Joseth “Seth” Francois informed BuzzFeed Information he is spent the final yr processing what occurred to him and now desires to share his story to create change within the business.
Joseth Francois, 26, is extra extensively recognized on the web as Seth, an influencer who was a part of megafamous YouTuber David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad. The crew of content material creators usually filmed the banality of their lives and the hijinks they’d pull on one another — making them pioneers of what is now turn out to be typical YouTube content material.
However now, after virtually 4 years and 10 million views, Francois is unpacking his expertise from one “prank” video with Dobrik, saying it was sexual assault. He is additionally reckoning with the belief that he was used because the punchline for racist jokes as the one Black member of the squad.
Francois informed BuzzFeed Information he is talking out now to “reverse the harm” and to forestall incidents like this from taking place within the business once more.
“I truthfully did not notice how a lot that scenario affected me till the start of final yr when COVID occurred,” he mentioned. “I keep in mind sitting in my room in Atlanta and I used to be considering to myself, That video was unsuitable. I simply felt like that should not have occurred to me.”
Dobrik and his staff didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark from BuzzFeed Information.
Francois first shared his allegations on H3 Podcast earlier this month. There, he recounted an incident to hosts Hila and Ethan Klein the place he felt “pressured to take part in bits that [came] off culturally insensitive.” In a single sketch just a few years in the past, when Francois was an lively member of Vlog Squad, he was requested to open a fridge, solely to seek out watermelon spilling out.
On the time, he mentioned on the podcast, his affiliation with the profitable YouTube collective made him really feel like he could not say no to those sketches.
“It was an unwritten factor the place you see a sample of individuals saying, ‘Yo, I’m uncomfortable with this,'” he mentioned. “Rapidly they disappear they usually’re not in movies anymore.”
Francois informed BuzzFeed Information in an interview Tuesday that being written into sketches like this enabled followers to brazenly make racist jokes about him.
“I had followers on my web page placing my face on items of fried rooster — stuff that was fairly disgraceful,” he mentioned. “I used to be at a breaking level, considering, Possibly it is simply my buddies they usually’re not likely tasteful. Possibly it is my job to teach them.”
After the pandemic was declared and as Black Lives Matter protests have been going down final summer season, Francois hung out reflecting and processing the varied ranges of trauma he had skilled whereas a part of Dobrik’s Vlog Squad.
“Essentially the most horrific expertise, and I’m nonetheless experiencing trauma, is that bit with Jason Nash,” Francois informed BuzzFeed Information. Nash did not reply to a request for remark.
In June 2017, Dobrik printed a video titled “HE THOUGHT HE WAS KISSING HER!! (SUPER CRINGEY)” that is now been watched virtually 10 million occasions. In it, Dobrik says he’ll pull a prank on Francois by making him imagine he is making out with one other Vlog Squad member, Corinna, who was imagined to be carrying a disguise. In actuality, he was making out with one other member, Nash, who was the particular person in disguise.
Francois mentioned he by no means gave consent to the kiss with Nash. And on the time, he mentioned, he wasn’t positive how he felt about it, simply that it felt “unsuitable.”
He mentioned the extra he ruminated on it, the more serious he felt. He then determined to name a sexual assault hotline and communicate with somebody about what occurred.
“They mentioned it on to me. They mentioned, ‘I am sorry you have been sexually assaulted.’ And I broke down,” Francois mentioned. “I referred to as my mom and a few of my shut buddies and I mentioned, ‘I am unable to imagine that occurred to me.'”
Francois mentioned his first intuition was to have a dialog with Dobrik and Nash about how he was feeling “as a result of they have been the supply of it.” However as an alternative of validating his trauma, he mentioned, they supplied him cash to maintain the video on-line. Francois mentioned he declined the fee and as an alternative adopted up with a textual content, saying, “All the pieces goes to be OK, I’ll be alright.” Francois informed BuzzFeed Information he was attempting to “be the larger man” on the time.
However after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, he mentioned he felt an “power change.” The video remained on-line — and in it, Francois noticed himself being duped and abused. He mentioned he thought, “That is actually, actually shady.”
“On the finish of the day, what I actually wished was respect. I am uninterested in being on this social media area, being one of many few Black folks working in entrance of the scenes and in addition behind the scenes,” he mentioned. “It is all of the occasions I must do one thing degrading to myself or my race as a way to be within the room.”
“Allegations are when there is a lack of proof, however in my case it is blatant. The purpose of the video is to sexually assault me,” he mentioned. “That is the entire premise. I informed [Dobrik] how I felt about it three years later after [he] monetized it.”
Francois believes Dobrik just isn’t remorseful, because the video stays on-line and he has not heard from the YouTuber since their final dialog about it.
“If [Dobrik and Nash] do not know what’s unsuitable they usually do not perceive that what they did was unsuitable, it makes me really feel like that might nonetheless occur. Or perhaps it has occurred to different people who find themselves afraid of talking up,” he added.
He hopes talking publicly about what he went via will assist “educate a lesson” about abuse of energy and encourage others to ask themselves in the event that they’ve had related “unsuitable” emotions about an incident.
“I do not hate David. He is clearly a reasonably good man. He is shopping for folks automobiles. Even when it is for PR, he is nonetheless doing that,” Francois mentioned. “However once we make errors, regardless of how good we’re, we’ve got to make these errors proper.”
For all the great Dobrik might have performed, Francois desires him to mirror and atone for the damage he is additionally triggered.
“What concerning the folks you have emotionally and mentally damage? Why is it so tough to exit of your technique to at the least have a dialog with a few of these folks and see their facet?” he requested.
Francois left the Vlog Squad two years in the past, partly due to the video and the harassment he mentioned he confronted and partly for brand new alternatives. He now leads a expertise company and mentioned he desires to make sure his purchasers work in secure and equitable environments. And he desires his story to encourage others “to be part of the answer,” he mentioned, “which is having these conversations with your mates [and] discovering totally different charities and organizations to donate to to make a change.”