Colleen Ballinger, who rose to fame playing Miranda Sings, a parody of a teenage wannabe YouTube star, has cut her national tour short amid accusations of racially offensive behavior and of inappropriate relationships with fans.
Who is Colleen Ballinger?
In 2008, Ballinger created the character Miranda Sings to parody teenage girls who posted amateur singing videos online. “They were terrible, but they were so cocky,” she told Playbill in 2011. “They’d be like, ‘I’m doing this to become famous.’ And I was like, ‘that’s so ridiculous. No one gets famous from YouTube.’”
Wearing overdrawn, bright red lipstick and unflattering shirts tucked into baggy sweatpants, Miranda Sings soon became a YouTube star in her own right. Millions of viewers have watched Ballinger’s portrayal of the overconfident, judgmental performer who sings off-key covers and complains about her creepy uncle.
Propelled by her internet success, Ballinger took Miranda Sings on stages starting in 2009, billing the shows as “PG-13” for adult references and swear words. From the beginning, her audience was largely children, many of whom Ballinger brought onstage to participate in skits.
As Miranda Sings, Ballinger garnered more than 10 million subscribers, attended influencer conventions, published two New York Times best-selling books — “Selp-Helf” and “My Diarrhe” — starred in the 2016 Netflix series “Haters Back Off” and appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Now 36, Ballinger’s popularity has led to other opportunities including her 2019 Broadway debut in “Waitress,” and a feature in Ariana Grande’s 2018 “thank u, next” music video.
Why is she being accused of ‘grooming’ children?
In June, NBC News, HuffPost and Time Magazine reported on the bubbling discontent, as former fans who are now young adults made social media videos and posts accusing Ballinger of “grooming” them when they were teens. Several posts alleged that she communicated and interacted with them in ways that ranged from manipulative to sexually suggestive.
Adam McIntyre first publicly detailed his childhood parasocial relationship with Ballinger in a 2020 YouTube video titled “colleen ballinger, stop lying.” In the clip, he talked about how Ballinger made him feel like her friend in their conversations, but she was the only one who benefited from indirectly pressuring him to defend her reputation on gossip sites, while he was criticized on the websites. Ballinger also often confided in McIntyre about personal life issues through one-on-one messages. He also showed the bra and underwear set Ballinger gave to him in 2016 as part of a giveaway she streamed.
Ballinger apologized for sending the lingerie in a video from 2020 called “addressing everything”: “I’ve always given away weird stuff, so in my mind at the time, this was no different than all the other weird stuff I send to my fans as a joke,” Ballinger said. “Now, in hindsight, I see how completely stupid of me. I should have never sent that.”
Also in 2020, the subreddit “r/ColleenBallingerSnark” was formed to discuss the “inappropriate behaviour, problematic past and manipulation tactics” of Ballinger, the community’s description states.
Last month, McIntyre renewed the allegations in a YouTube video he titled “my relationship with colleen ballinger.” Now 20, he said that Ballinger’s “trauma dumping” and “love bombing” through phone and social media messages — which he shared as screen images in the video — allowed her to weaponize her fans, many between the ages of 13 and 17, for her own benefit and pleasure, such as to privately making fun of other fans or publicly disparage people who opposed her.
He said that as a young fan of Ballinger’s, his relationship with the YouTuber grew through his participation in a text group chat with Ballinger and other underage fans called the “weenies.”
Others who have accused Ballinger of wrongdoings include Johnny Silvestri, a former Miranda Sings fan club account owner and tour worker who told HuffPost that Ballinger also overshared her details of her romantic relationships to him when he was 15. Another accuser, known publicly as Becky, said in a June 14 TikTok that she felt sexually violated and traumatized by a videoed moment of Ballinger spreading her legs onstage for a bit at a Miranda Sings show when she was about 16.
How has Ballinger responded?
Ballinger addressed the recent allegations against her from what she said were “millions of people all over the world” by singing and playing the ukulele in a 10-minute video posted June 28 to her YouTube channel.
In her song, she denied being a “groomer,” “predator” or “manipulator,” calling the allegations “lies and rumors that you made up for clout.” She sang that she used to message fans, “but not in a creepy way like a lot of you are trying to suggest / It was more of a loser kind of way,” and said she has since realized her mistake and has taken accountability. Ballinger also alluded to and rebuffed Becky’s allegation: “I’m not a predator even though a lot of you think so / Because 5 years ago, I made a fart joke.” In the song’s chorus, she decried that her “reputation’s deceased” because of “the toxic gossip train.”
Ballinger hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment about the allegations. One of Ballinger’s legal representatives, Andrew Brettler of the law firm Berk Brettler, said she did not attempt to monetize the song or the video.
