Cars were stuck in gridlock and drivers reportedly forced to abandon their vehicles overnight. Bus routes were diverted and escalators shut down.
Police tried valiantly to quell hysterical crowds, the metallic bray of their loudhailers largely lost among the screaming 8,000-strong fans who brought much of Birmingham centre to a standstill.
It is the type of chaos occasionally commanded by film and music superstars — not by a teenage make-up artist.
James Charles, 19, pictured left before his makeover and right now, is from Bethlehem, New York State and has a staggering combined 30 million-strong media following
The teenager has worked with a range of stars including Kim Kardashian, pictured, Kylie Jenner and Katy Perry
Yet when 19-year-old James Charles made a 30-second public appearance to open cosmetics shop Morphe last Saturday, the wails of adulation at the Bullring shopping centre could almost have been heard in his native state of New York.
The American ingenue, who has a staggering combined 30 million-strong media following, is part of a new generation of male beauty vloggers (for the uninitiated, people who post video tutorials and blogs online) who see gender as no impediment to mastering the perfect blush.
Most popular with teenage girls — who comprised the majority of the Birmingham crowd — he has become an icon for image-obsessed adolescents whose fixation with their screens fuels their fervour for an immaculately made-up selfie.
His fans queued from 8am to meet their hero in scenes described as ‘absolute insanity and massively dangerous’ by one dad who had brought his daughter along, with another fan tweeting that James Charles had ‘broke Birmingham’.
James Charles is now worth £6million and has millions of people following his beauty channel
Charles shot to fame after posting a second take of his senior prom photos on social media – so he could show off his make-up skills and opt for more flattering lighting
Only 250 youngsters were selected to meet the star after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4pm, with the majority sent home disappointed.
Writing apologetically on social media afterwards, Charles said: ‘I wanted to say goodbye like I always do at the end, but unfortunately security would not let me, we tried everything but it was a hazard and I had to get in the car to head back home.’
The other unlikely web beauty stars who make a pretty penny
Gary Thompson, from Birmingham, has 215K Instagram followers
First man to front a L’Oreal campaign
GARY THOMPSON, 27
A make-up artist and beauty blogger from Birmingham who became the first man to appear in a L’Oreal cosmetics campaign, in 2016. Thompson idolised Naomi Campbell as a teenager and started wearing make-up aged 15, but kept his habit a secret from his family at first.
‘I felt different when I was growing up because I loved beauty,’ he said. ‘I was scared of people judging me.’
Thompson now has 215,000 followers on Instagram, and 19,000 on YouTube and encourages other men to experiment with grooming cosmetics on his blog, The Plastic Boy. He says: ‘I think we’ve come far with accepting men wearing make-up.’
Jim Chapman is the brother of YouTube make-up artists Pixiwoo
Grooming guru’s family business…
JIM CHAPMAN, 31
Fashion-focused YouTuber who gained his massive following (YouTube subscribers: 2.3 million, Instagram followers: 2.1 million) doling out grooming and styling tips.
The university graduate and ‘occasional model’ recently admitted his huge social media presence was ‘overwhelming’, adding that if this wasn’t his job, he probably wouldn’t ‘have much social media’ at all.
Then again, Jim is the brother of YouTube make-up artists Samantha Chapman and Nicola Chapman Haste, otherwise known as Pixiwoo, his twin brother John also runs a YouTube channel. Jim is married to social media star Tanya Burr — so the chances are he wouldn’t have been able to escape internet fame even if he’d tried.
Tanya Burr has collaborated with other influencers such as Zoella
… and wife with her own brand
TANYA BURR, 29
One of a cosy network of British YouTubers, former make-up artist Tanya is married to Jim Chapman, whose sister Samantha inspired Norfolk-raised Tanya to set up her own YouTube channel in 2009.
Since then she has shared make-up, fashion and baking videos with her 3.5 million subscribers, collaborating with other YouTubers such as Zoella and Alfie Deyes.
In 2014 she launched her own cosmetics brand, Tanya Burr Cosmetics.
Tanya, who shares a £2 million London home with Chapman and describes herself as a ‘red wine & sausage dog lover’, has also published three books and recently turned her attention to stage and screen acting.
Louise Pentland started her YouTube channel while pregnant with her eldest daughter
Mum who can’t resist glitter
LOUISE PENTLAND, 33
The mother-of-two launched a DIY and craft blog in 2009 while working in an office and went on to start fashion and beauty YouTube channel Sprinkle of Glitter in 2010 while pregnant with her eldest daughter.
Pentland — who now has 2.5 million YouTube subscribers and 2.4 million Instagram followers — has published four books, describes herself as an ‘eternal optimist’ and affectionately calls her legions of online followers ‘Sprinklerinos.’
The Northampton-raised psychology and biology graduate once uploaded an interview between herself and former Labour leader Ed Miliband to persuade teenagers to vote.
Reuben, from Wales, used to watch makeup tutorials on his mobile phone
Boy who idolised the Kardashians
REUBEN DE MAID, 13
Make-up artist Reuben became interested in cosmetics aged eight.
‘I watched my phone for hours on end learning from tutorials and blogs how to do it,’ says Reuben, from Llandaff, Wales.
Also a keen singer who appeared on American talent show Little Big Shots in 2017, he got abused for wearing make-up to school and says: ‘I had friends but not a lot and in my drama group I used to get hit, punched and kicked.’
