David Dobrik is one of YouTube’s most successful creators. The 24-year-old social media giant first found success on the short-form video app Vine (the simpler, pre-TikTok days) and pivoted to YouTube in 2015, where he quickly became known for his vlogs. His vlog channel amassed millions of subscribers and billions of views, but how did he distinguish himself from other vloggers?
Dobrik created a wholesome, family friendly persona that made WSJ Magazine “Gen Z’s Jimmy Fallon.” His Twitter bio reads: “Sexy, Gorgeous, and Humble,” a tongue-in-cheek assertion that sums up the playful demeanor that characterizes his vlogs. His rotating friend group, The Vlog Squad, is known for videos of their adventures and lifestyle videos, which feature parties, pranks, and an unpretentious inside look on the trappings of wealth and access. He is also known for gifting and giving away expensive products like cars to friends and fans, furthering his likability.
Dobrik has also successfully pivoted from social media to the Hollywood mainstream, landing everything from voice-acting in films to hosting gigs and reality TV appearances. He is also co-founder of the app Dispo, a photo sharing social networking app, and a podcast.
But does Dobrik’s sardonic Twitter bio belie a shady side? His pranks have a history of going too far and his empire is not as sound as it seems. With scandalous allegations mounting, and former members of his inner circle speaking out, Dobrik might not be as squeaky clean as his facade might suggest.
Is David Dobrik racist?
In June 2020, the murder of George Floyd sparked a racial reckoning across America, with many institutions and individuals forced to take accountability for their actions which perpetuate systemic racism. Seth Francois, former member of David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad, took this time to speak out about the alleged racism he experienced as the only Black member of the Vlog Squad. In a video on his own channel, he demanded “accountability” and apologized for “being a part of this type of content and not taking a stand for my people.” He then showed a montage of offensive Vlog Squad sketches, including depictions of blackface, racist jokes, and the mockery of racial stereotypes.
Francois later admitted to feeling powerless in his position in the group, and indicated there was some suppression at play for those who previously spoke out. “It was an unwritten thing where you see a pattern of people saying, ‘Yo, I’m uncomfortable with this,'” he told Buzzfeed. “All of a sudden they disappear and they’re not in videos anymore.”
It took nearly a full year for Dobrik to directly address Francois’ allegations. In his March 2021 video, “Let’s Talk,” the YouTuber finally apologizes to Francois, before more generally stating to his fans, “I’m sorry if I’ve let you down. Things like that won’t happen again. I learn from my mistakes and I also believe that actions speak a lot louder than words. You can take my word for it that I am going to change, but I will also show you.”
Fans weren't happy with David Dobrik's podcast apology
In the wake of the racial reckonings of 2020, as well as backlash and criticism from Seth Francois and others over his controversial Vlog Squad content, Dobrik took to his podcast on June 30, 2020 to apologize. He talked about how attending his first Black Lives Matter protest and the feedback he got from that changed his perspective. “The intention with every single video is to make people laugh,” he said, adding, “I want to be a good role model for the people watching. And I’m ashamed and I’m embarrassed about some of the things I did in videos or in Vines or whatever I was doing, and I genuinely feel awful about it.” He also promised to “to do better actively” and “consistently” moving forward.
Despite his seemingly sincere vows to change, some listeners were not satisfied by the fact that the apology didn’t sound much like an apology to Francois, in particular. According to Vulture’s breakdown of Dobrik’s downfall, critics were unimpressed with the way Dobrik kept his statements vague and non-specific. His promises to change and “do better” also received similar feedback, particularly since it took nearly a year for him to essentially reiterate the same sentiments, and only after even more pressure mounted.
