With more than 20 million subscribers, Jake Paul has become one of the most successful YouTubers of his generation by leveraging one controversy after another to stay in the public eye.
In May, he was charged with criminal trespassing and unlawful assembly after videos on social media showed Paul and his friends at a Scottsdale, Arizona, mall where people were looting and vandalizing in the midst of nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd.
Most recently, the FBI executed a federal search warrant on his Calabasas, California, home.
But Paul’s controversies are numerous and include everything from an illegitimate wedding to property destruction to encouraging his young viewers to pursue influencing instead of education.
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Jake Paul is one of the biggest and most notorious names in the influencer industry. Most recently, the 23-year-old was served a federal search warren at his California home, where the FBI conducted a full investigation of the house for unknown purposes.
But Paul’s numerous controversies and scandals are what continues to propel the YouTuber to fame and fortune. More than 20 million subscribers tune in to watch his oftentimes offensive antics, and while he was booted from Disney Channel in 2017, Paul has leveraged his bad reputation to keep his career going.
Here’s how Paul simultaneously became one of the most popular and most hated YouTubers, starting from his rise to notoriety on the short-form video platform Vine in 2013.
Paul’s first major career accomplishment was a role on the Disney Channel series “Bizaardvark,” but he was fired mid-season after his neighbors went public with complaints about him.
Screenshot/YouTube Jake Paul 2
Like many top YouTubers today, including his big brother Logan, Jake Paul got his start on Vine in 2013. By the time the app was discontinued, Paul had over 5.3 million followers and 2 billion views on the app, where his brash humor and stunts especially appealed to a kid audience. This notoriety among a young demographic landed Paul a role on Disney Channel.
The series “Bizaardvark” is itself a nod to the type of social media fame that Paul accrued for himself, and his character resembled his real-life online persona. On the show, Paul played Dirk, host of a video segment on a YouTube-esque series called “Dare Me Bro,” where his character took dare requests. Paul began appearing in on “Bizaardvark” in 2015, when the series started, but Disney announced his exit in 2017, and Paul later revealed he had been fired.
What Paul says led to his firing was a local TV news segment about his YouTube channel, which was the less Disney-friendly, real-life version of “Dare Me Bro.” KTLA 5 visited the West Hollywood neighborhood where Paul was living in July 2017 and interviewed Paul’s neighbors about his YouTube stunts. They were extremely displeased.
By this point, Paul, then 20, had already jump-started his notorious “Team 10” YouTube collective. He had more than 8.5 million YouTube subscribers and filmed pranks and stunts in his neighborhood that included started a massive fire in his backyard, doing dirt bike stunts on his street, and building a waterslide to shoot people into his pool.
His neighbors called the situation a “living hell” and a “war zone.” After Paul leaked his own address online, fans showed up en masse, and by that point, residents of Beverly Grove had enough. Paul’s neighbors met with police and city officials to discuss the possibility of a class-action public nuisance lawsuit, and the company that owned Paul’s house sued him for $2.5 million.
After getting fired by Disney midway through the second season of “Bizaardvark,” Paul announced he would be moving onto more adult acting ventures and focusing on his YouTube channel, business ventures, and personal brand.
Those business ventures proved controversial too, and Paul has been accused of trying to scam young followers more than once.
Rich Fury/Getty Images
Paul has been accused of scamming young followers more than once. His ventures tend to revolve around a central theme: Paul tells his kid subscribers that education isn’t important, since he didn’t do well in school but became rich and famous, and other kids should follow his lead. This might be best exemplified with Paul’s widely-mocked diss track about teachers.
But Paul doesn’t just diss education. He’s attempted to start two of his own educational programs that theoretically instruct followers on how to be influential and make money through online pursuits like his own. Paul has enacted two very similar schemes themed around that idea, and the first was “Edfluence.”
“Edfluence” was launched in 2018, and it was supposed to be a series of videos fan could unlock for just $7 that would give them a “roadmap” to success as an influencer. Except, as many YouTubers and publications pointed out, the $7 didn’t unlock the program in its entirety. It just unlocked a few videos with basic tips like “have a phone,” and “if you like makeup, create makeup videos.”
If you wanted all the videos, you had to pay an additional $57. As YouTube Drew Gooden pointed out, the website hosting Edfluence was intentionally misleading, prompting parents of young fans to input credit card information on the first screen to pay $7, only for that information to be saved to the user’s profile, so that a kid could later click to pay $57 without needing to input it again.
