to speculate on.

Recent rumours surrounding prominent beauty YouTuber Jaclyn Hill and her ‘divorce’ are a prime example of this. A number of factors led people to speculate that her and her husband were no longer together. They hadn’t posted photos together in a while, they had followed and unfollowed each other on social media, Jaclyn was spotted without her wedding ring, and has been sporadic on social media due to her personal life. This is by no means hard proof of separation (let alone divorce), but drama channels took it and ran with it, leading to the topic blowing up on YouTube. Whether there’s proof or not, why should an influencer’s personal life be scrutinised by drama YouTubers, and then broadcasted to hundreds of thousands of people? What relevance does it have to, well, anything?

As drama YouTuber Peter Monn, surmised, “this is not a topic that I am willing to do a video about, investigate, and put my two cents out there.” Ironically enough, he said this in his video entitled “JACLYN HILL’S DIVORCE DRAMA!”, which has almost one million views. He certainly didn’t miss his opportunity to jump on this trending topic, but his message has legitimacy. He discusses the fact that no matter how glamorous these YouTubers’ lives appear to be, they are just normal people who happen to film part of their life, and by no means should that open up their personal life to public scrutiny.

This is, however, the nature of YouTube and how these YouTubers have managed to build such successful careers. YouTubers are just regular people who happen to make videos that audiences connect with and learn from. Audiences relate to these YouTubers because they’re just like you and me (or at least they were, before they got rich and famous), and they live generally normal lives. Unlike traditional celebrities, YouTubers choose to broadcast aspects of their personal lives online.  It’s these personal aspects that make these YouTubers so relatable, and how they have managed to build their success. YouTube itself and its affordances have allowed this unique producer and audience relationship to blossom. YouTube (and other platforms that these influencers are active on) facilitates two-way communication in that audiences can communicate back. YouTubers often read and reply to comments, therefore creating an ongoing conversation with their audiences. That, coupled with how much of their lives they share online, means audiences feel like they truly know and almost have a friendship with these YouTube celebrities. But, just because they happen to let viewers into a snippet of their lives, it doesn’t mean that viewers are entitled to all of it. Perhaps this is why drama channels feel as if they have permission to air out influencers’ dirty laundry and personal scandals, because influencers already (willingly) broadcast their lives, or aspects of them.

While drama channels appear to be sticking around, I would advise watching their videos with a pinch of salt. Everyone loves a guilty pleasure, and these videos can be highly entertaining. But – don’t believe everything you watch. Perhaps instead of questioning which brands or influencers to support according to what drama they’ve been involved in, it’s the drama channels themselves who need to be questioned and kept ‘in check’.

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