The truth behind David Dobrik's kiss prank
A huge part of David Dobrik’s online repertoire is pranks, each one seemingly more outrageous than the last. However, pranks always have a victim, and some of Dobrik’s targets felt truly exploited. In Febraury 2021, Seth Francois spoke out about his role in a prank which he now considers to have been sexual assault. In the since-deleted 2017 vlog “HE THOUGHT HE WAS KISSING HER!! (SUPER CRINGEY),” Dobrik tricked Francois into kissing Jason Nash (above), a 47-year-old comedian associated with The Vlog Squad, by blindfolding Francois and telling him he would be kissing Corinna Kopf.
It wasn’t until 2021 that Francois acknowledged what happened to him. “I honestly didn’t realize how much that situation affected me until the beginning of last year when COVID happened,” Francois told Buzzfeed. “I remember sitting in my room in Atlanta and I was thinking to myself, ‘That video was wrong.’ I just felt like that shouldn’t have happened to me.” The former Vlog Squad member said he is “still experiencing trauma” from the incident and sought professional help to deal with the aftermath. He even alleged that Dobrik and Nash offered to pay him off to keep the prank streaming, but he refused.
In his “Let’s talk” video, Dobrik expressed the importance of “consent” and claimed that he “always … has the approval” of anyone featured in his videos. Addressing what he called “the Seth situation,” however, he said, “I missed the mark with that one.”
Critics called David Dobrik out over deleted content
After Seth Francois’ allegations, David Dobrik started taking action by deleting videos and other content from the internet that exposed his more problematic behavior towards Francois and others. Some considered this shady. Fellow YouTube personality Ethan Klein specifically called out Dobrik for deleting one podcast episode in which Dobrik is heard gleefully recounting the Francois kiss prank with Jason Nash.
“Seth’s from Compton; it’s literally the perfect setup,” Dobrik tells a giggling Nash, adding, “A guy from Compton, and I made him make out with another old man.” Klein noted Dobrik’s efforts at “remov[ing] this clip from the internet,” and slammed, “This is straight up sexual assault … Absolutely infuriating to hear him talk about it so joyously knowing the trauma it caused Seth.” Many rallied around Klein, disappointed in what seemed like Dobrik’s attempts to abscond from blame without taking responsibility or being held accountable.
While some interpret the deleted videos as shady, Dobrik claims to have deleted some of his more controversial content in an attempt to make amends. When Dobrik finally addressed his most serious allegations, those from Seth included, he acknowledged that some of his past videos did not reflect his current values. In the “Let’s Talk” video, he said: “There’s also been moments where I’ve looked back on videos, and I realized that these don’t represent me anymore, and they’re hurtful to other people, and I don’t want them up.”
BigNik Keswani exposes the Vlog Squad
Where there are YouTube stars, there is bound to be drama to dish and tea to spill. The podcast H3H3 is home to discussions, interviews, and reactions to YouTube drama. On an episode hosted by Ethan Klein and Hila Klein — the husband and wife duo also behind the podcast Frenemies alongside Trisha Paytas, who used to be affiliated with the Vlog Squad — former Vlog Squad member Nik Keswani appears as a guest to discuss the negative effects of his time in the Squad. Keswani, also known as BigNik, was another early Vine star who also pivoted to YouTube. Keswani has a rare form of dwarfism which has also made him blind in one eye. This was often fodder for many of David Dobrik’s jokes, which Keswani revealed adversely impacted his mental health.
After leaving the Vlog Squad, largely due to the myriad of jokes at his expense, BigNik agreed that the Vlog Squad could sometimes be “toxic” in nature. “It is kind of like a cult,” Keswani revealed. “I would come home so drained, like, just mentally.” He added, “I always remember talking to my friends afterward, like ‘Yo, I’ve got to get out of this, I can’t do this … I was just constantly stressing about, like, ‘How do I escape from this?'”
As of this writing, Dobrik hasn’t publicly responded to Keswani’s statements, however, Keswani revealed that he spoke to Dobrik about his feelings in 2019 and Dobrik apologized in private.
