Breaking Down Influencers’ Biggest Scandals

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Influencer Ruby Franke Charged with Felony Child Abuse

The honeymoon period was rather short-lived for newlyweds Lunden Stallings and Olivia Bennett

Complete with a sleek Safiyaa dress (for Stallings), a Monique Lhuillier gown (for Bennett) and a three-tiered blackberry cheesecake, vanilla and lemon cake, the influencers‘ Sept. 30 black-tie wedding at Georgia’s stately Naylor Hall was dubbed the “royal wedding of lesbian TikTok” by many of the duo’s joint 700,000 followers.

“It’s so great marrying a girl that is the same as you because there was genuinely no conflict,” Stallings told People ahead of the vows. Referencing a debate they had during their cake tasting she added, “I think the only thing we disagreed on was the lemon cake, truly.”

And yet their first day as a married duo proved to be less than sweet when—just as they began sharing snapshots of their big day—Reddit users resurfaced screenshots of what appeared to be since-deleted racially sensitive posts made by Stallings. 

Amid the backlash, the pair uploaded a 10-minute apology video to their shared TikTok Stories, Stallings saying she was “completely and utterly disgusted and ashamed” by her past behavior. 

“I don’t want people to think that I am just sweeping this under the rug or that it’s something I’m not going to address or don’t want to address because I do want to address it,” she continued. “That’s not who I am.”

For better or worse, her new wife has her back. Calling the missives an “unfortunate and ignorant mistake,” Bennett said, “It’s so disappointing to see that those things were written, and written by somebody that I love, but I also know to my heart and core that’s not who you are. I would’ve never married her if that’s who she was today.”

Instagram/Olivia Bennett

Despite the mea culpa, the criticism didn’t cease, with detractors noting their wedding venue had ties to cotton mill owner Roswell King, who controlled several plantations that were operated by slave labor, with his son overseeing the creation of the property during the 1840s. 

While the couple has yet to respond to the continued judgement, they’re far from the first content creators to be faced with the opposite of a social media double-tap. Influencer scandals range from the just a bit catty (James Charles, you know what you did to Lauren Conrad) to the allegedly criminal (see: YouTuber Ruby Franke). Here are some of the biggest. 

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Colleen Ballinger

Her YouTube alter ego may sing, but it’s Colleen Ballinger who faced the music this summer. The Internet star known for her intentionally awkward Miranda Sings persona found herself facing allegations of grooming and forming inappropriate relationships with underage fans.

In a since-deleted June video titled “why I left the colleen ballinger fandom…”, YouTuber KodeeRants shared screenshots of an alleged text exchange between Colleen and her followers, accusing the comedian of forming exploitative relationships with underage fans.

Per NBC News, the unverified group text was named “Colleeny’s Weenies,” with the performer allegedly asking her fans their “favorite position” during one conversation. NBC News was unable to verify the screenshots. 

Days later, content creator Adam McIntyre—who first began running a fan account for Miranda Sings when he was 10—responded with videos on his own YouTube claiming Ballinger grooms her fans emotionally.

Ballinger has yet to directly respond to his claims, nor did she respond to E! News’ request for comment. But on June 28, the mother of three addressed the accusations in a 10-minute ukulele song posted to her personal YouTube account. In the video, Ballinger likened the accusations to a “toxic gossip train” headed for “manipulation station” as the rest of the internet “tie me to the tracks and harass me for my past.”

In July, the remaining dates of her Miranda Sings tour were canceled. She hasn’t posted to social media since.

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Rachel Hollis

Girl, watch your mouth. It all started when the Girl, Wash Your Face author posted about her house cleaner and it got increasingly dirty. 

In a clip of the since-deleted post resurfaced by Angie Treasure, Hollis referenced an April 2021 livestream where she spoke about a woman who “cleans the toilets,” noting that “someone commented and said, ‘You’re privileged AF’ and I was like, ‘You’re right. I’m super freaking privileged, but also I worked my ass off to have the money to have someone come twice a week and clean my toilets’ and I told her that. And then she said, ‘Well, you’re unrelatable.'”

