Dark Secrets Of Social Media Influencers

The following article includes allegations of child abuse and sexual harassment.

Social media personalities are not called "influencers" for nothing. With a single post, an internet star can influence followers to try a recipe, attempt a dance routine, or even dust off those old pairs of low-rise jeans. Many influencers curate their social media posts in such a way that we only see the bright and shiny sides of their lives, though that's not to say things are always sunny. "Anybody can become a celebrity or a worldwide villain in an instant," Daniel Solove of George Washington University Law School told Newsweek back in 2008. "Some people may revel in that. But others might say that's not the role they wanted to play in life."

A number of well-known social media stars have ended up at the center of scandal, and while they may surely wish to move on from those scandals for good, the internet never forgets. We have searched far and wide and dug up some dark secrets of social media influencers. Let's get into it.

Khaby Lame's controversial old posts

With over 150 million followers as of this writing, Khabane "Khaby" Lame is the most-followed influencer on TikTok. His silent reactions to goofy life hack video videos made him a star during the pandemic. Though he's had a lot of success with his simple but hilarious videos, that's not to say there hasn't been controversy.

In 2021, a few of Lame's old posts were dug up and began making the internet rounds. As Dexerto reported at the time, before he achieved internet superstardom, Lame created a handful of videos where he apparently body-shamed other people. Per Sportskeeda, some commenters were less than thrilled with this unearthed content. One wrote, "I'm so happy I never followed you"; another asked, "People still like him after what he did?" On the flip side, other commenters didn't see any reason to hold these old videos against him.  

Some of Lame's other posts have been called sexist. As per The New York Times, in response to a video of a woman asking "If you had 24 hours with me, what would you do?" he presents the parts of his house he'd like her to clean. In another duet, Lame offers a dish and a sponge to a crying woman. As of this writing, Lame has not commented on these old videos. 

Bella Poarch's rising sun tattoo

There's probably not a single person who uses social media and does not know Bella Poarch. Per Sportskeeda, a TikTok video Poarch posted in 2020 became the most-liked clip on the platform, and she skyrocketed to fame, gaining nearly 92 million TikTok followers over time. Besides being one of the most famous social media influencers, she is a singer best known for her debut single, "Build a B***h." Responding to a fan's question on TikTok, the Filipino-American singer revealed that she had parts of her body covered with tattoos to hide the scars from the abuse she sustained as a child.

One of the tattoos was of the rising sun flag, which is associated with imperialism and Japan's military history. As per the AP, South Korea requested the flag not be flown at the 2020 Olympics.

In a September 2020 tweet, Poarch apologized for getting the tattoo done and said she had the emblem covered as soon as she learned more about the flag. She wrote, "I apologize to Koreans because 6 months ago I got a tattoo of the red sun with 16 rays. At that time, I didn't know the history. [...] I am ashamed of myself for not doing my research."

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

The allegations against Zach King

In December 2021, Zach King, a YouTuber and TikToker famous for his videos that are heavily edited to make them look like illusions, was sued by a former producer of his company, King Studio LLC. According to Insider, Elisabeth Logan, who started working for King at the age of 23 in 2015, sued the TikToker in Los Angeles County's Central District Court and claimed that King once stripped naked and left his underwear in her office. The suit also claimed he not only committed wage discrimination by paying Logan less than what her male colleagues were being paid at the time, but prohibited Logan from engaging herself in company-wide activities men were allowed to participate in.

The lawsuit alleged that King sacked Logan over a Zoom meeting in May 2020 and later cited her habit of excessive complaining as the reason. As per NBC Los Angeles, the complaint read, "Zach King falsely attracts brands to work with him based upon a charming, clean-cut, Christian persona. In truth, Mr. King is a gifted liar, a narcissist who believes the rules do not apply to him and a misogynist. Unfortunately, plaintiff Elisabeth Logan found this out the hard way when she began working for Zach King at 23 years old." In a statement to the Daily Dot, King's rep denied the accusations, adding, "And while I don't take these claims lightly, I know the truth will be made clear through this process."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The star of Nas Daily clashed with environmentalist Louise Mabulo

The media company Nas Daily has churned out hundreds of quick clips for social media — and the man behind it all is the Arab-Israeli vlogger Nuseir Yassin. In 2021, Louise Mabulo, an environmentalist and founder of The Cacao Project, took to Facebook to accuse Yassin of attempting to exploit the Philippines for "clickable content." In her post, Mabulo, who was on Forbes' 30 under 30 in 2020, claimed that Yassin, who visited her town in 2019 to make a story on her work, mimicked the local language, didn't bother to cover the real issues, kept calling the Filipino people "poor," and never thanked Mabulo's family for their hospitality. Mabulo wrote, "This man was exploitative and fueling a neocolonialist narrative using our need for foreign validation."

