James Charles Defends Controversial 'Mugshot' Makeup Look: 'Nothing to Do with Domestic Violence'

Kaitlyn Frey
·6-min read

Warning: Graphic Content.

YouTube beauty star James Charles is defending himself after facing intense backlash for taking part in the controversial #mugshot challenge on TikTok.

The triggering viral video trend features clips of users creating dramatic makeup looks that channel what their own mugshots might look like. Charles, 20, posted his jarring makeup moment in on Twitter and Instagram, simply captioning it, “mugshot.”

The since-deleted photos show Charles shirtless with dark brown and purple eyeshadow blended around his left eye, which appears to resemble a bruise. It also features what appears to be fake blood dripping from his right nostril.

Shortly afterwards, Charles’ followers criticized the star for seemingly glamorizing domestic violence by sharing the photos.

“You know I had to have two nose surgeries due to domestic violence. My nose is still crooked. I am reminded of those moments every day. This is not a subject matter to take lightly. You should know better. You need to apologize to everyone. This is triggering and offensive,” one woman tweeted.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

Another person wrote: “This is not ok. I’m disappointed in you again. This is not funny or cute! As a survivor of abuse it’s not cool.” Someone else said, “abuse isn’t an aesthetic.”

One fan explained in a Tweet why the “mugshot challenge” trend is so problematic. “I don’t understand why this would be a trend. I love James but it’s not fun having your face bruised and not being able to cover them up. Maybe I’m being too sensitive but this made me feel really uncomfortable because I couldn’t take mine off. It made me feel so dehumanized,” the fan tweeted.

Charles addressed the controversy in his reply to the fan: “hi babe, I’m so sorry that you went through something so awful and traumatic. it’s a tik tok trend going around where people post their “mugshots” and has nothing to do with domestic violence whatsoever. love you.”

James Charles/Twitter

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In response to another fan’s tweet, Charles said: “I do understand that but this dumb trend has nothing to do with domestic abuse. what about action movies? halloween? special effects? simple bloody noses? this is nothing new.”

A few hours later, Charles decided to remove the images from both his Twitter and Instagram accounts to avoid triggering any of his followers.

“despite the fact that hundreds of other influencers and artists have done something similar, I deleted the mugshot trend because it was never my intention to trigger anyone & it’s a waste of time trying to have an open discussion with people who hate me regardless ✌🏻,” he tweeted.

The famous TikTok house of young influencers, called The Hype House, also participated in the trend on the social platform, along with millions of others.

When one fan replied to Charles and told him he didn’t need to “apologize for everything,” the YouTuber made it clear that he wasn’t sorry about creating the “mugshot” makeup look.

“this is not an apology lol,” Charles replied.

A representative for Charles’ said the influencer would not be releasing a comment at this time.

The tone-deaf “mugshot challenge” on TikTok comes as many survivors of domestic violence find themselves in situations experts say could have a “devastating” impact on their health and safety as they are staying home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence — and the spread of the virus has experts worried abuse will increase, Dr. Amanda Stylianou, the quality improvement director at Rutgers University’s Behavioral Health Care center, told PEOPLE.

“I think that the fear of coronavirus is something that abusers are using really as a means to control victims,” she said.

Because of circumstances like this, and because of added stress and pressure in homes with a history of abuse, she said experts know that abuse is likely to increase in situations like the current outbreak, which has infected 43,499 people and killed at least 537 in the United States as of Tuesday afternoon, according to The New York Times.

Despite the hesitation to reach out, organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline and RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) still have people manning the phones 24/7 and offering help to those who need it, from arranging shelter placements to offering free and confidential chat lines.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) also encourages those who need help but are unable to speak safely to text LOVEIS to 22522. RAINN (800-656-4673) shared a recent Twitter thread geared toward those concerned about being in close quarters with their abusers, and offered several strategies people may find helpful too.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.