The 'toxic' nature of the Trisha Paytas, Jason Nash, and David Dobrik triangle
Trisha Paytas is known for many things, especially drama. Never one to shy away from feuds or controversy, Paytas has been vocal about their experiences with David Dobrik. Paytas was associated with the Vlog Squad when they were dating Jason Nash, a frequent collaborator of Dobrik and yes, the same person Seth Francois was tricked into kissing.
During their relationship with Nash, Paytas spent extended periods of time with Dobrik, and not a lot of it was great. Speaking with Vulture in March 2021, Paytas described their proximity to Dobrik and the Vlog Squad as toxic. They even attributed the breakup of their relationship with Nash to Dobrik, saying “Jason was like, ‘I gotta break up with you because of David.’ That’s when I spiraled.”
Ultimately, Paytas felt like their relationship with Nash was simply fodder for the group’s videos, and when Dobrik and/or the other group kicked them to the curb, so did Nash. The dissolution of the relationship caused Paytas deep distress and caused them to almost overdose on a mixture of drugs and alcohol. “I have more PTSD from David and Jason than I do hooking on Santa Monica Boulevard,” Paytas told Vulture.
Trisha Patyas exposes David Dobrik
Trisha Paytas has often been vocal about the myriad of questionable experiences they were subject to during their time adjacent to the Vlog Squad. On their H3H3 podcast spinoff, Frenemies, Paytas has revealed even more about David Dobrik. In the episode “Erased David Dobrik Footage Proves Trisha Was Right All Along – Frenemies #21,” Paytas talks about a video in which Dobrik and Jason Nash filmed them naked without their knowledge or consent. As part of a prank video, Dobrik hid behind the shower curtain while Paytas and Nash were getting intimate and filmed it for a vlog. Though Nash was aware of the video, Paytas was not informed until the footage was taken.
After the video footage was filmed and the prank revealed, Paytas claims they asked Dobrik not to post it. However, he did not comply with their request and posted the video titled “I SNUCK INTO THEIR HOTEL ROOM (SURPRISE).” Paytas also confirmed that Dobrik got “mad” at them for expressing their frustrations about the video, which has now been deleted but at one point amassed over 14 million views.
Paytas was often the subject of pranks which have resurfaced and which they now feel were malicious. They detail many of these incidents on their podcast and have severed their relationship with Dobrik. Dobrik has not publicly responded to any of their statements or claims about the prank videos, but has deleted many of the videos they have complained about from the internet.
How does Trisha Paytas really feel about David Dobrik?
Perhaps the most pointed statement Trisha Paytas, or anyone, has ever made about David Dobrik happened in early February 2019. In a now-deleted vlog (via J-14), Paytas makes a shocking comparison while describing another Dobrik joke gone too far at her expense. Through tears, Paytas describes the “gross” joke, this time involving Dobrik, Jason Nash, and fellow YouTuber Tana Mongeau.
“I’m not trying to do this exposé video about every single horrible evil thing that David has done but I don’t think there should be a YouTuber out there that, like, ruins people’s lives,” Paytas says, adding, “David’s on a whole other level of being an actual horrible person. … I used to think [Dobrik] was so charming in the same way Ted Bundy was charming, I guess. I mean, everyone thought he was charming, too. He turned out to be a serial killer.”
A few days later, Paytas posted a follow-up vlog, which has also been deleted, clarifying their previous claims. “I don’t think David is horrible,” Paytas said (via Dankanator), “I think he just doesn’t think sometimes.” Paytas’ comparisons of Dobrik to Bundy might have been hyperbolic, but since severing ties with him, they have consistently been vocal about how Dobrik is not like the boyish, good-natured personality he projects to society and social media.
David Dobrik's troubling connection to sexual assault allegations
The now-deleted 2018 vlog “SHE SHOULD NOT HAVE PLAYED WITH FIRE!!” featured David Dobrik and several Vlog Squad members, including Dominykas Zeglaitis aka Durte Dom (above). The premise of the video is that Zeglaitis brought four girls to the house, claiming they were there to have group sex with him. At one point in the video, Zeglaitis and two other women went into his bedroom, while Dobrik and other Vlog Squad members attempt to look in and laugh from outside.
