Former fans of YouTuber Colleen Ballinger have started sharing their stories of inappropriate conversations and experiences they had with her over the decade, many while they were still minors. Multiple people who watched her content, claim that she, along with her brother Trent, would text and message them, fueling their parasocial relationships with inappropriate conversations. Others claim that they were used and manipulated, and it’s caused them to reexamine the relationship that influencers have with fans.
Ballinger has been creating content on YouTube since 2008 as her popular but buffoonish character Miranda Sings, pulling in over 10 million subscribers on her main channel and over 3.4 million on her vlog channel. One of YouTube’s earliest stars, the 36-year-old made a name for herself as a quirky comedienne with zany content and a growing family and an audience of many underage fans. She’s broken into the world of traditional celebrity, with her own Netflix original series, an appearance on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, a run on Waitress on Broadway, and two best-selling books.
But as her fans have grown older, they’ve begun to think about and dissect their relationships with both Colleen and her content. Adam McIntyre is a former fan with his own YouTube following of over 200,000 subscribers and was the first to come out with his story.
In 2020, he posted a video with numerous allegations, including that he had started a friendship with her, ghost-wrote content on her social media without payment, and had been sent a pair of women’s lingerie from her—all while he was between 13 and 14 years old. He also claimed that Ballinger would divulge private information about her divorce from Joshua David Evans and that she would ask him to “gossip” on fan sites to spread rumors about her.
Ballinger released an apology video shortly after, claiming that there was no inappropriate behavior, that she planned on offering him a full-time job, and that the underwear sent was never worn and merely a joke.
“I’m not a monster, I’m not a groomer and I shouldn’t kill myself,” Ballinger said in her 2020 apology video.
Adam McIntyre Comes Forward
The whole story had fizzled out until a now 20-year-old McIntyre posted a new video on June 4 in response to a video from 10,000 subscriber YouTuber KodeeRants who had leaked private messages between Ballinger and a then 15-year-old McIntyre.
“I didn’t want any of this brought up again,” McIntyre told Passionfruit. “It’s fucking triggering to look back on it and realize that something that I devoted all of my teenage years to was just a fabricated lie of a 30-year-old using me.”
In his newest video, McIntyre showed every message between him and Ballinger, backing up his previous claims and adding more context to the allegations. He also showed messages from the “Weenies” group chat, which included around 20 of Ballinger’s fans, where Ballinger asked him his “fav position” and if he “is a virgin” when he was 14 or 15.
McIntyre told Passionfruit that he first started watching Ballinger when he was 11 or 12 years old, and over the next two years, he ran a fan page that would get reposted by her, ingraining himself in the fandom. By 16, he was having personal private conversations with Ballinger, talking about her “cheating and divorce allegations” and “trauma dumping.”
“Basically the more you engage, the more they recognize you and the more you became part of said community,” McIntyre said.
Their relationship ended in 2020, right before McIntyre released his original video. Ballinger had given him access to the Miranda Sings Twitter account and had asked him to post on the account. With her approval, McIntyre posted a homophobic joke about Meghan Trainor that did not go over well, forcing her to apologize. Though she approved the messages before they were posted, she claimed in leaked messages that she “would never post something like that.” McIntyre’s mother then sent a message to Ballinger, telling her to leave her son alone.
“She groomed all of us into believing we were her friends so we would want to defend her online so she wouldn’t have to do anything,” McIntyre said.
More Stories, More Problems
Since McIntyre released his latest video, other people have started to share their experiences online in the fandom. One former member of the “Weenies” chat shared their story on the ColleenBallingerSnark subreddit, claiming that the age range of fans was “12-17” and that they were considered by Ballinger to be “top of the fan hierarchy” so would receive free tickets to shows, mentions in vlogs, and would be followed by her on social media (McIntyre confirmed this).
Other fans have started to look at the experiences they had with Ballinger on tour. One former fan wrote on Twitter that, as a minor, she was asked to spread her legs in a “yoga challenge” in front of a crowd and claims she’s had “nightmares from the day it happened.” Another claimed that at 16 she was called onto the stage at the filming of her Netflix special so that her “butt and boobs could be pointed at, stared at and laughed at.”
