- A famous beauty YouTube friend group fell apart in August 2018.
- The bitter feud and the aftermath is now known as "Dramageddon."
- Here's a look back on what happened, and how it changed the YouTube beauty community forever.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Jeffree Star, Manny Gutierrez (aka Manny MUA), Laura Lee, and Nikita Dragun were four of the biggest beauty YouTubers in 2017.
They used to collaborate on each others’ channels regularly, building up each others’ names and brands in the beauty world. Star, Gutierrez, and Lee in particular were often spotted hanging out together.
In May 2017, Gutierrez called Star his “bestie” when he did his makeup in a joint video. Star also commented under a video of him and Lee in July 2017, saying “I always have the best time filming with Laura.”
Their audience perceived them to be friends, and they were able to grow their channels in part thanks to the cross-promotion across their audiences.
Throughout 2017, it appeared the friendship had begun to deteriorate.
However, throughout 2017, the friendship appeared to deteriorate.
Some onlookers believe the trio slowly started to break apart when Gutierrez, Dragun, and Lee started replacing Star with Gabriel Zamora, another beauty YouTuber, in the latter half of the year.
In November 2017, Star tweeted that Lee’s soul was “pure evil” after saying he had removed “a lot of negative people” from his life.
This was taken as final confirmation their friendship was over.
Months later, it was Shane Dawson’s docu-series about Jeffree Star that re-fueled the drama.
The friendship breakdown wasn’t brought back up again until Star appeared in a four-part docuseries with YouTuber Shane Dawson, known as the ‘king of YouTube” at the time, at the beginning of August 2018. In “The Secret World of Jeffree Star,” which has over 50 million views, Dawson met Star properly for the first time, and was shown his ornate mansion and opulent way of life.
Star opened up to Dawson about his past mistakes. There are several videos of Star on the internet from his early career on MySpace in the late 2000s, where he would shout aggressively at people in the street, sometimes using racial slurs. Fellow beauty guru Jackie Aina also accused Star of using the N-word slur in 2017. Star apologized for using offensive language in a video posted on July 20, 2017 titled “RACISM.” Star’s racist past would arguably become the jumping-off point for Dramageddon.
In Dawson’s series, Star alluded to his feud with Gutierrez, Lee, Zamora, and Dragun.
“With my ex-friends, people still don’t really know what went on,” he told Dawson, adding that he was always perceived as “the f—ing bad guy.”
A photo tweeted out in August 2018, changed the YouTube beauty landscape forever.
In August 2018, Zamora tweeted a photo that would change the beauty community on YouTube changed forever.
It showed him, Dragun, Gutierrez, and Lee giving the camera the middle finger.
“Bi— is bitter because without him we’re doing better,” the caption read, which sent the internet into meltdown. The photo was widely believed to be targeted at Jeffree Star.
His fans reacted to this photo, kickstarting what would become known as “Dramageddon.”
The immediate aftermath was ugly as fanbases turned on each other.
Fans quickly worked out that Zamora’s photo caption was aimed at Star, which Zamora has since confirmed.
Star’s fans supported him and were angry as they perceived him to be under attack from Zamora and Star’s former friends. In response to tweets, Zamora said “Imagine stanning a racist? I could never.”
“Honey, every time I was around him he would constantly say racist things about black people,” he added.
But the comment didn’t get a positive response. Star’s followers rushed to his defense and started digging up tweets the rest of the group had made in the past.
Old tweets came back to haunt many of those involved.
One unearthed tweet was posted to Lee’s account in 2012, reading, “Tip for all black people if you pull ur pants up you can run from the police faster.. #yourwelcome.”
In the aftermath, she lost about 500,000 subscribers (over 160,000 in one day), which led to one of the most infamous apology videos of all time. Viewers called Lee out and mocked her for heavy editing with dozens of jump cuts, sparking a fascination with the “YouTuber apology video” genre which remains ongoing to this day.
Gutierrez, Zamora, and Dragun all came under fire too. In 2012, Zamora had tweeted the N-word, while Dragun had said in 2012 that she “could never” imagine being Black.
Gutierrez received criticism for a Snapchat video where he acted suspicious of an Uber driver who couldn’t speak English, and lost about 200,000 subscribers during Dramageddon.
In the flurry of backlash, Lee and Gutierrez, who had initially liked Zamora’s middle-finger tweet, backtracked. They said they hadn’t viewed the caption beforehand.
