Unless you’re a big follower of YouTube beauty gurus, you might not have heard of James Charles or Tati Westbrook — at least until a few weeks ago.
If you haven’t been following their ongoing saga, you’re missing out on a profound lesson in the way that a mentor can inspire and promote a protégé and how a lack of loyalty can result in a massive downfall.
To get you caught up: Tati Westbrook is a beauty guru from YouTube who released a wildly viral video last week. In the video, she called out the internet personality James Charles, a young mentee, for a wide variety of professional and personal bad behavior.
Charles is a 19-year-old beauty guru whom Westbrook has mentored for the past two years. She’s endlessly promoted him on her own channel while helping him to learn the business and to monetize his own channel behind the scenes.
During that time, Charles’ subscriber count (16 million pre-scandal) grew to triple Westbrook’s (5 million pre-scandal.)
One of Westbrook’s product lines is a vitamin supplement brand called Halo. Charles has consistently refused to promote her product to his subscribers, saying that because his demographic skewed toward younger teenagers, he didn’t feel right promoting supplements.
He then promoted a product by Westbrook’s direct competitor, resulting in a major rift between the two. Westbrook responded with a 44-minute “Bye, Sister” YouTube video (since taken down, but you can watch the apology video here) where she outlined their history and her sense of betrayal.
The result has been nothing short of an earthquake in the social media influencer space.
Charles initially lost around 3 million followers while Westbrook gained more than 5 million in the three days since the scandal broke. That could translate into millions in ad revenue, personal appearance fees and promotional deals. Charles has cancelled a planned nationwide tour.
In addition, because some of Westbrook’s disclosures include highly questionable personal behavior, there are sure to be even more damaging details to come.
So why should you care? And what can this BeauTube feud teach you about the mentoring relationship? Here’s what we learned from this feud followed by millions.
1. Loyalty matters
The real breaking point for Westbrook came when Charles promoted her competitor’s product. Prior to that, she was willing to overlook a lot of unprofessional behavior because of Charles’ youth, believing that he would “grow out of it” with her guidance.
When it comes down to it, a mentor expects — and deserves — your loyalty in return for the advice, connections and other help he or she provides. While you might not be in the position to endorse their competitor, you are in the position to make introductions, send referrals and otherwise steer business their way.
If for some reason you find yourself working with someone who your mentor would consider “the competition,” make sure you discuss it with your mentor ahead of time to gauge their response and find out how they feel. It’s better to miss a momentary opportunity than to lose a powerful, long-term ally.
Disloyalty can be something as simple as an eye-roll or an insult behind your mentor’s back. Don’t let a momentary annoyance or a colleague’s comment cause you to ruin a unique and valuable relationship
2. Don’t blur the line between personal and professional
One of the stories Westbrook tells is about her birthday dinner, with her family, childhood friends and Charles. At the dinner, he loudly and vulgarly recounted stories of his romantic entanglements, harassed the waiter despite Westbrook’s repeated warnings and embarrassed her so much that she spent the next morning personally calling her other guests to apologize.
You might be lucky enough to be brought into your mentor’s inner circle in a social as well as a professional setting. You might be told that you are “part of the family” or that you are the son or daughter they never had.
While that all sounds great, it doesn’t translate into carte blanche to parade your worst behavior in front of your mentor, either in social or professional settings. Professional behavior is essential at all times during your interactions. Even if others are letting their hair down, you will never regret holding yourself to a higher standard.
3. The one who makes you can be the one who breaks you
In her video, Westbrook ends by saying she is “afraid” of the response. Even though she has been around longer and is far more established and respected than Charles, he has many more subscribers and endorsement deals with heavy hitters like Coty’s CoverGirl brand makeup line.
In the aftermath of the “Bye, Sister” video, the millions of subscribers lost by Charles and gained by Westbrook show that the internet is 100 percent Team Tati. Her elegant, measured response, filled with evidence and “the receipts,” has convinced millions that Charles is a problematic figure not worthy of their support and monetization.
Remember, even if you become a bigger deal than your mentor, he or she still has more experience, more friends and a greater reach than you do. While you might not get publicly shamed like Charles, the quiet, behind-the-scenes damage your mentor can do to your career is just as dangerous.
There’s an old saying that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” If you’ve been lucky enough to align yourself with a wise, responsible and powerful mentor, treasure that relationship and don’t give them a reason to break ties with you.
You don’t want the person who helped you rise to turn their talents toward creating your downfall.
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Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.