Hollis’ response was to explain she had no interest in being relatable pointing out that icons and historical figures like Harriet TubmanRuth Bader GinsburgMarie Curie and Oprah Winfrey were “all unrelatable AF.” 

Exceptwhile selling millions of copies of her books is great, a revered abolitionist she is not. 

Days later, Hollis issued an Instagram apology, explaining, “I know I’ve caused tremendous pain in mentioning prominent women—including several women of color—whose struggles and achievements I can’t possibly understand.” Moreover, she continued, “I disregarded the people whose hard work doesn’t afford them financial security, often due to inherently racist and biased systems.”

Added the Girl, Stop Apologizing author, “The important thing for me to do now, something I should have already done, is honestly, be quiet and listen.”

Arielle Charnas

In March 2020, the founder of the Something Navy clothing line and the OG blog told her Instagram followers she had tested positive for COVID-19, vowing to quarantine in her Manhattan apartment with husband Brandon Charnas and their daughters Ruby and Esme. But eight days later, her whole crew—including her nanny—decamped to the Hamptons. 

Let’s just say, it wasn’t her best look. The comments on her Instagram page grew increasingly heated as she boasted about taking walks outdoors for “fresh air”rather than maintain social distance. 

When her husband cracked that only “hot” people were getting the virus, emotions boiled over.  

She later posted a lengthy apology addressing many concerns—their nanny was with them because she, too, had contracted the virus; they had doormen clear out the lobby of their building before departing, hadn’t stopped for gas and had groceries delivered; her Hamptons pad was on a relatively isolated street—but the damage lingered. 

Nordstrom, who had been carrying Charnas’ line, announced they wouldn’t renew the contract that had expired in 2019. In response, Charnas, who welcomed third daughter Navy in 2021, pivoted to a direct-to-consumer relaunch, explaining, “I wanted more control,” and is now back to posting about her favorite Shopbop picks and collabs with A Pea in the Pod.

Her valuable takeaway, she shared on The Glossy Podcast, “People wanted me to be more sensitive about what was going on in the world, and I should have been.”

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Tanya Zuckerbrot

In 2020 fashion influencer Emily Gellis Lande dished out a healthy serving of criticism to registered dietitian Zuckerbrot. In a series of posts, Gellis Lande shared anonymous tales from dieters, not verified by E! News, at least one of which who said she had paid upwards of $20,000 to follow the New Yorker’s high-fiber F-Factor Diet only to experience rashes, intense cramps, indications of metal poisoning and—in the most extreme allegation—a miscarriage. Gellis Lande’s crusade caught the attention of The New York Times which published a piece detailing the saga. 

Having hired lawyer Lanny Davis, once White House special council to former president Bill Clinton, Zuckerbrot denied the claims and the suggestion that her plan led to disordered eating, telling the paper that across upwards of 176,000 purchases of her snack bars and powders she had received just 50 health complaints. She later released a Certificate of Analysis to dispute concerns the products contained heavy metals and went on Today to further defend her program.

As for Gellis Lande, Zuckerbrot is hardly impressed. “I believe in her mind she thinks she’s helping people and that the lifestyle I lead is poisoning everyone and giving them anorexia,” Zuckerbrot, who’s worked with Megyn Kelly, sniped to the Times. “But she’s a fashion blogger.”

Zuckerbrot filed two lawsuits against Gellis Lande, claiming she “began a smear campaign to destroy” her brand. Both suits are pending. Gellis Lande has denied the claims.

Raymond Hall/GC Images; George Pimentel/WireImage

Jessica Mulroney

Much of the world underwent a long overdue racial awakening in 2020. But it was stylist—and Meghan Markle friend—Jessica Mulroney who got a wake-up call. In a nearly 12-minute Instagram video, lifestyle blogger Sasha Exeter explained her issues with her acquaintance began when Mulroney “took offense” to Exeter’s plea that her followers “use their voice for good and help combat the race war and what’s happening to the Black community.” 

