Who Are the Drama Queens Spillin’ Tea on Beauty Influencers?

A look at the sassy and messy subculture on YouTube.

“Jeffree Star Exposed!” “Kylie Jenner Canceled!” “James Charles Drama!” These are some of the eye-catching headlines that you might see on the YouTube channels devoted to dishing the dirt on beauty influencers.

YouTube channels such as Rich Lux, Here for the Tea, Karina Kaboom, Drama Investigator, Sanders Kennedy, Tea Spill, Petty Paige, Sebastian Williams, and Kucki Tea are part of a sassy subculture on YouTube that’s serving up hot gossip on not only celebrities like Kylie Jenner but also the influencers and tastemakers who might not be on the radar of Entertainment Tonight or People magazine.

These self-proclaimed “beauty drama channels” on YouTube are essentially reviewing the reviewers, and they aren’t afraid to call out the people they think are being fake. The drama channels take deep dives into scandalous stories, whether it’s Jeffree Star—the outspoken “bad boy” of the beauty industry—saying something offensive or getting in another feud with former friends such as Manny MUA or Kat Von D; Laura Lee losing several business deals in 2018, after her racist and fat-shaming tweets from 2012 and 2013 were exposed; Jaclyn Hill dealing with divorce issues; or James Charles addressing gossip about being in a sex video.

The prince of the beauty drama channels is Rich Lux, a native of the Houston area, who produces, directs, and edits the content on his comedic self-titled YouTube channel. Lux, who used to work for Apple, started his YouTube career reviewing Apple products but switched to becoming a beauty drama channel in 2016 after his beauty lifestyle content got thousands of views per video, compared to the low hundreds for his Apple product reviews.

“I’m a little bit of a nerd,” Lux says of his computer skills, “and that comes from growing up gay, not having that many friends in high school, and playing around with the computer.” Lux sometimes appears in drag in his videos, which also feature him commenting on pop culture, doing product reviews, and unveiling his shopping hauls.

Many of the people behind the drama channels don’t show themselves on camera—they do voiceovers and/or use text scrolling for narration. However, Lux says that putting himself on camera has been a positive experience for him because of the instant recognition he gets from fans and because YouTubers who are seen on their channels are more likely to get business deals. Lux, who counts Manscaped as one of his main sponsors, also has a line of his own merchandise and dance music. He recently completed a music video called “Clock It the House,” due out sometime this month, which he describes as “very gay, with a lot of drag queens.” The video includes an appearance by drag queen Lushious Masscr, who was featured in Lux’s independent documentary Drag Houston.

Relationship expert/entertainment journalist Devyn Simone, who has been a frequent guest on The Wendy Williams Show, has this explanation for the rise of beauty drama channels: “They realize there’s an untapped market...Mainstream TV is sometimes slow to catch up and likes to play it safe.”

So what happens when someone who runs a drama channel meets someone who’s been the focus of their gossip? Lux says that meeting Star and Charles for the first time surprised him because “they seemed happy and excited to meet me.” He adds, “Talking about Jeffree Star, and then going to a party and meeting him…and seeing him at DragCon, I thought, ‘He’s totally going to sue me.’ But they [the people I talk about] totally understand the gig.” (Star and Charles did not respond to requests for comment.)

Lux is one of the few drama-channel creators who’s made a guest appearance on Star’s YouTube channel, and he says that meeting beauty influencers “allows me to get more accurate information. I can reach out and get the real tea—or at least their side of the story. But it’s so much easier to talk about people you’ve never met.” He adds that most of the tips and news items that he gets come from social media and email, but he draws the line at things that don’t have credibility or are too mean-spirited. “There’s a lot of stories I won’t run. If I can’t keep it light-hearted and fun, I don’t want it.”

Beauty influencers have built their images on being glamorous entrepreneurs with aspirational lifestyles, and Simone says that people’s fascination with them comes from the influencers not only being “great artists” but also “anytime we can see cracks in the painting, people glom on to that.”

Lux agrees. “It’s part of this whole ‘cancel’ culture. Within American pop culture, we love to build people up, and then break them down…It happens time and time again. And then we love to see them prevail and rise like a phoenix.”

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