YouTube stars who killed their careers in a matter of seconds

YouTube has allowed countless content creators to achieve fame and fortune from the comfort of their own homes with nothing more than a camera and a dream. A decade ago, the notion that you could make a ton of money and amass a huge fan base simply by recording yourself playing video games would have sounded preposterous, but that's exactly how the biggest YouTuber on the planet started out. Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg now has over 100 million subscribers on YouTube, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

Despite being embroiled in a number of high profile controversies in recent years, the superstar Swede has been able to ride the media storm and not only maintain, but actually grow his online following. Many other YouTube stars haven't been so lucky. A so-called "cancel culture" has taken root in the YouTube community — if a creator steps out of line or makes a dumb mistake, people will unsubscribe in droves, effectively "canceling" their channel.

The effects of this aren't always permanent. Sometimes, with a dash of humility and the backing of their peers, YouTubers manage to bring their canceled channels back from the dead, but that black mark will always be on their permanent record. From fake vegans to backstabbing beauty gurus, the following creators all did irreversible damage to their reputations and careers in a matter of seconds.

Rawvana spiked her vegan vlogging career for some seafood

Vegan vlogging is big business on YouTube. Numerous creators have amassed huge followings promoting plant-based diets, many of whom are happy to share said diets with their subscribers, usually for a fee. One such creator is Yovana "Rawvana" Mendoza, who sells vegan diet plans on her personal website (the "21 day raw challenge" will set you back $69). She had around two and a half million subscribers across her English and Spanish language channels at one stage, but the empire she built came crashing down in 2019 when she was exposed as an alleged fraud.

How did the vegan vlogger ruined her career in a matter of seconds? She decided to order fish at a restaurant, and was accidentally outed by a fellow influencer. Mendoza was in Bali at the time, the tropical Indonesian island that she described in an Instagram post as a "plant-based paradise" — a description that would backfire spectacularly. Her trip to paradise turned into a nightmare when another YouTuber that she was traveling with, Paula Galindo, started vlogging in the restaurant. Galindo turned her camera on Mendoza, and (despite her attempts to hide what she was about to consume) there was clearly some fish on her plate.

The outraged internet quickly dubbed her "Fishvana" and, just like that, her reputation was in tatters. "I felt like someone had died," Mendoza told The Daily Beast. "It was one of the worst days of my life." In her apology video, Mendoza claimed that she had to abandon her plant-based diet due to "health reasons."

ProJared's career and marriage ended at the same time

YouTube gamer Jared Knabenbauer, known professionally as ProJared, lost thousands of subscribers in 2019 after his wife (popular cosplayer Heidi O'Ferrall) accused him of infidelity. According to O'Ferrall, Knabenbauer had an affair with fellow YouTube gamer, Holly Conrad. "My husband has been f***ing Holly Conrad behind my back for months," she claimed in an explosive series of tweets. "I have proof. Explicit conversations and photographs of their relationship, which he extensively lied to me about on many occasions. He was promising me that he was committed to our relationship at the time, and promising her he was breaking up with me."

Knabenbauer hit a million subs in 2018, but after O'Ferrall publicly trashed him on Twitter, a tenth of his following split — the gamer lost over 100,000 subs in a single day. O'Ferrall said that she spilled the beans after she realized her hubby had blocked her and made a statement on their impending split without first consulting her. "You may see a lot of rumors, speculation, and gossip going around," Knabenbauer said in his statement announcing his and O'Ferrall's divorce, which made no mention of infidelity.

Prompted by his wife's claims, some fans came forward claiming he'd solicited nude photos from them. Knabenbauer admitted that he'd exchanged photos with consenting adults on occasion (something that his wife gave the okay to, we should add), and apologized. "What I was doing was not predatory, but it was unhealthy," he said. He's been dropped from his agency and many in the gaming community have since distanced themselves from him.

Zoella went silent on YouTube after a merch blunder

Zoe Elizabeth Sugg, better known as Zoella, was a YouTube mainstay for a number of years. The Brit started her beauty channel back in 2009 and quickly rose to the upper echelons of the platform, but her name was dragged through the dirt after she made a questionable decision. Her downfall began in 2017 when she released a branded advent calendar that upset a lot of her teenage followers and their paying parents. The 12-door calendar went on sale for a whopping £50 (around $62), but the gifts behind the doors weren't exactly worth the hefty price tag.

According to The Telegraph, many of the people who shelled out the money for the product called it "massively overpriced," and criticized the low quality gifts it contained — the calendar included "a packet of confetti and a star-shaped cookie cutter," for example. Burned customers started digging into the YouTuber's past, and before long a number of offensive, seemingly homophobic tweets came to light.

Though her subscriber count remains sky high, as of this writing, Zoella hasn't uploaded a video to her main channel in over a year. Her branded products, aren't faring so well, either. Of the Brunch Date eye palette she released in 2019, one disappointed Twitter user wrote (via The Sun), "Honestly this ColourPop collaboration with Zoella is as dead as her YouTube channel."