Believing the message target her, Exeter continued, Mulroney engaged in “very problematic” behavior, allegedly speaking poorly about Exeter to other brands and “sending me a threat in writing.” Though Mulroney commented on Exeter’s video with an apology, she later sent a DM that Exeter shared, Mulroney writing, “Liable [sic] suit. Good luck.”

Though Mulroney posted a mea culpa to her own followers, announcing her intentions to promote “Black voices by having them take over my account and share their experience,” CTV announced they were dropping her reality show I Do, Redo.

Speaking “about the situation surrounding my wife, Jessica,” her husband Ben Mulroney stepped down from his role as co-host of CTV’s eTalk, stating, “It is my hope that the new anchor is Black, Indigenous, or a person of color who can use this important platform to inspire, lead, and make change.” But the mom of three did get to keep her high-profile friendship, writing in a since-deleted post, “Meghan and I are family. She is the kindest friend.”

Allen Berezovsky for Getty Images

Jake Paul

Known for such cinematic greatness as “I DUCT TAPED My Brothers $400,000 Dollar TRUCK!” and getting fired from Disney Channel’s Bizaardvark, the Vine star turned YouTube personality graduated to the big leagues in 2020.

On the morning of Aug. 5, FBI authorities executed a federal search warrant at Paul’s Calabasas, Calif., home, the bureau confirming it was in connection to a May 30 incident at a Scottsdale, Ariz., mall. Broadcasting live from a Black Lives Matter protest that ended at the city’s Fashion Square Mall, Paul unlawfully entered and remained inside the shopping center after cops ordered everyone to leave, police insisted in a statement. (Paul responded on Twitter that while he was documenting the protest, “neither I nor anyone in our group was engaged in any looting or vandalism.”) 

Conversation about the reason for the FBI raid grew as outsized as his YouTube following, as video from a local ABC station showed multiple firearms being carried into a police vehicle, Paul insisted in a since-deleted Aug. 12 video that the search was “entirely related to the Arizona looting situation that happened. It’s an investigation. There are rumors about it having to do with so many other things that have nothing to do with me or my character and the s–t that people are making up is absolutely absurd.”

While no charges were filed, Paul’s attorney told E! News in a statement that they intended to “cooperate with the investigation.”

John Salangsang/January Images/Shutterstock

James Charles

More than a year after making up with fellow beauty vlogger Tati Westbrook, the YouTube sensation started falling into some new feuds. First, in an August 2020 subtweet “about how I thought some celebrities shouldn’t launch makeup lines,” he insinuated that perpetually bare-faced Alicia Keys had no business having a skincare collection, later apologizing because he’s “not the gatekeeper of makeup.” 

But not two weeks later the Instant Influencer host was forced to cover up another mistake when he came for Lauren Conrad‘s new beauty line. Slamming The Hills alum in a series of Instagram Stories, he showed his 22 million followers the empty packaging he’d received “from a new makeup brand from somebody who has no business having a makeup brand.”

Fortunately the LC Lauren Conrad fashion designer didn’t shed a single mascara tear, hilariously copping to her misstep on Instagram by blaming the “woman who put together the gifts” (read: the winged eyeliner expert herself). Having put empty samples into a bag to test if they would fit, “When beauty products arrived and it was time to fill all the makeup bags she (again, me) accidentally included the bag full of empties with the others and it was sent out,” Conrad shared. “She will be let go immediately.”

Charles later apologized, saying the videos were meant to be funny and sharing that “Lauren and I spoke privately about the misunderstanding & are both good.” Still, it’s pretty clear he knows what he did. 

Instagram

Myka Stauffer

When The Stauffer Life vlogger and YouTuber kicked off a May 2020 video by saying, “This is by far the hardest video James and I have ever publicly had to make,” it was evident she wouldn’t be sharing her newborn nighttime routine or her daily diet. Instead, she and her husband revealed they had placed their then-4-year-old son Huxley, adopted from China in 2017, with “his now new forever family” after struggling to manage his autism. 

