The untold truth of James Charles

If you haven't heard of James Charles yet, where have you been? The makeup artist became CoverGirl's first ever CoverBoy in 2016 at the tender age of 17. A relative newcomer to the scene, Charles became an overnight sensation after he insisted on retaking his high school yearbook photo in order to properly accentuate his cheekbones. He made his highlighter pop and also began popping up all over the internet after his yearbook photo went viral. Soon, the teen was taking the beauty world by storm. The CoverGirl contract soon followed, and now Charles is one of the most popular young beauty vloggers in the industry.

Being thrust into the spotlight at such a young age isn't always easy, though, especially when you are a boy in a traditionally female-dominated industry. Charles isn't just making a name for himself, but also breaking down barriers. Here's how he is navigating his new success — and looking fierce while doing it.

Drawing and painting were his first loves

If Charles seems like a natural with a makeup brush, that's because he has been wielding instruments of art since he was a little boy. The mega-talented artist started his creative endeavors in more traditional mediums, including drawing and painting, before branching out to painting on his friends backs. His renderings of celebs prove that his drawing game is strong

While Charles has been an artist since he was a kid, he hasn't always experimented with makeup. "I'm a super creative person and have always loved drawing and painting since I was super young but makeup was a new avenue for me," Charles told Cosmopolitan. "I used to draw portraits of celebrities so I've always had a love for beautiful faces." Whether he's working on paper, canvas, or a living, breathing human being, Charles brings his incredible skills and passion to his art.

Before he started doing makeup, he was styling hair

Charles has always loved art, but it didn't initially occur to him to apply those skills to makeup. His first foray into the world of beauty was actually in hair styling. Charles revealed in an Instagram post that his dad taught him how to braid hair when he was just a little boy, so styling his friends' hair must have seemed like a good way to utilize his skills. Makeup, however, is something he got into by accident.

"At one of my best friend's hair appointments, she was late for her makeup appointment so she asked me to do it," Charles told Seventeen. "I was like 'OK girl, I'll do it, but if it looks awful, do not tag me in that Instagram picture.' And it ended up actually looking really, really great. … So she ended up posting a picture and she loved it and everybody was like, 'Oh my God, this looks so good,' so I ordered a basic starter set online and I started practicing on clients." Soon after, Charles began trying makeup on himself, and the rest is history.

He's completely self-taught

James Charles rose to fame pretty much overnight, his natural talent catapulting him to success. A social media sensation, it's fitting that Charles is beloved on a medium that taught him the skills of his trade. While he is a relative newcomer to the actual application of makeup, Charles did know the basics thanks to YouTube.

"YouTube videos and practice have taught me all I know," he told Seventeen. "I've been watching tutorials for years now, so when I started makeup I did have a semi-idea of how to do things. Other than that, it's all been through experimenting and figuring out what works for me! I have pretty defined features: huge brows, very small eyelids, and a chunky nose. I love them all, but they're definitely not the easiest things to work with when it comes to makeup, so I've really had to practice and see what I like on myself!"

Being a boy in the industry hasn't been easy

While things are slowly changing, there are still not that many men in the beauty industry — at least not ones who model a full face of makeup like Charles does. Society still largely views makeup as a solely feminine accessory, which has resulted in a lot of skepticism and outright hostility for Charles. "As more and more guys come to light, the way the internet is, there will be people who don't agree," Charles told The New York Times. "Those negative comments probably make people not want to do it, because lots of people take that stuff very seriously."

In spite of the negativity, Charles is excited to be the first male CoverGirl representative. "The fact that I am the first boy is so cool," he said. "It shows that this industry is actually becoming genderless, and we're really making the push toward equal opportunities for everybody, regardless of race, sexuality, gender."

"I have a thick skin"

Charles faces a lot of negativity online, especially from those who don't like the idea of a guy wearing makeup, but anyone who thinks their nasty comments will make Charles back down clearly hasn't met him. When it comes to haters, Charles isn't wasting his time. "My comment section used to be a mess to say the least," he told Cosmopolitan

"Now [Instagram] has added filters, so I've removed the classic hate comments, but people still manage to get through every once in a while," he continued. "They really don't bother me. I have a thick skin, and I'm definitely not willing to let someone without anything better to do than hate on someone else behind a keyboard get into my head. I've got way more important things to worry about!"Becoming famous can be difficult at any age,especially if you have trouble tuning out negativity, but Charles' wise words prove that he has wisdom far beyond his young age.