Sonia Sae's career is as starved as her pet fox

Is it cruel to keep a pet fox on a vegan diet? That's the question that the BBC and numerous other outlets asked when the media caught wind of Sonia Sae, a vegan YouTuber who owns a fennec fox named Jumanji. The Spanish content creator (who describes herself as an "anti-speciesist") drew the wrath of the internet when she shared a picture of an extremely thin-looking Jumanji on Instagram. One outraged Twitter user said that the fox looked "extremely malnourished," while fellow YouTuber Foshee encouraged their subscribers to report Sae to PETA. An online petition to "save the fox" was started, but Sae stood firm, claiming that Jumanji's apparent weight loss was down to hair loss.

"Jumanji has a skin allergy due to plant pollen," she explained in a Facebook post (per BBC). "He had it before going plant based. This allergy manifests itself during plant pollinating seasons (spring/summer) and it disappears when it finishes (autumn/winter). In all pictures he weighs around the same... which is a normal weight for a fennec fox." This wasn't enough to convince everyone that she was doing right by the adorable animal, however — some of her fellow vegans even took issue with her, questioning Jumanji's diet. According to The Independent, fennec foxes are "mostly carnivorous animals" that eat "lizards, birds and eggs in the wild as well as fruits." Although it's tough to gauge the full impact the scandal had on Sae's career, as of this writing, she's stalled out at less than 8,000 subscribers

Anthony Fantano lost an entire YouTube channel

As far as YouTube music critics go, Anthony Fantano (or "the internet's busiest music nerd," as his intro goes) is considered one of the platform's pioneers. His no-nonsense style of reviewing made his acclaimed channel The Needle Drop essential viewing for fans of all genres, but one decision ultimately led to a fall from grace. Fantano launched a spin-off channel named thatistheplan, a place for him to upload his own covers of songs and discuss things that weren't necessarily related to music. His second channel wasn't particularly well-known outside of his fanbase, but it made headlines in 2017 when The Fader published an article that accused him of expressing dangerous views on it.

"His vocabulary took on a screechy, 4Chan-friendly slant," writer Ezra Marcus, who claims to have been doxed by Fantano fans after publishing the article, stated (via Vice). "He raged against SJWs [social justice warriors] and feminists, and, in video after video, treated black musicians as a punchline." According to OkayPlayer (who described thatistheplan as a "controversial alt-right YouTube channel"), Fantano published videos with titles such as "I CHANGED MY GENDER CUZ DONALD TRUMP." In the wake of The Fader's highly critical piece, several venues abruptly cancelled a series of live shows that Fantano planned in celebration of the 10th anniversary of The Needle Drop. Though the publication later removed the article and reached a settlement with Fantano, he ultimately deleted the channel and lost its 400,000 subscribers.

James Charles' career took a death blow from his own mentor

Makeup vlogger James Charles lost subscribers in record numbers in 2019 after a drama that engulfed a number of creators from YouTube's beauty community. It all began when Charles promoted a wellness brand that his friend and mentor, Tati Westbrook (dubbed the "fairy godmother" of beauty vloggers by The Verge), considers a direct rival to her own business. Westbrook cut ties with Charles, but not before accusing him of attempting to manipulate straight men (Charles is gay), and selling her out for Coachella VIP passes. The hashtag "JamesCharlesIsCancelled" trended worldwide on Twitter, and he shed a whopping two million subs in three days.

"I'm so disappointed in myself that I ruined a relationship that did mean so much to me, even if I didn't do the best job of showing it all the time," a devastated Charles said in a now-deleted apology video. "What sucks the most is I know there is nothing I can say or do to ever earn that friendship or trust back." The young content creator vanished from social media during the height of the backlash. He later revealed that the whole mess left him feeling suicidal and thanked his friends for helping him get through the drama (via Cosmopolitan).

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Gabriel Zamora came for Jeffree Star ... and killed his own career instead

The whole James Charles versus Tati Westbrook thing took some unexpected twists and turns before it finally got smoothed over, but it was relatively easy to follow when compared to the drama that blew up the year before. Often referred to as "dramageddon" in the YouTube beauty community, it all kicked off when Gabriel Zamora posted a picture of himself and some other makeup vloggers giving the middle finger shortly after the release of Shane Dawson's The Secret World of Jeffree Star documentary series. According to BuzzFeed, he captioned the now-deleted pic "B***h is bitter because without him we're doing better" (via BuzzFeed). Zamora followed that up with a tweet that read: "Imagine stanning a racist? I could never." 

It didn't take long for people to work out that he was talking about Star, who had previously apologized for a number of offensive tweets from his past. The move backfired in spectacular fashion. According to Cosmopolitan, those same Jeffree Star stans that Zamora was talking about in his shady tweet started digging into his past, and it transpired that he had openly used racist slurs on Twitter, too. In the end, he was the architect of his own downfall. "Imagine trying to bully me but you actually end your own career instead," Star said in a now-deleted tweet of his own.  