Even worse, part of the Edfluence draw was that Paul promised fans would have an opportunity to join “Team 1000,” an seemingly expanded version of “Team 10,” his YouTube-famous clique. As Gooden noted in his 2020 update on Edfluence, “Team 1000” never happened, and those who paid $57 just got access to a few disappointing videos about YouTube tips and tricks.
Furthermore, the website for Edfluence no longer exists, so people who paid $64 back in 2018 can no longer access any of the videos. But in February 2020, Paul launched a new educational subscription-based platform called the Financial Freedom Movement. It has essentially the same premise as Edfluence, but initially, you paid a $19.99 fee to create an account.
“Basically i’m [sic] sick of our education system and how it’s teaching kids 0 real life skills for them to secure there [sic] own future,” Paul wrote in his Financial Freedom Movement announcement post on Twitter. “I’m creating a movement for everyone who wants to take life into their own hands and learn real life skills from actual professionals..”
Paul hasn’t issued any updates on the Financial Freedom Movement in months, but the website is still up, you can still create an account (now, for free), and you can still purchase business “Masterclass” videos from a tab on the website that start at under $20 and cost as much as over $2,5000. Those videos aren’t hosted by Paul, and he appears to be sourcing material from other entrepreneurship education platforms.
Apart from scamming his young audience, Paul has also gotten heat for numerous controversial comments and inappropriate videos, including the use of racial slurs.
Many of Paul’s videos have come under fire for being inappropriate for a young audience, since a lot of them revolve around sexual and violent content. In January 2018, for example, Paul uploaded a vlog called “I lost my virginity,” which initially had a thumbnail of Paul and then-girlfriend Erika Costell posing semi-nude. The video was age-restricted, and after scrutiny from other YouTubers, Paul changed the thumbnail and eventually deleted the vlog.
But recently, Paul has leaned even more into age-inappropriate content, creating a number of videos that feature famous pornstar Riley Reid.
Another incident of offensive content is when Paul decided to tweet that anxiety was self-inflicted. “Remember anxiety is created by you,” Paul tweeted in February 2020. “Sometimes you gotta let life play out and remind yourself to be happy & that the answers will come.” He added some advice for anxious readers: “chill your mind out,” “go for a walk,” and “talk to a friend.”
After strong rebukes from other creators, Paul tweeted that he has anxiety, and his tweet was simply spreading more awareness about mental illness. Leveraging even more negative media attention to continue to boost his profile, Paul shortly outdid himself that week, getting bashed by supermodel Gigi Hadid after Paul harassed her boyfriend, former One Direction member Zayn Malik. In since-deleted tweets, Paul tried to call out Malik for refusing to hang out with him, and Hadid responded.
“Lol cause he doesn’t care to hang w you and your embarrassing crew of YouTube groupies ..?” Hadid tweeted, accruing more than 800,000 likes. “Home alone with his best friends like a respectful king cause he has me, sweetie. Unbothered by your irrelevant ugly ass. Go to bed …”
And while there are plenty more examples of Paul getting called out for bad behavior, one that got overshadowed by Logan Paul’s infamous “suicide forest” incident (a video shot by the elder Paul was widely condemned, as it included Logan appearing to stumble upon the body of someone who died by suicide in a Japan forest where suicides are common) was Jake using the n-word.
In January 2018, TMZ surfaced a video of Paul from Coachella weekend in 2015. In the 49-second clip, Paul starts freestyle rapping over the song “Throw Sum Mo” by Rae Sremmurd, and he says “n****” twice, including referring to himself as a “little a** n****,” and referring to Richie Vetter, another white person, as a “n****.” The clip got attention, but since Logan’s “suicide forest” vlog had been uploaded just days prior to the resurfacing, most of the attention on the Paul brothers stayed on Logan.
Paul had a short-lived “marriage” to another famous YouTuber, Tana Mongeau, which included a disastrous paid wedding livestream.
Denise Truscello / Getty Images
Another focal point of controversies involving Paul are his relationships. Paul has faked two marriages, referring to the practice himself as entertainment “like the WWE,” or partially staged wrestling matches. The first fake wedding saga involved his ex-girlfriend Erika Costell, the same girlfriend he made the inappropriate virginity loss vlog with.