His parents have been totally supportive

With so many people who don't approve of Charles, he can at least rest easy knowing that his parents are always in his corner. Charles came out as gay when he was twelve years old, and his parents were immediately accepting. They were also on board when he told them he wanted to pursue a career in makeup. "They were like, 'Oh, you know, we love you no matter what. Like if you're trans, you can tell us,'" Charles told Ellen. While he doesn't identify as transgender, Charles appreciated his parents' unconditional support.

His dad went above and beyond in order to help Charles achieve his goals. "My photos would not be as high quality without my dad," Charles told Allure. "He's a contractor, and together we converted an area in our basement into a makeup studio with a desk, a mirror lined with dimmable lights, and storage areas."

A racist tweet almost killed his career

Like many young people, Charles has made some mistakes. In 2017 he came under fire after posting a tweet that many found offensive. On a school trip to Africa, he tweeted "I can't believe we're going to Africa today omg what if we get Ebola?"

Charles soon deleted the tasteless tweet and apologized, but many of his fans weren't satisfied. "I was making what I thought was a joke, but it wasn't funny and was just plain offensive," he told Affinity. "That stereotyping is offensive and not okay."

While it was far from his finest moment, Charles was a high school student when he posted the tweet, and he seems to have truly learned from his mistake. "I'm a 17 year old kid," he said. "I like to think of myself as mature, but I've definitely said many things in the past that I regret and that are problematic. My age is not an excuse to be a brat, but that being said, I've had much less life experience and time to educate myself on these type of issues."

He tends to stay quiet on political issues

While Charles has a broad platform, so far he hasn't used it much to advocate for political or social issues. Of course, being one of the few high profile men in the beauty industry is already a statement of sorts, but he doesn't feel comfortable doing much more than that — at least right now. "To be 100% honest, I tend to keep my mouth shut out of the fear that I will word it wrong and offend people," he told Affinity

There are those who think that he's not doing enough to advocate for marginalized groups, but Charles isn't unconcerned about social issues. "Some of my favorite pages to follow are POC artists, and the lack of representation is sad," he sad. "Skin color has absolutely no correlation to how talented someone can be with makeup and it's frustrating to watching [sic] solely white people make it to the top. I seriously hope that in the future the industry will continue to be more and more diverse."

Could he have a future as a recording artist?

Charles can draw, paint, and use makeup to totally transform someone's face, but his remarkable list of talents doesn't end there. Charles appears to be one of those people who is so incredibly multi-talented. The makeup artist is also a shockingly good singer who, sadly, doesn't post nearly as many clips of him making music as he should. He has graced his Instagram and YouTube followers with some videos of his angelic voice, and we want more.

Charles is also a member of an a capella group called Flashback. So far, the group is working on releasing covers on YouTube, but we are more than ready for a full length album. While Charles hasn't announced plans to go solo, with so much talent it's (hopefully) only a matter of time before he takes another industry by storm, this time for his stunning musical ability.

Being legally blind hasn't slowed him down

It's kind of hard to believe it given that Charles creates such visually striking makeup looks (not to mention beautiful drawings), but the beauty guru is actually legally blind. He can't see very much without corrective lenses, but Charles has not let his disability slow him down one bit. He does need to wear contacts so he can see, but he has even turned that into a stylish statement by opting for colored contacts that help him achieve some truly eye popping looks. Charles is so used to it that he says his poor vision doesn't bother him.

"It really doesn't affect the process that much," he told Seventeen. "My contacts are the same prescription as my regular glasses. After a long day of a shoot, however, my eyes do usually feel pretty dry so it can be a pain sometimes. Oh well, I guess beauty truly is pain!"

Dating hasn't been made any easier by his fame

You'd think that being an internationally recognized celebrity would help you at least score more dates, but Charles — like many young people — is doing his best to navigate the dating scene. If anything, his sudden fame has complicated his dating life, rather than making it simpler. "I'm very bad at talking to boys," Charles told Seventeen. "I'm not that great at it."

To make matters worse, he now has to deal with people trying to take advantage of his fame. "A lot of the local guys that I've had crushes on in the past have Snapchatted me and they're like 'send me selfies so like I can show my friends that I'm Snapchatting you,'" he said. "I'm like, really? That's so annoying. So it's definitely not the easiest thing in the world to talk to guys or really anybody, because you never know who's really your friend."