John Silvestri was Ballinger’s tour assistant on her 2018 summer tour. He told Passionfruit that when he was a freshman in high school, he would spend hours on the video site TinyChat with Ballinger, her brother Trent, and other members of her inner circle. Only select fans were invited to the chat room and Silvestri felt that she had “groomed and abused him” with her behavior.
“We were all between 14 to 17 and they would play favorites,” Silvestri said. “They would tell people they were their favorite behind closed doors, it was this Hunger Games rat race to see who could be the favorite fan.”
He attended his first live show at 15 in New York and was soon traveling across the country to around a dozen Miranda Sings shows. In 2018 when he was 22, he claimed that he joined her tour, getting paid between $120 to $140 for 12+ hours of work a day.
“I did the dirty work nobody else wanted to,” Silvestri said. “I always felt she was holding my job over my head. If I fumbled on one thing, that was going to be it for me, it was like walking on eggshells.”
Once the tour ended, so did his work with Ballinger, though he did try working on later tours. The last time he spoke to Ballinger was after McIntyre released his 2020 video, in which he claims she completely convinced him she did no wrongdoing.
“Seeing Adam come forward with the same stories with tactics of manipulation,” John said in a June YouTube video sharing details of his story for the first time. “It’s evil, manipulative and I can’t stay silent anymore.”
Trent Ballinger Allegations
Allegations have also surfaced against Trent Ballinger, who had been featured on her sister’s channel multiple times over the years. On June 8, Twitter user Oliver shared private messages they had with Trent over Twitter when they were 13 years old. In the alleged leaked messages Trent asked them if they were “bi,” that they “looked like his ex-girlfriend” and asked them multiple other sexual questions. There are also messages confirming that he had known their age, telling them not to share “their conversations w(ith) anyone” and that he was “told not to talk to people under 18.”
“I quite often found myself not knowing how to respond. but I brushed off any of the weird behavior because he was Colleen’s brother and I looked up to Colleen a lot,” Oliver told Passionfruit.
Oliver said that they were a “big fan” of Ballinger, had seen her in person at least seven times, and were heavily involved in the Miranda Sings fandom. Trent would respond to them on Twitter and eventually, Oliver reached out. From 2018 to 2019, the pair would chat “every day” until Trent blocked them after Oliver shared that their conversations made them “uncomfortable.”
“His interactions have definitely affected me and how I see the world now.,” the now 18-year-old told Passionfruit. “It was most definitely an abuse of power.”
How To Treat Fans
In the earlier days of YouTube, the lines between fan and creator were more blurred. YouTubers weren’t seen as the marketing powerhouses they are today, but rather approachable “friends” that only a select niche of those very online knew anything about. Because there wasn’t any set precedent, some creators used their platforms in inappropriate ways, leading to serious sexual allegations. JinBop, a Minecraft YouTuber with 300,000 subscribers was arrested in 2016 for the production and sale of child pornography (he was released in early 2022). James Jackson, known to his two million subscribers as Onision, was sued in February 2023 by two women who claim they were groomed by the creator.
Ballinger used her position and relationship with fans to get away with inappropriate behavior or for using them for free or cheap labor. These fans believed they were friends with their creator, who knowingly led them on for their own social and economic gain.
“I think every YouTuber has a powerful social relationship with their audience,” McIntyre said. “The difference is when the YouTuber starts abusing it or using it to their advantage.”
McIntyre, now a fairly large creator of his own, said that when he first started gaining a following he’d get invited to group chats. But because of his experience with Ballinger, he learned to avoid them, instead having a public Discord and Facebook group where if fans want to have a one-on-one conversation, they need to do it in front of their entire audience.
The Miranda Sings and Colleen Vlogs channels haven’t posted since the allegations were made public and she has not responded publicly on the situation. Neither Colleen nor Trent Ballinger responded to Passionfruit’s request for comment.
The relationship between influencer/fan is inherently built on an imbalance of power, where the fan will do almost anything to get into the creator’s good graces. Ballinger seems to have weaponized her relationship with her fans to trauma dump, gain favors, and consistently abuse her position of power. And this might be Miranda’s last song.