The second fake wedding was to Tana Mongeau, and the saga definitely paid off, because from the relationship’s inception, to the wedding, to the breakup, it was worth an estimated $600 million in media value. But as Mongeau explained after the “divorce,” (the wedding was never legally binding) elements of Paul’s fake relationships are pretty unfair to the women he’s involved with. Mongeau described the “wedding” night as “hell” and said while she dealt with a family emergency the day after, Paul continued on to their planned honeymoon, where he posed with a group of half-naked women.
Mongeau isn’t the only one of Paul’s exes to express that Paul is a bad boyfriend. In his expansive series on whether Paul is a sociopath or not, YouTube documentarian Shane Dawson interviewed Alissa Violet, another one of Paul’s ex-girlfriends. Violet explained to Dawson that she and Paul faked their relationship, but behind-the-scenes, she “chased” actual love and affection from Paul. Her story eerily resembles Mongeua’s own tell-all about the difficulties of trying to get Paul to engage in something real while maintaining a forced relationship on-camera.
And Violet added that once Paul dragged her down a flight of stairs during a fight, breaking her iPhone in the process. She specified to Dawson that she doesn’t view Paul as physically abusive, but she accused Paul of emotional and mental abuse.
“I can’t even remember a conversation where it was like, me walking away feeling good about myself,” Violet told Dawson. “I’m still disgusted by it, because it’s not who I am.”
Paul was charged with trespassing in Arizona after video circulated of him at a mall where looting and vandalism was occurring.
Despite each incidence of Paul’s bad behavior being met with huge backlash and typical condemnation from other YouTubers, they’re also incredibly effective. Paul has never experienced massive subscriber loss that impacted his career; it’s just the opposite, and he uses bad press and negative attention to attract more onlookers.
It’s cyclical — a fake marriage helped boost his brand, so he did it again, causing another female YouTuber immense emotional and mental strain in the process. His Edfluence scheme netted huge profits, at least according to Team 10 representatives at the time, so he did it again with the Financial Freedom Movement, only to discard the website after its launch.
Like other YouTube “supervillains,” the notoriety is the goal, not just a side effect, of Paul’s oftentimes harmful antics. Some critics are asking people to stop paying attention to Paul entirely to end the cycle, but as his wide audience places him in the top 200 YouTubers on the platform, it’s unlikely Paul will stop scheming. One of his most recent schemes, however, did have some unintended consequences.
On May 31, Paul and his friends and associates posted videos to social media of themselves at the Scottsdale Fashion Square shopping mall in Scottsdale, Arizona. Paul claims he had been peacefully protesting earlier, and wanted to film the looting and vandalism in the mall after it was closed to the public so that he could show his audience what was really going on.
Again, this isn’t the first time Paul tried to pull a similar stunt. In 2017, he drove to Texas in a pickup truck and said he was going to rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey floodwaters. He did no such thing. This time, in Arizona, there was enough outcry that local police announced two misdemeanor charges — criminal trespassing and unlawful assembly — and court summons have since been filed in Arizona.
Paul responded to news of the charges on Twitter, writing “gimme my charges and let’s put the focus back on George Floyd and Black Lives Matter.” Of course, it’s clear that Paul’s intentions were never to focus on Floyd and the protests in the first place. As usual, and as with every single one of his stunts, the focus always comes back to Paul.
Paul stoked tension between himself and the mayor of Calabasas by throwing a party during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, Screenshot YouTube/Jake Paul
Paul caused controversy yet again when he threw a massive party for his music video shoot in July, during a high point in COVID-19 cases in California. Videos showed maskless influencers swinging from heavy machinery in Paul’s backyard.
The mayor of Calabasas Alicia Weintraub spoke out about the incident at the time, saying she was outraged, and telling Insider, “The City of Calabasas will be enforcing a zero-tolerance [policy] for large gatherings that defy local public health orders.”
In a later interview, Paul told Insider that he didn’t know if he’d continue partying, even after the incident, and criticized government leaders, saying, “our leadership is failing us, and everyone kind of just doesn’t know what to do. But I personally am not the type of person who’s gonna sit around and not live my life.”
The FBI executed a federal search warrant of Paul’s mansion, the agency said.
On August 5, the FBI conducted a search of Paul’s mansion in Calabasas, Calif., the agency confirmed to Insider. A representative for the agency’s Los Angeles field office said that the federal search warrant affidavit is sealed and that it’s part of an ongoing investigation.
The news was first reported by TMZ. The outlet shared photos of law enforcement agents and a vehicle approaching the home.
Paul did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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