CoverGirl’s first male spokesmodel broke barriers, then unfortunately built some of his own, and now he’s trying to make amends. 17-year-old James Charles came under fire when he tweeted a “joke” about catching the Ebola virus before a school trip to South Africa.
With the trip — and a lot of angry tweets suggesting fans boycott CoverGirl — behind him, Charles issued a more thoughtful apology over Instagram. “I just spent the past 10 days in South Africa. In Cape Town, our first stop was to a local high school. I was nervous to visit after the recent events, however I was met with endless smiles and hugs from kids that came running from all over the school,” he wrote.
In a lengthy apology, Charles checks his privilege, talks about the importance of self expression, and acknowledges that “there are no excuses.”
“My ignorance allowed for me to make a massive error. I am extremely sorry for what I said,” Charles wrote. “No one owes me forgiveness, but I’ve learned a lot from this experience. I hope that the people who might look up to me will be able to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them. I recognize my position as an influencer and know that it is so important to be a positive role model for all, and how in many ways, I have failed to do so.”
That word — influencer — is an important one. Charles was hired at CoverGirl not just to break boundaries but for his reach as a YouTuber with over 800,000 subscribers who can speak organically to his teen peers. To see Charles work so publicly through the process of retribution for an ignorant, potentially hateful act may serve as a lesson to many.
CoverGirl has yet to comment on Charles’ latest statement, but they did make the value of a sincere apology clear in their comments to the original incident: “We agree his statements were inappropriate but appreciate that he has issued an apology. We are an inclusive brand and respect all people and cultures.”
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