In early 2021, Insider reported that one of the girls featured in the video claimed she was sexually assaulted by Zeglaitis. Under the pseudonym “Hannah,” she alleged she was provided alcohol despite being underage, encouraged to drink to excess, and then coerced into sex by Zeglaitis while she was too intoxicated to consent. She claims to have no memory of having sex with Zeglaitis, although the alleged assault was confirmed by another woman, who was in the room. Zeglaitis has since apologized to “Hannah” in an Instagram story (via Insider) but insisted that he felt “everything that occurred during the night in question was completely consensual.”
Through an attorney, Dobrik stated to Insider that “any insinuation of wrongdoing is inaccurate and defamatory,” and promised a direct response to his audience. That response came via his Let’s Talk video, but it was vague, and seemed to squarely place all blame on Zeglaitis. “With people in my life that I don’t film with anymore, like Dom,” he said, “I chose to distance myself, because I don’t align with some of the actions, and I don’t stand for any kind of misconduct, and I’ve been really disappointed by some of my friends.”
Why did David Dobrik step down from the Dispo app?
In March 2021, David Dobrik officially launched his photo-sharing app, Dispo. Per Entrepreneur, the app combines the capabilities of social media sharing with bare bones photo editing in an attempt to mimic the aesthetics of a disposable camera. An upgrade of Dobrik’s 2019 app, David’s Disposable, Dispo was a big hit amongst investors. However, the app’s perception was soon sullied by Dobrik’s association with it amidst the surfacing allegations about him.
In 2020, a five-part TikTok series by a creator named Karim went viral for his “job application” style pitches to Dobrik with ideas for the app. Karim came up with the idea of the name “Dispo” for the app which had previously been called “Disposable” and other ideas for the platform. Dobrik commented enthusiastically on the TikToks and later met with Karim, though ultimately told him the brand was “going in a different direction.”
Fans were quick to criticize Dobrik for potentially stealing the idea of a young creator, shrouding Dispo with some negative press. Then, after the allegations by Seth Francois and “Hannah,” the app was flooded with negative comments and investors started walking away. On March 22, 2021, Dobrik stepped down from the board of directors. The company statement said: “David has chosen to step down from the board and leave the company to not distract from the company’s growth. Dispo’s team, product, and most importantly — our community — stand for building a diverse, inclusive, and empowering world.”
Why did David Dobrik lose his sponsorships?
Despite David Dobrik’s “Let’s Talk” apology video and his choice to step down from the board of his Dispo app, his number of video views, subscribers, and sponsors plummeted in March 2021. According to Vulture’s timeline of the fallout, which was mostly tracked by Insider, Dobrik shed “100,000 subscribers” alone the day after Insider published the sexual assault claims brought against Dominykas Zeglaitis. The next week, sponsors rapidly dropped engagements with the YouTube star. These included longtime sponsor SeatGeek, Dollar Shave Club, and EA Sports, which stated “We are not currently working with him nor do we have any plans to in the future.” Additionally, HelloFresh, DoorDash, General Mills, HBO Max, Facebook, and Audible also pulled deals with Dobrik.
Amid the brand retreat, it seemed Dobrik deleted several highly viewed videos in one day, resulting in the loss of 66 million combined views. YouTube also temporarily demonetized Dobrik’s channels after the allegations against him and Zeglaitis surfaced.
Dobrik then released another apology video, this time teary-eyed and directly addressing “Hannah,” the woman who accused Zeglaitis. He emphatically apologized to her, stated that he believed her claims, and finally recognized the “power dynamic” he’d created that led to such toxic situations. He also apologized for not directly addressing the impact his harmful content may have had on many others featured within it. Dobrik then promised to re-evaluate the “infrastructure” of his content creation empire, and expressed a desire to implement a “checks and balances” system that would ensure those who participated in future projects would feel fully comfortable and supported.
