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Con-demned

26 June 2018 | Liz Bowen

These YouTube stars have it tough, don’t they? You make a few videos, people watch them and suddenly you’ve got a following, which grows and grows, making you into a celebrity of sorts.

Far from simply sharing their favourite make-up tips or whatever else it takes to make one a ‘YouTube star’ these days, now they’re launching their own product ranges, becoming spokespeople and even jumping the divide into professional acting.

But, as with anyone living in the public eye, these ‘stars’ often find themselves with another title thrust at their feet – role model, which also opens them up to intense public scrutiny. Any ‘unacceptable’ behaviour is met with a fast and heavy backlash.

Zoella, for example, had a pretty tough end to 2017 after her advent calendar, distributed in Boots, came under fire for costing £50…then, a 12-year-old girl found a Stanley knife in her calendar. Then there was the drama that overshadowed the publication of her first novel, Girl Online, in 2016 when it was revealed that - shock horror - she’d used a ghostwriter to help pen the tale.

And who could forget the controversy surrounding last year’s I’m A Celebrity… when YouTuber Jack Maynard was forced to quit the jungle after offensive and racist tweets made before his star soared were brought to the fore.

THEN there was the backlash against US vlogger Logan Paul, who filmed himself laughing alongside the hanging body of a man during a visit to Japan’s notorious Aokigahara forest – a known suicide hotspot.

Well, some people just never learn do they. This week, another YouTube star Tana Mongeau attempted to host her own convention – TanaCon – which had to be shut down on Sunday after 20,000 people showed up to the event; four times more than organisers were expecting, posing a major safety hazard.

Due to take place on the same weekend as VidCon (no, me neither), after Mongeau fell out with organisers over something or other, the star, who has 3.5m YouTube subscribers, promised the event would feature appearances from fellow YouTubers Shane Dawson and Miranda Sings (again, no, me neither) and singer Bella Thorne (also, no.)

While tickets were sold for the event, Mongeau then posted on social media to her extensive following that people would also be able to queue up on the day and get in for free…and that they did.

Both Mongeau and event organisers, Good Times, apologised for having to cancel the event, but that didn’t prevent the backlash for those who did make it into the venue, with people complaining about the lack of activities, being treated ‘like animals’ and the amount of money spent to get there.

Mongeau also promised to provide travel compensation and full refunds to those who bought tickets. She also referred to herself as an ‘idiot’ and took full responsibility for the incident.

For anyone or any brand in the public eye, your audience is what makes you who you are. After all, they determine your level of success and subsequent failure if you should fall out of favour – if there’s no-one there to support you, that’s a PR disaster that’s hard to come back from.

Fortunately, nothing serious happened during the event, so while it’s arguably not great, Tana Mongeau probably isn’t going to lose too much of her influence over the failure of TanaCon – plus, a public apology always helps. But the sheer volume of people who turned up for the event just goes to demonstrate the huge influence, reach and engagement such stars actually wield.

As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and the power of a rogue tweet, video or post, cannot be underestimated so it pays to think about content, carefully.