Colleen Ballinger Defends Herself over Fan Allegations: ‘I’m Not a Groomer, Just a Loser’

Lifestyle

YouTube star Colleen Ballinger, the creator of sketch character Miranda Sings, is speaking out for the first time after fans accused the creator of spending years using her power and fame to engage in toxic parasocial relationships with underage fans. But not in a statement. Instead, in true millennial cringe fashion, Ballinger delivered her message through a 10-minute YouTube ukulele song, leaving behind probably the only time a notes app apology would have been preferable.

“Even though my team has strongly advised me to not say what I wanna say, I recently realized that they never said I couldn’t sing what I wanna say,” Ballinger crooned Wednesday.

Earlier this month, at least four former fans told Rolling Stone the same access that made the comedian famous opened the door for interactions they describe as toxic, exploitative, and hurtful. Ballinger has long stood as one of the early faces of YouTube stardom. In addition to 20 million subscribers across multiple accounts, the YouTuber was a fixture on the site, had several national and international tours, and starred in her own Netflix original series named after Miranda Sings’ famous catchphrase, “Haters Back Off!” But behind the scenes, former fans said Ballinger had multiple group chats where underaged participants were asked about their sex lives and alleged that power imbalances allowed for toxicity and bullying to run rampant in the fandom. (Ballinger and two members of her team were asked for comment multiple times by Rolling Stone and did not respond.)

Now, she’s speaking — or rather, singing, out. Titled ‘hi.,’ Ballinger spent Wednesday’s response video playing the ukulele and singing about a “toxic gossip train” to “manipulation station,” and a “mob mentality” that treats rumors and facts and entertainment. While Ballinger mainly sang what sounds like a chorus several times, she did pause the tune to deliver direct-to-camera soliloquies acknowledging that she had “weird” relationships with fans early on in her career.

The YouTube star mentioned people “making mistakes” several times, but never directly addressed any of the complaints lobbied against her. Instead, she said, “I was just trying to be besties with everybody,” and compared herself to the weird aunt at a family gathering who wants to know “the tea.”

And Ballinger firmly pushed back against the allegations that her behavior was predatory or that she groomed any underage fans. (“The only thing I’ve ever groomed is my two Persian cats,” she sang.) Instead, she said that her Miranda Sings character was always PG-13, and hasn’t shared her personal life in fan group chats for “years,” alluding that the mistakes were in the past but didn’t make her a bad person. “I didn’t realize it was my responsibility to decide what was appropriate for every kid to see,” Ballinger said. “I’ve always relied on parents to decide if they’re comfortable with their families watching my YouTube videos or coming to my live shows.”

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While Ballinger’s apology video has a decidedly unserious vibe, the allegations against the creator have shone a light on the intimate way early YouTube stars cultivated relationships with their followers — and the negative ways those relationships could impact young fans.

“For what it’s worth, I never had any bad intentions,” Ballinger said Wednesday. “But I do feel like shit.”

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