What really happened between David Dobrik and Jeff Wittek
Over the course of a few days in April 2021, Vlog Squad member Jeff Wittek uploaded a multi-part documentary series on YouTube called “Don’t Try This at Home.” Using a dramatic documentary style, the video series details Wittek’s near-fatal summer 2020 accident, of which David Dobrik and some of the Vlog Squad were directly involved.
In June 2020, looking to make a dramatic comeback vlog after being on hiatus due to the pandemic, the Vlog Squad went wakeboarding on a shallow lake. However, this was no average wakeboarding trip — their boards were pulled by an excavator that was driven by Dobrik. In a reckless attempt to make a wild video, Wittek then ditched the wakeboard and mounted a rope dangling from the excavator. Dobrik then swung Witteck around the machine and abruptly stopped, causing Wittek to crash face-first into the machine. The accident left him with a major facial injury that led to multiple surgeries.
But it was a lot worse than just a hit to the eye. “I was in a lot of pain,” Wittek said in part three of the series, “I tore some ligaments in my leg, I broke my foot, I broke my hip, I shattered my skull in nine places, I shattered my eye socket — I almost lost my eye, and I almost died.” Wittek also detailed the emotional toll the experience took on him, especially since he couldn’t engage in his coping mechanisms — like working out — and had to deal with unkind online speculation.
Are Jeff Wittek and David Dobrik still friends?
As a long time member of the Vlog Squad, Jeff Wittek has been in David Dobrik’s inner circle for years. Wittek told his full story in the first video of the “Don’t Try This at Home” series. In the first episode, “COMING CLEAN ABOUT EVERYTHING” he narrated his past: learning to cut hair at 16 years old, becoming a drug dealer in Miami, almost spending 15 years in jail, then moving to LA and meeting Dobrik before eventually appearing in Dobrik’s vlogs in November 2018.
With this long and storied history, it makes sense that Wittek and Dobrik would try to reconcile their relationship, even after the excavator incident. In the fourth episode of the series, “DOES THIS MAKE YOU HAPPY?,” Dobrik and Wittek sit down and discuss their feelings about the accident after not speaking for a month. “I didn’t know how to navigate that properly,” said Dobrik.
In the third installment of the series, Wittek explained that it took a while to process his anger. While Dobrik had visited him in the hospital, covered his bills, and driven him home, Wittek still felt anger towards Dobrik over the accident, revealing, “It made me resent him, it made me resent seeing his face.” During their one-one-one chat, Wittek tells Dobrik directly, “There’s moments where I convince myself that you did it on purpose,” which Dobrik denies and Wittek eventually says, “I’m going to learn to forgive you, it’s a lot easier to forgive you when you’re around.”
Does David Dobrik 'take things too far'?
In his video footage from the excavator incident that nearly killed him, Jeff Wittek also showed included clips of David Dobrik driving Corinna Kopf, another Vlog Squad member, around the lake. During her turn, Kopf swings directly from the line but starts to complain that the line is “falling down,” yelling that she wants to get off and stop. Dobrik, however, seems to ignore her and continues to swing her around despite her protests. Ultimately, she can be heard yelling at Dobrik: “You take things too far!” The combination of Wittek’s severe facial injury and Kopf’s exclamation also spurred the resurfacing of other dangerous stunts and even 2019 claims from Vlog Squad members who said Dobrik “wants [them] to fall off or hurt [them]self” when filming.
However, in the year after the wakeboarding incident, Dobrik experienced a lot of controversy and with each one, he promised to do better. His March 2021 apology videos showed some growth in his perspective and show that he realizes that not everything is fun and games. “I know how crazy it felt to me that there was some sort of toxicity or some sort of power dynamic in my friend group,” Dobrik said, acknowledging the toxicity of the Vlog Squad. “But, especially when creating content that you’re trying to get viewership out of or you’re trying to get laughs out of, really take a moment and look at where the jokes end and where the feelings begin.”
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