Manny MUA's career took a hit thanks to Jeffree Starr, too

One of the beauty vloggers in Gabriel Zamora's explosive middle finger photo, Manuel "Manny MUA" Gutierrez was hit a lot harder than the original poster, and that was because of his perceived role in the falling out. According to TubeFilter, Zamora's subscribers fled like crazy until he posted an apology video. That video stemmed the flow somewhat — and also shifted the blame on to Gutierrez, who Zamora accused of "being a fairweather friend." YouTube seemed to believe this version of events, and Gutierrez started losing around 4000 subscribers per day. Before long, he hit a low of 250,000 subs, down from a peak of over 5 million at one point. 

In September 2019, Gutierrez revealed that he'd been losing subscribers for one year straight following dramageddon. In a video entitled "I was 'Cancelled' last year, let's finally talk about it," the beauty vlogger expressed concerns about cancel culture and the deeply damaging effect it can have on creators. While his plea had mixed results — the comments section of his video revealed that some people genuinely believed that Gutierrez had learned his lesson, but others accused him of deflecting blame — his subscriber base has at least bounced back to a healthy 4.79 million. 

Laura Lee's Twitter history killed her career

Perhaps the biggest loser in the whole dramageddon scandal was Laura Lee. All of the creators that went against Jeffree Star suffered career blows, but the majority of them just about managed to stay afloat, either via damage control apology videos or (as is often the case in the YouTube beauty community, apparently) by throwing their accomplices under the bus. Star's fans unearthed some seriously offensive tweets from Lee's past in which she insulted both African and Asian people with racial slurs. According to Cosmopolitan, one now-deleted tweet read: "Tip for all black people if you pull ur pants up you can run from the police faster." Yeah... 

Perhaps compounding the obviously problematic nature of that comment, the beauty vlogger had tweeted it just a few months after 17-year-old African-American student Trayvon Martin was shot dead by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman while walking home from a local shop. Her deplorable tweet was more than enough to get her canceled, but she wound up driving the final nail through her own coffin with a widely mocked apology. Lee shed a whopping 240,000 subscribers in a single week after she attempted to explain herself in a video that the majority of people deemed disingenuous. " One Twitter user, gleefully relishing in watching Lee's "subscriber count drop with every passing moment," wrote, "She couldn't even produce fake tears so she had to resort to an awful acting job." Ouch.

JonTron strayed from his lane and crashed his career

If you're a YouTuber who specializes in gaming, it's usually best to stick to your topic of expertise, and keep your political opinions to yourself. That is, if career longevity is something you value. YouTube star Jon Jafari, better known as JonTron, found this out the hard way in 2017 when he decided to show his support for Steve King, a U.S. Representative from Iowa. King stoked controversy when he tweeted support for far-right Dutch politician, Geert Wilders. "Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny," King said. "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies."

Jafari is of Hungarian and Iranian heritage, yet he went to bat for King in his own tweet. "Wow, how scandalous," he said. "Steve King doesn't want his country invaded by people who have contempt for his culture and people! NAZI!" The YouTuber doubled down in a livestream, revealing what Polygon described as "wide-ranging right-wing sympathies that appear to have blindsided many of his viewers, some of whom have withdrawn their YouTube subscriptions." Jafari dropped 10,000 subscribers in the immediate aftermath, and while he's managed to keep his YouTube channel afloat, his claims about "wealthy blacks in the United States [committing] more crimes than poor whites" have all but guaranteed that a career in the mainstream is no longer a possibility for this gamer and comedian. 

Tana Mongeau's career died when she tried to go big

Two documentaries about Fyre Fest were released in 2017, but did you know that YouTube has its own version of the bogus event? According to The Verge, people compared 2018's TanaCon to the failed music festival when things went disastrously wrong for co-organizer, YouTube star Tana Mongeau. Annoyed at the treatment she'd received from VidCon (an annual gathering of fans and creators that's been going since 2010), Mongeau decided to stage her own convention right next door. The hastily organized event was a disaster, with thousands of dehydrated people left waiting outside for hours in the blazing California sun. 

TanaCon was canceled, and for a while, it looked like Mongeau was canceled, too. She was accused of knowingly selling more tickets than the venue could accommodate, which didn't escape the attention of PewDiePie, who urged her to delete her channel. The debacle left a black mark on her reputation, after which, she seemingly took drastic measures to remain in the limelight. In 2019, Mongeau married Jake Paul (another controversial YouTuber) in what many (rightly) assumed was a PR stunt. It turned out the marriage wasn't legally binding. In fact, in an interview filmed for Tana Turns 21 (her underwhelming reality series for MTV's Youtube channel), Mongeau admitted that the whole thing was "for fun and for content." Will this girl ever learn?