Yassin posted a response the same day Mabulo called him out. Denying all the allegations in his post, Yassin countered, "Our investigation has made it clear that your story in the media is false. And that there are no '200 farmers' that you work with, and there are no Cacao plantations that you don't personally profit from." Although some fans chose to support Yassin following the Facebook war, a number of commenters stood by Mabulo.

PewDiePie mocked a deaf TikToker

You cannot possibly say that you do not know PewDiePie if you frequent YouTube on a daily basis. With his comedic gaming videos, the Swedish YouTuber, born Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, remained the most-subscribed YouTuber for about a decade. As per the BBC, MrBeast dethroned him in November 2022.

In a July 2022 YouTube video titled "My Dog Cringes at TikTok," Kjellberg made fun of viral TikTok videos he found cringe-worthy, including one posted by deaf TikTik user Scarlet May. Reacting to the video, in which May was signing and narrating her negative experience with drive-thru customer service, Kjellberg mimics her voice, her signing, and her long nails by moving his pug's paws. Soon enough, the video generated a significant amount of criticism, prompting the YouTuber to cut the derogatory portion out of the video.

Later on, May shared her response to the humiliation in a TikTok video. "I'm used to it," she said. "But a big creator comes on here and puts us a million steps back, so it's very frustrating." Per Forbes, Kjellberg, who hadn't previously responded to the backlash, took to the comments section of his video and apologized, writing, "I edited out the clip with the girl that has the long nails. Had no clue she was deaf, but kinda dumb of me to not realize... Anyway honest mistake, my bad."

Charli D'Amelio's appropriation controversies

Charli D'Amelio is an American social media influencer, best known for the dance videos she posts on TikTok and Instagram. She and her sister Dixie D'Amelio started posting videos on TikTok in 2019 and immediately shot to fame on the platform, gaining followers from all over the world, as per Forbes

In May 2022, social media users accused Charli of cultural appropriation. As reported by Sportskeeda, Charli took to her Instagram stories to share two photos. The first photo featured her giving the camera the middle finger with text that read "me af as f**k." The second story she shared was a picture of Charli and Avani, another social media influencer, wearing face masks and headphones. The photo bore the phrase "on a flight af as f**k." These posts generated some backlash, as the acronym "AF" is among the phrases (such as "on fleek" and "periodt") that have become internet slang terms but are originally from African American Vernacular English (AAVE).

This isn't the only time Charli's been at the center of a cultural appropriation controversy. As per The New York Times, her renditions of TikTok dances by Black creators have brought in a lot of views — and credit hasn't always been given where it's due. On a 2021 episode of "The View," Sunny Hostin mentioned Charli specifically when addressing the issue of white TikTok users profiting off of Black creatives. Charli has since started crediting TikTok trend creators.

The sexual misconduct accusations against James Charles

If you're into the art of makeup and social media, you'd undoubtedly recognize James Charles in no time. With more than 23 million subscribers on YouTube, and over 22 million followers on Instagram, the makeup mogul is among the most popular social media influencers recognized worldwide. In February 2021, a young boy took to social media to bring the allegation of grooming against Charles. Charles, however, claimed that he engaged in flirtatious conversations with the boy because he believed he was an adult. Later, in an April 2022 YouTube video that has now been made private (via BBC), the makeup vlogger admitted that he was involved in two instances of sexting with underage boys, but maintained he was misinformed about their ages.

In the video titled "Holding Myself Accountable," Charles noted that he had been using TikTok and Instagram as if they were meant to be used as dating apps and acknowledged that what he did was wrong. Per The Guardian, he said, "I was being reckless ... these conversations should have never happened." According to the publication, YouTube took strict actions to prohibit Charles from making money on the platform by temporarily demonetizing him as a part of its Creator Responsibility Policy. Creators causing harm to anyone on or outside YouTube may be penalized for their actions, as per Insider.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Project Nightfall's controversial video on the president of the Philippines

Agon Hare, the man behind Project Nightfall, is popular for the educational videos the channel posts on sensitive topics in order to raise awareness. In May 2022, one such sensitive issue Hare made a video on prompted him to face a huge amount of criticism, thereby leading the Polish YouTuber to delete the video in question. In the video titled "Why the Philippines chose a dictator's son as president?" he shared clips of Filipino people (whose faces were blurred) offering their opinions on Philippine elections. The video featured both the people who supported Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., the son of dictator and former president Ferdinand Marcos, and the people who did not.

Days after posting the video, Hare, who faced immense backlash from the supporters of Marcos Jr., posted an apology on Facebook. The post read (via The Filipino Times), "I made a mistake and I'd like to apologize to everyone affected by it. Especially those who have been threatened for their opinions. We wanted to give spotlight to BOTH sides, and simply allow people to speak how they feel." He also admitted that the title was too "clickbaity" for people to actually watch the video before jumping to a conclusion and added that sending death threats to people in the video was totally uncalled for.