Reuben, who once said he wanted to be a ‘Kardashian’ when he grew up, now has 209,000 YouTube subscribers and the backing of talk show hosts Piers Morgan and Ellen DeGeneres.
When he heard about the chaos his visit had unleashed, Charles’s response was a somewhat less contrite: ‘Oops.’
So WHO on earth is this 19-year-old superstar you probably didn’t know existed, but who nonetheless boasts 13.6 million followers on Instagram, 13.7 million on YouTube and nearly three million on Twitter? And how has he inspired a generation’s adulation?
Born James Charles Dickinson and brought up in Bethlehem in New York State, Charles developed an interest in make-up and grooming from an early age.
‘Before I did make-up, I did hair,’ he has said. ‘For one of my best friends, I did her hair for a military ball at a local school, and she was an hour late for her make-up appointment at a local counter, and she asked me to do her make-up.
‘I’d been watching make-up tutorials for years, but I’d never done it. And I was, like: “Girl, I will do your make-up. But if you look awful, I’m not taking credit.” ’
But the results were a success, and inspired Charles, then in his mid-teens, to turn his love of cosmetics into a career. He even persuaded his father, an events contractor, to change the family basement into a make-up studio.
Charging his friends around £5 a time, he spent his earnings on new equipment and set up YouTube and Instagram accounts to showcase the results of his work.
His teenage followers and YouTube subscribers (who pay him nothing), praised his efforts, and his reputation grew — his trademark glitter, bold contouring and neon eyelids perfectly suited to an age of attention-grabbing selfies. But it wasn’t until September 2016 that he became a household name — to those under 20, at any rate.
Aged 17, he demanded a reshoot of his school year book photo, after claiming the lighting was poor.
Charles brought his own lighting and posted the second attempt on Twitter. It promptly went viral.
He was snapped up as cosmetics giant CoverGirl’s first male model ambassador — his first TV advert alongside singer Katy Perry for CoverGirl’s So Lashy mascara. ‘I screamed and started to cry,’ said Charles. ‘It’s all been so ridiculous and crazy and fast.’
It was a savvy move by the cosmetics company in an age of gender-fluidity, in which UK reality TV star Marnie Simpson and her boyfriend Casey Johnson launched the unisex make-up collection Both Ways and film stars Daniel Kaluuya and Ezra Miller have worn make-up on the red carpet.
The teenager — who didn’t leave school until June 2017, combining his new role with his studies — said of his appointment by CoverGirl: ‘It shows this industry is actually becoming genderless, and we’re really making the push toward equal opportunities for everybody, regardless of race, sexuality, gender. I think it’s a huge stepping stone for such a big company.’
Teenage girls were similarly enthralled, more eager to take beauty advice from a charismatic boy with a slight stutter who would talk to them as an equal (Charles refers to his fans as ‘sisters’) than a mainstream make-up artist.
His success is all the more remarkable given that he has such poor sight that he is legally blind — though he has even turned this to his advantage, wearing striking coloured prescription contact lenses on shoots.
Quick to point out he is neither transgender nor a drag artist, Charles — described as ‘spirited and persistent’ by his mum, Christie — believes make-up is ‘for everyone’, a way of ‘blinding people to left and right’.
When it comes to relationships, Charles says he realised he was gay aged 12: ‘I had just gone through puberty, and like every other boy I was going through that stage of life. Clearly, at this point, in my own head, I had figured out that I was not exactly interested in the sisters, and I was definitely down for the brothers.’ His parents — who learned of his sexuality after delving into his internet browsing history — were ‘incredibly accepting’, he says.
Though he is rumoured to have dated fellow American 18-year-old social media star Aaron Fuller, he has kept quiet about his love life, claiming only that with his profile, ‘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’.
His forays into celebrity have been more successful. He worked his artistry on reality star Kim Kardashian and her sister Kylie Jenner and been pictured on Instagram with singer Demi Lovato.
He has his own clothing line — Sisters Apparel — and last November launched a 39-shade rainbow- coloured eyeshadow palette with make-up brand Morphe. Younger brother Ian helps manage his clothing line while mum Christie, with Charles’s aunt, wrote the book James Charles: Born To Break Boundaries.
Little wonder then, that Charles’s bank balance is blossoming. Now worth an estimated £6 million, last year he bought a five-bedroom house in LA, with swimming pool, hot tub, walk-in wardrobes and a wine cellar he intends to turn into a Coca-Cola cellar.
Not that social media stardom is without its drawbacks. He issued a stern warning after one fan turned up to his home recently.
‘Please stop showing up at my house. I will not hug you, I will not take a photo with you, and I absolutely will not sign your [make-up] palette,’ he wrote on Twitter, admitting he doesn’t always manage to ignore those who troll him online: ‘I don’t care if someone makes fun of me, but if someone calls me a mean person or something, I reply.’
On Saturday, the vlogger made headlines in the UK when his 30-second appearance to open a cosmetic franchise ‘broke Birmingham’ with 8,000 fans turning up to see him
Unsurprisingly, for someone so young, there have been some well-documented slip-ups.
Before a school trip in February 2017 Charles tweeted: ‘I can’t believe we’re going to Africa today omg what if we get Ebola’ — a comment an embarrassed CoverGirl was quick to point out did ‘not represent’ their ‘perspective’ on life. An apologetic Charles eventually admitted that he had ‘f***ed up’.
Yet it is his fallibility, perhaps, that helps to endear him to his teenage fans.
As Charles himself put it: ‘If you don’t like me in make-up, that’s OK. But I would like people to like me as a person.’