Formerly canceled YouTubers Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson are trying to claw their way back to relevance after getting called out for their problematic behavior. Star is an androgynous beauty YouTuber who was able to start his own cosmetics company after finding success as a guru online, and Dawson is noted as one of the first YouTubers who legitimized making a living from content on the platform. The two have been friends for a while, and when Dawson began making documentary-style videos on his channel about problematic YouTubers, he teamed up with Star twice.
Their demise online came at around the same time in 2020 when people called Dawson out for racist, inappropriate videos he had made, leading him to formally apologize in a 20-minute-long video in June 2020. Star’s public persona was already seen as villainous after he inserted himself into the infamous “Dramageddon” between YouTubers James Charles and Tati Westbrook, but it was Insider’s revealing investigation alleging physical and sexual abuse (which he denied through his attorney) that got him canceled.
After their respective scandals, each took some time away from the Internet (though Star continued posting after a monthlong break). Now, the pair is attempting to get back in the public’s good graces with a new collaboration video. On Tuesday, Dawson uploaded a video titled “The Cancelled World of Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson,” the first of three in a new series. The 53-minute video quickly became the no. 1 trending upload on YouTube and featured the two explaining that they made an unreleased follow-up eyeshadow palette to their popular “Conspiracy” eyeshadow collaboration—disappointing anyone who assumed it might address the controversial backstory its title suggested.
Here’s a look back at who these two creators are, why they’re popular, and why they’re trying to make a comeback.
Who is Shane Dawson?
Dawson and Star have been Internet personalities since the early 2000s, with Star getting his start on MySpace and Dawson becoming one of the first YouTube influencers. Dawson was known for making sketch comedy videos that included characters based on racist stereotypes—a Black woman named Shanaynay, where Dawson would wear blackface, and a Mexican character named Guadalupe. He also hosted a podcast for four years until 2017 called “Shane and Friends,” where people later drew attention to clips of Dawson making questionable comments about sexualizing minors and pedophilia. He would later address this behavior in his 2020 apology videoand say his actions were “irredeemable.”
In 2018, he shifted focus from sketch comedy to more documentary-focused videos, beginning with a look at various Internet conspiracy theories. One video centered on the conspiracy theory that Chuck E. Cheese re-uses leftover pizza and serves it to other customers. Chuck E. Cheese denied this claim to Dawson and a former employee denied this to Insider. Dawson then found success with investigative long-form videos exposing problematic influencers. His video series with Tana Mongeau, who wanted to create her own convention called Tanacon after she claimed she was mistreated by VidCon and, at one point, reportedly had the support of 80 other YouTubers, received tens of millions of views.
Three months later, Dawson released what is now his most popular video to date: “The Secret World of Jeffree Star,” which has amassed over 51 million views. The first series did a deep dive into Star’s move from being a MySpace personality and musician to being a makeup YouTuber. Dawson then moved on to do a video series on Jake Paul and Eugenia Cooney before coming back to Star following the aftermath of what is known in the beauty YouTube community as “Dramageddon 2.0.” (More on that below.)
Amidst the drama, Dawson and Star teamed up for their first and only makeup collaboration palette, Shane x Jeffree Conspiracy Collection by Jeffree Cosmetics in 2019. The collection sold out in minutes, and according to Insider, they earned millions of dollars.
Who is Jeffree Star?
Star got his start on MySpace as a musician and performed at Vans’ “Warped Tour” in 2008 and 2009. In 2006, he made the transition to YouTube, where he’d post makeup tutorials and makeup reviews and share his opinions on makeup brands. Star was once friends with a group of makeup YouTubers that included Manny MUA, Gabriel Zamora, Laura Lee, and Nikita Dragun, but had a public falling out with them, in a controversy known as “Dramageddon.”
In 2019, another saga called “Dramageddon 2.0″ began after the beauty guru Tati Westbrook uploaded a video about fellow makeup influencer James Charles accusing him questionable behavior towards straight men. Star became involved in the controversy when he also brought up claims against Charles, though he never produced proof.
In October 2020, Insider published an investigation into claims against Star of sexual assault, physical violence, and hush money offered to his accusers. The article goes into detail about Star’s alleged long history of problematic behavior, including allegations of drugging men, accounts of acting violently toward men who rejected his romantic advances, videos of Star making racist comments, and more. Star’s attorney denied the claims of physical and sexual violence to Insider, calling them “false and defamatory.”
Dawson, meanwhile, teased a second series he’d done with Star and hinted that it would address the “Dramaggedon” saga. The footage wasn’t included in the final cut. Dawson then decided to remove himself from the beauty community as a whole—until fans began digging up his questionable behavior online, leading him to make an apology video in June 2020.
Their comeback and their new collaboration
Dawson took 15 months off of YouTube before making his first video after stepping back, while Star has remained active online. Star was the subject of multiple tabloid headlines, including an alleged affair with Kanye West, a public relationship with Andre Marhold, who was believed to be straight, and being involved in a car accident.
This week’s latest upload from Dawson marks a clear attempt at a comeback. The two of them are no strangers to using sensationalized titles to draw viewers in and deliver an underwhelming product—especially with their recently uploaded videos. Throughout the new video, Dawson talks mainly about himself, with time jumping back and forth between the present day and when he was creating an unreleased second eyeshadow palette with Star. It ends with Dawson asking Star if he can reveal the eyeshadow palette on camera but says it would be better if they were together, so Dawson and his team get ready to fly to Star’s yak ranch in Wyoming.
The attempted comeback is unlikely to make them as popular as they once were. Both have promised to give the fans what they want and talk about the bombshell stuff they’ve kept quiet about, but they never actually follow through. The latest video doesn’t reveal much that is new, and fans can only deal with so much disappointment before they’re likely to drop off. While their comeback video may have trended on YouTube when it aired on Tuesday, it has since moved from the top spot to no. 4.
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