“Ms. Ballinger did not upload the song or video to Apple Music or to any other streaming platform for sale or for any other purpose. We don’t know how it got published on those platforms. It was done without Ms. Ballinger’s knowledge or authorization, and we took measures to have it removed,” Brettler wrote in a statement. “Likewise, Ms. Ballinger has not issued any copyright infringement claims on videos featuring the song, nor has she monetized the video. Any reports to the contrary are false.”
How has Ballinger been accused of racism and erroneously accused of blackface?
April Korto Quioh, a writer’s assistant for the Miranda Sings Netflix series, said in her June 30 Substack newsletter that she was “deeply uncomfortable” with several comments Ballinger made on set, including jokes about child sexual abuse and racially insensitive jabs.
“I had to document Colleen’s insistence that we used limited POC background actors as the show took place in Washington and having them just randomly there would be ‘distracting.’” Quioh wrote. “I took note as Colleen was shown an Asian food market that would be re-dressed as a bodega for the show and watched her disgust as she demanded assurance that all the ‘Asian s---’ would be removed before filming. I sat patiently as the Powers That Be expressed concern that the entire main cast for the show was white and silently prayed that since someone with some actual say had spoken up, things might change.”
In 2020, a skit posted to YouTube from around 2006 resurfaced. The clip shows her and her sister impersonating Latinas which she said was “based on racial stereotypes,” with exaggerated accents and dark makeup.
Ballinger later apologized for the video in the 2020 video clip “addressing everything.”
“It is not funny, and it is completely hurtful. I am so ashamed and embarrassed that I ever thought this was okay. I was a sheltered teenager who was stupid and ignorant and clearly extremely culturally insensitive,” she said. “Racial stereotypes are not funny, they are not a joke, and they should never be joked about.”
On July 5, content creator Paige Christie suggested on Twitter that Ballinger might have donned blackface in a Miranda Sings performance of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” which several media outlets reported on.
“I’m gonna need someone to explain the black on her face...” Christie tweeted along with the video of Ballinger with dark-colored face paint.
The video was shared in Ballinger’s 2018 book “My Diarrhe” as a QR code, which linked to the unlisted YouTube clip.
But Ballinger’s legal representative said the blackface claims were incorrect. The dark face paint Ballinger had on her face in the 2009 show was green, Brettler said, and it was left on from a preceding performance of a song from “Wicked,” in which she was singing Elphaba’s part. Longer video footage sent by the law firm and obtained by The Post corroborates the order of events.
After Christie researched further, she decided to stand down from her allegation. But she, along with other Ballinger accusers, say the focus on the one claim is removing focus from former fans’ evidence-backed experiences, which have so far gone unchallenged by Ballinger’s lawyers.
Brettler didn’t immediately respond when asked if any other public allegations against Ballinger were false or for an explanation for her tour’s cancellation.
How have some of Ballinger’s friends and supporters responded?
Kory DeSoto, well-known as Ballinger’s best friend and a frequent collaborator in Ballinger’s videos, hasn’t publicly addressed the allegations, and didn’t respond to The Post’s numerous requests for comment.
Trisha Paytas, who formerly hosted a podcast with Ballinger, said she doesn’t “stand behind Colleen whatsoever” in a video last week titled “colleen” addressing allegations that Ballinger texted unsolicited nude pictures of Paytas to fans, some of whom were under 18 at the time, and joked about Paytas’ body.
Paytas is a media personality, model and singer who rose to popularity as a YouTuber in 2007. Now with 5 million subscribers on her YouTube channel, “@blndsundoll4mj,” she’s best known for her mukbangs, or videos of her eating, trolling videos and “Frenemies,” a podcast she hosted with YouTuber Ethan Klein.
Paytas said she was previously unaware that her paywall- and age-restricted photos were being used in this way, and was shocked by the allegations against Ballinger.
“Everyone knows I have a very, very, very firm stance on talking to anyone underage, platonic or not,” she said.
When Paytas asked Ballinger about the rumors, the Ballinger denied sending photos of Paytas and claimed the fans sent the photos to her as a joke. On YouTube, Paytas said she was convinced of her former friends’ wrongdoing.
“I do not condone at all unsolicited nudes sending to anyone or anybody, sex worker or not,” she said. “It is a little embarrassing if I’m being honest, but I’m more embarrassed for her, that this is the kind of person she is.”
Many of Ballinger’s fans have commented on Instagram post from late May to say they missed her videos and were sending love her way. Some of her supporters have commented that they don’t believe the accusations, while others say they’ve forgiven her for her mistakes.