After weeks of drama, YouTube has suspended monetization on all three of Shane Dawson's channels. Here's how Dawson, a huge name on the platform, went from dipping his toes into the beauty community to getting called out by Jaden Smith.
Since 2008, Dawson has worn many hats. He's been a comedy YouTuber; he's made videos about conspiracy theories; he's dabbled as a documentarian. The most consistent thing about his career is that he is always there, having had a longevity on YouTube that most people could only dream about. But this month, Dawson's archive came back to bite him in the ass.
Part of the issue was Dawson's brief involvement in the beauty community on YouTube. Right now, Dawson and some of his contemporaries in that community are embroiled in what has been referred to as Dramageddon 2, because there has already been one Dramageddon. Dramageddon 2 is a complicated saga, but it's mostly important to understand a lot of very deep, old wounds were being reopened at the same time that Dawson was newly entering the fray.
Dawson's collaboration with Jeffree Star, who is a particularly controversial figure in the beauty community, didn't help. The pair collaborated on a makeup collection themed around that subject, called Controversy, which was available via Morphe Cosmetics. But as Star became embroiled in another iteration of Dramageddon, members of the beauty community highlighted Dawson's involvement as well. As that conversation accelerated, Dawson wrote and deleted a four page note about the beauty community that decried all the "drama."
Dawson's real problem started when all this beauty drama led viewers to resurface some of his older videos, where they found examples of him using blackface or making racially insensitive comments; Jenna Marbles, a contemporary of Dawson, also recently had her older work which featured blackface resurface. Marbles apologized and took time away from the platform.
It's not like these videos were a secret, either; if you search on YouTube "Shane Dawson Shanaynay'' you are greeted with dozens of compilations of Dawson wearing blackface or saying the n-word. Dawson's early comedy videos also featured a character named Shanaynay, who was a "ghetto" female character performed in drag. Dawson also occasionally performed this character in blackface. Shanaynay was also referenced by name at the 2017 Streamys (an awards ceremony for YouTubers) during the monologue, when host Jon Cozart referenced that Shane Dawson was up for creator of the year and also "spent half of his career in blackface."
Dawson has apologized for these videos now three times. Once in 2014, another time in 2018, and also three days ago. One of these videos, of Dawson miming masturbation at a poster of the then-11 year old Willow Smith garnered the attention of the rest of the Smith family. Both Jaden Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith made tweets directly addressing Shane Dawson's video, both of which were posted after Dawson apologized for his early work yet again. Between Jaden saying that he felt "disgusted" by Dawson and Jada saying that she was "tired of excuses," neither member of the Smith family seemed like they accepted Dawson's apology.
It seems that this time, Dawson's apologies aren't getting him out of hot water. YouTube told Motherboard today that it has suspended monetization on all of Dawson's channels because of his videos and off-platform behavior. Morphe has also stopped selling Shane Dawson's portions of his collaboration with Star on its website. None of that means that Dawson is over. But the person who was once a shining star of YouTube is fading, at least for now.