A YouTube Fandom Grooming Scandal: Colleen Ballinger

A YouTube Fandom Grooming Scandal: Colleen Ballinger

Try to remember being thirteen years old. Your body is changing, the hormones are racing, and your skin has never been more out of control. You're finally old enough to watch a PG-13 movie, but you want to watch R. You're officially a teenager, but you can't wait to grow up and have total freedom. You feel misunderstood and that messes with your self-confidence. 

You watch YouTube and stumble on some hilarious comedy video. They feature a character who looks like an adult, but acts like an outrageous and funny teenager.

You become obsessed with their videos and eventually, you realize the person who plays the character has a more personal YouTube channel. 

They make fun videos documenting their lives and sharing personal antidotes. It turns out they're just as cool as the character they play. They're in their late twenties. Behind the scenes, they are sassy, outrageous, and charismatic. They are a confident musician and actor. The actress has her family on her channel sometimes. Their family is big and loving and has the greatest time together. You feel like you know them and wish you could hang out with them. Someone like them would get you, unlike the adults, who others give you rules and don't you're not old handle the more grown-up aspects of life.

You follow your idol on social media liking every post and you try to never miss a live stream. They feel more familiar than ever, all that separates you could be bridged by an inbox or comment section. 

You're watching one of these streams and typing in the comment section when your hero notices you.

Your idol is unboxing new clothes they purchased on camera.  They're laughing at your snarky comments about items from the order. They shout you by name and laugh as they try on some racy lingerie over his clothes. You told the audience you'd send the unwanted items from the order to people in the chat. 

They ask if you want the lingerie and you say yes. It seems kind of strange but she's your idol and wants to send you a box of hot coals and you'd be on your knees thanking them.

The lingerie comes in the mail, but you hide it from parents as soon as it arrives. Your idol adds you to a group chat with a select number of other fans. Time goes by, you're either texting or face-timing with you constantly. 

It's your fourteenth birthday but you spent most of the day on your phone, stressed out beyond belief. Behind to scenes, your idol is on the verge of a divorce and needs you to provide them with support and comfort. They sometimes keep you up until 4 am trauma dumping the details of their emotionally abusive marriage.

You were there for them through the divorce and you've become closer than ever. You have inside jokes, mostly racy kind your parents die if they knew you had made them. 

They ask stuff like if you're a virgin and what your favorite sex position is. She sends nude photos of another YouTube celebrity so you laugh about the YouTuber's body and looks together.

Years pass, most of your friends are part of your idol’s fandom, and you meet up with others whenever you go to your idol’s live stage shows. You take group pictures with your idol, who is now your best friend. They take you out for lunch and introduce you to their new partner. You've developed a relationship with your best friend’s work, give them ideas for their YouTube videos. You write a lot of jokes that actually make it into most of their videos and online posts. They use your ideas and writings without any financial compensation or public credit. They make future plans that never materialize in the end, like promising to pay for tickets for you to travel to San Diego so you two can hang out at Vidcon together.

They solicit you inappropriate pictures of yourself.

You’re seventeen and you have hoped your idol will give you an internship or part-time job creating content for them for quite a few years now. Your idol gives with the Twitter password for the character’s profile and they tell you to go nuts. They're giving you a test run, and if all goes well, they promise to bless you with a paid position.

Four years of dedication and time were about to pay off. You tweet jokes pre-approved by an idol and one of them isn't received well. Twitter is an uproar and your idol messages you. They're worried the tweet is going to get them canceled, and they're having a panic, they would never make a joke like that if it had been them tweeting.

You think, but you pre-approved all the jokes.

You kick yourself for messing up and you are eaten up with guilt because your best friend is now fielding hate messages from their fans. You tell them it will die down, but they ghost you all the same.

Your idol and best friend cuts you off and tell all your fandom friends you tried to purposely ruin their career. Your friends have been disowned and you are bullied by them online. You realize they groom their underage fans, molding them into someone who could be useful to them later. Whether it’s free labor, sending you to attack their ex online, or providing them with a free therapist—they wanted you to be primed, obedient, and useful.

Most of your teenage years are gone and you've spent them trading inappropriate sexual jokes, being sent pornography, providing free labor, and having adult emotional trauma dumped on you. 

Your ex-idol makes a video convincing her that you are some obsessed fan who wants to destroy their career.

Practically the entire internet starts to despise you. 

You're living in the middle of the pandemic, it's lockdown. You'd been turning to the internet for entertainment and a social outlet. 

It reaches the point where you are getting death threats and your thoughts are going to dark places. 

You could show the messages and screenshots to disapprove all of it but you don't release it. You don't want your parents to see you making those dirty jokes and graphically sexual conversations. 

You stay silent you move on with your life. By the time you’re twenty several members of your ex-idols fandom have come with allegations of grooming sexual misconduct. 

The things they did with and to you, they've done the same to countless other children and teenagers online. 

Comedian and actress, Colleen Ballinger, the woman behind internet sensation Miranda Sings is under fire. The 36-year-old faces allegations of grooming. Whistleblower 20 twenty-year-old Adam McIntyre had this to tweet about his ex-idol.

“As much as colleen discredited & made fun of me, I'm glad her video did ONE thing, show you all EXACTLY the type of evil woman she is, that a lot of us have experienced over the past few years behind the scenes, the mask has slipped…everyone meet the REAL colleen ballinger.”

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