Never underestimate the power of a YouTube celebrity. Saturday saw Birmingham’s city centre screeching to a halt as thousands of teenagers flooded the area to see 19-year-old James Charles make a 30-second public appearance at a local cosmetics shop. 30 seconds that cost the centre of Birmingham a lot.

Hundreds of shoppers had to cancel their shopping plans on Saturday as road traffic ground to a halt and parts of the bus network were also hit. Charles, who is from Bethlehem, New York and whose full name is James Charles Dickinson, is well-known by teenagers for his online makeup advice, and many cosmetic brands can’t wait to sign lucrative endorsement deals with the famous YouTuber.

City centre grinds to a halt

Motorists were forced to abandon their vehicles after Birmingham’s city centre was overloaded with thousands of teenagers who couldn’t wait to see James Charles during his 30-second appearance at the local cosmetics shop. The city centre was gridlocked for several hours. Shoppers cancelled their trips into the city as it was impossible to drive into the centre and buses were struggling to run.

The YouTuber was in Birmingham to open a Morphe Cosmetics shop and it ended up with rows of security guards and police officers trying to hold back the crowds of mostly teenage girls who had headed to the Bullring shopping centre early on Saturday morning, vying for a spot to see Charles.

According to the BBC, the number of cars and people heading into the city centre had caused havoc, with drivers leaving their vehicles overnight as they just couldn’t get out of the city.

YouTuber’s first visit to the UK

Charles, who has attracted over 10 million followers on YouTube and Instagram with his makeup videos, was on his first visit to the UK.

He walked outside the Morphe Cosmetics shop for a short ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 PM and then headed back inside to enjoy a meet-and-greet session with 250 lucky followers who had won an online competition. It seems Charles also visited London, as can be seen from the Instagram post below.

According to Birmingham Live, James sent a Snapchat message to say there were 8,000 fans in the shopping centre alone, which he said was “mind-blowing.” He went on to thank his “sisters” for the experience.

However, the number of fans led to guards shutting down the escalators for safety reasons. They also had to employ extra security staff to man the centre.

YouTubers vs TV and film celebrities

The shutdown of Birmingham’s city centre only goes to prove the power of online celebrities, as opposed to Film and TV celebrities. While they don’t hit the headlines like their film and TV counterparts, they have huge followings on social media. This leads to event organisers being unprepared for a huge influx of people, as in the current example. As noted by the Guardian, online celebrities can often have a larger following.

Apparently, West Midlands police were aware of what could happen and they coordinated their response to the YouTuber’s appearance in advance. A spokesperson said they required no additional officers and that no incidents occurred and no arrests were made.