The reaction from their nearly 1 million subscribers could best be categorized as outraged, fans debating whether the couple—parents to four other children—were simply naive or had exploited Huxley for clicks and donations only to discard him when his care became too challenging. The two lost followers and brand collaborators, the likes of Fabletics, Suave and Danimals announcing that they were severing ties and Ohio’s Delaware County Sheriff’s Office even confirmed to E! News that they were investigating the well-being of Huxley. 

Authorities announced in late June that they had closed their case “without any charges,” but Myka’s brand remains shut down as well. A once constant Internet presence, she hasn’t posted to YouTube or Instagram since she issued a lengthy statement, apologizing for “being so naive when I started the adoption process,” and noting that they were “not under any type of investigation.”

Instagram

Bryce Hall & Jaden Hossler

Quite the ride. When Hall announced in May 2020 that he and his fellow TikTok star “might do a whole road trip all the way across country in the next few days…” they received more than just the sightseeing recommendations they were after. Hall’s Twitter followers were already less than thrilled that the two were flouting stay at home recommendations to take a trip, causing the Gen Z idol to shoot back, “most states lifted quarantine, the boys are driving across country staying out of contact from everyone… it’s not that deep.”

But they dug an even deeper hole when they passed through Lee County, Tex. five days later, the sheriff’s office confirming that Hall was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and Hossler arrested and charged with possession of controlled substances. (They both posted bail the next day. E! News reached out to both reps for comment at the time. Hall’s rep declined to comment; Hossler’s didn’t respond.) 

In a June essay, Hall told People he’d “started on the path” toward getting sober: “While I’ve messed up in the past, I’m learning and growing… and I will make you proud. I promise.”

Chris Delmas / AFP) (Photo credit should read CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images

Alan & Alex Stokes

Some pranks are cute. Say, George Clooney and Brad Pitt covering Julia Roberts‘ dressing room door in shaving cream. This is not that. In October 2019, the YouTube personalities, known as the Stokes Twins clad themselves in black and, pretending as if they’d just robbed a bank, called an Uber to serve as a getaway while a camera rolled. Definitely not in on the joke, the Uber driver refused to peel away and a bystandercalled the cops. 

“Irvine police arrived and ordered the Uber driver out at gunpoint,” the Orange County District Attorney’s Office later shared in a press release. The driver was released once authorities determined he was not involved, the release continued, and “police issued a warning to the Stokes brothers about the dangers of their conduct.”

Four hours later the twins allegedly recreated the routine on the University of California, Irvine campus, resulting in their arrest. Facing up to four years in prison if convicted on false imprisonment and swatting charges, they received the ire of Orange County D.A. Todd Spitzer, who said in a statement, “These are crimes that could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or even killed.”

In a 2020 news release, their lawyer said, “We can say without hesitation that our clients are in fact not guilty of any crimes.” Still, they pled guilty to lesser charges of misdemeanor false imprisonment and reporting false emergencies, receiving 160 hours of community service and one year of probation. 

YouTube

Shane Dawson

Crowned the “King of YouTube” for his lengthy videos that earned him some 34 million followers, Dawson saw his reign end in June 2020 after he posted a since-deleted explosive tweet about why he was leaving the online beauty community. “They are all attention seeking, game playing, egocentric, narcissistic, vengeful, two-faced, ticking time bombs ready to explode. And I’m OVER it,” he griped, calling out James Charles in particular as “a young, egocentric, power-hungry guru who needed to be served a slice of humble pie in the size of the f–king Empire State Building.”

His followers were not impressed, noting that those that live in glass glam rooms shouldn’t throw stones. And within days Dawson had posted a 20-minute video titled “Taking Accountability” in which he apologized for his own bad behavior, noting “I have done a lot of things in my past that I hate,” including using blackface, making racist remarks and jokes about pedophilia and posting a video that sexualized a then-11-year-old Willow Smith

“This video is coming from a place of just wanting to own up to my s–t, wanting to own up to everything I’ve done on the internet that has hurt people, that has added to the problem, that has not been handled well,” he said. “I should have been punished for things.” Which he was, YouTube suspending his ability to monetize his three accounts. 

He returned to creating content in 2021, saying, “I’m so grateful that I got cancelled, because it really changed my life.”

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