In a video titled “My Truth” on August 22, 2018, Zamora said he had felt “abandoned” by his friends Lee and Gutierrez when they hadn’t supported him. He also confirmed the tweet had been aimed at Star. He said he had called Star to apologize, who had told him the “other side” of the story of Star and Gutierrez’s friendship breakdown.
At the end of the video, Zamora called Gutierrez “toxic” and said he was cutting him and Lee out of his life.
Dramageddon was the first time beauty creators were dramatically ‘canceled,’ and drama channels meticulously covered it.
Since then, Gutierrez and Lee have remained friends, while Zamora hasn’t collaborated with either of them since. Lee has built her reputation back up by focusing on beauty and fashion content, and sharing her experience of adopting her niece.
Gutierrez spoke out against cancel culture just over a year later in September 2019, calling it “toxic and disgusting.”
He told Insider in an interview in February 2020 that he took two months off YouTube where he started going to therapy to make sense of what happened. He said he had always considered himself as a mentally strong person, until he experienced “probably the worst thing I have ever gone through in my entire life.”
Many YouTube channels that cover drama on the platform saw huge growth thanks to their coverage of Dramageddon, as fans were desperate to learn more about the feud. Drama YouTuber Dustin Dailey, for instance, had many more videos go viral after meticulously covering the drama.
“For a long time it was shade back and forth,” he told Insider. “So that’s what we reported on, and it was fun. It wasn’t like a serious thing.”
It also marked one of the first times that such popular beauty influencers were dramatically “canceled” based on past behavior that viewers perceived to be problematic — but it wasn’t the last.
But it was just the beginning of a trend that would go on to plague the beauty world.
It took less than a year for another YouTuber to be dramatically canceled based — at least in part — on a rift with a friend.
On May 10, 2019, a bitter war broke out when beauty YouTuber Tati Westbrook released an explosive video accusing her former friend and YouTube star James Charles of being backstabbing and manipulative. She also made several accusations about his alleged inappropriate behavior around straight men.
Fans started unsubscribing from Charles immediately, and he lost over 3 million subscribers in a matter of days. Followers, having already witnessed the downfall of three influencers, turned unfollowing Charles into an internet-wide sport, with livestreams on YouTube tracking his follower loss.
The whole saga was dubbed “Dramageddon 2.0” for its similarities to the previous feud: both featured incredibly high-profile friendships which had suddenly broken down in front of an audience.
Charles released a video telling his own side of the story a week later and gained back all of his lost subscribers. Soon afterward, YouTube changed how it would be displaying followers, meaning livestreaming drops in popularity was no longer possible.
Star continued on his exponential rise for the next year.
Star came through Dramageddon 1 and 2 relatively unscathed. A month later, he spoke about “fake friends” in a YouTube video titled “STARTING OVER… SHOULD I MAKE NEW FRIENDS?“
“I’ve been going through a transformation lately, a whole new chapter in my life. Just so many things are changing and growing,” he said. “I got rid of so many fake friends in this industry and I’m just trying to find legit people.”
Over the next year, Star would continue liking tweets that were critical of Gutierrez and Lee, and posted snide remarks in Instagram comments.
By siding with Westbrook after Dramageddon 2.0 in 2019, Star solidified his place in the drama without making too many enemies.
It would all work in his favor until the summer of 2020 when more chaos unfolded. Dawson and Star fell from grace when the internet completely turned against them — partly for resurfaced racist and offensive content, and partly due to another video posted by Westbrook where she accused them of “manipulating” and “gaslighting” her into turning against Charles. It marked the beginning of what many thought would be a downfall for Star, who had thus far avoided losing significant support, dubbed “Karmageddon” at the time.
The legacy of Dramageddon lives on, but the YouTube landscape is very different now.
Three years later, the legacy of Dramageddon lives on in the culture it has created, with Instagram posts scrutinized for changes in friendship groups, potential rifts, and emerging rivalries.
It also changed the way fans typically respond to influencers being criticized.
The practice of calling out someone’s hypocrisy by pointing them towards prior comments or actions which contradict their current stance has become a meme referred to as “this you?”
The YouTube landscape has also changed. Many of the platforms’ biggest stars have now faced serious allegations or major cancellation incidents. Backing a group is no longer about who’s the worst friend. It’s about how much you’re willing to forgive.
It once felt like the whole internet was gathered around their screens watching the spectacle unfold, but the collective appetite for it seems to have dwindled. We used to be able to see ourselves in YouTubers and their trivial squabbles, but they now seem less relatable than ever.
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here.