Gabbie Hanna and Jessi Smiles, whose real name is Jessica Vasquez, are two well-known internet personalities who previously held a close friendship with one another. Vasquez even let Hanna live in her house for some time.
By 2015, the bond between the two online stars ended due to a falling out. After that, however, their relationship morphed into a highly antagonistic one, evident when Vasquez released a YouTube video in November 2019 titled “Gabbie Hanna needs to be stopped.”
In her video, Vasquez claimed that Hanna directly messaged a fan named Deanna on Twitter after she tweeted, “a lot of people forget or don’t know that Gabbie Hanna chose a rapist… over her then best friend, who was the victim,” referring to when former Vine star Curtis Lepore pleaded guilty to felony assault of Vasquez, who accused him of raping her.
The DMs reveal that Hanna told Deanna that any accusation that she sided with Lepore over Vasquez was false. In addition, Hanna sent Deanna various screenshots of private text messages between herself and Vasquez, disclosed to her that Vasquez took anxiety medication and alleged that her former friend started a “hate campaign” against her. Shortly after that, Deanna and Vasquez connected and discussed the DMs. After reading the DMs between the two, Vasquez decided to film “Gabbie Hanna needs to be stopped.”
The Conflict Continues
Once Vasquez posted her video, numerous people criticized Hanna for reaching out to a fan and sending her private texts. Although she has tweeted an apology to Vasquez and Deanna and has since extended an olive branch toward Vasquez in a YouTube video, she has also engaged in a Twitter spat with Vasquez. It appears Hanna does not stand by her initial apology.
The final straw occurred on June 7 when Vasquez compiled a thread of tweets, which contain clips of a phone conversation she had with Hanna last summer. The recordings, which they both consented to record, were “edited for brevity,” Vasquez said in a tweet. In her Twitter thread, Vasquez explained her reason for broadcasting the phone call.
“[Hanna’s] continued lying about my trauma has officially broken me and I don’t know what else to do,” said Vasquez.
During the call, the former friends discussed Hanna’s continued relationship with Lepore after the rape allegations became public and her posts mocking Vasquez and joking about her sexual assault. Additionally, Vasquez inserted screenshots within the videos that invalidate Hanna’s assertions throughout their call.
At one point, Hanna mentioned that she had a conversation with Lepore in which he volunteered to tell Hanna his perspective on what happened the night that he allegedly raped Vasquez. Hanna replied that she would listen because she “wanted to catch [Lepore] in a lie.”
In subsequent recordings, Vasquez confronted Hanna and accused her of lying about not defending Lepore. Hanna started off affirming that she never sided with Lepore publicly but ended up confessing to doing precisely that and justifying her actions.
“When [the TMZ story] dropped, every single person was saying that [Vasquez] lied,” said Hanna.
Later, Hanna professed her desire to discuss her relationship with Vasquez out in the open and requested that she deliver a “public apology” for broadcasting their fallout in 2019. In response, Vasquez asked that Hanna keep their interactions offline and gave her former friend permission to sue her.
Nevertheless, Hanna rejected Vasquez’s suggestion and decided that she wanted her fans involved.
“I keep going and sitting with these litigators, thinking about the idea of people saying how terrible I am for suing somebody with a child,” said Hanna emotionally. “What I want is for people to hear my side.”
The Vasquez and Hanna scandal is just the latest in Hanna’s long history of toxic behavior on the internet. Not too long ago, she got herself involved with various online fights that include YouTubers like Rachel Oates and Angelika Oles. Evidence shows that she regularly uses her immense platform to send undeserved hate to other creators and reframe their quarrels; in the eyes of her followers, Hanna is the victim and everybody else is the villain.
This pattern of toxic behavior is not a problem specific to Hanna, as plenty of other celebrities and online influencers have negatively influenced their fans and used their relationships with them to their advantage. However, it seems to be a common occurrence for her.
Hanna’s feud with Vasquez demonstrates the dangerous lengths she goes to make sure that public opinion of her remains positive. In obsessively trying to reframe the narrative, Hanna has forced Vasquez, a rape victim, to relive the most traumatic event of her life. Since Vasquez’s 2019 video, Hanna has repeatedly spoken about Vasquez’s rape and claimed that she lies for attention. Hanna maintains that she constantly brings up the situation with Vasquez because she feels the need to defend herself. While I am sure that is true, I also think that Hanna cannot handle the fact that public opinion does not lie positively with her.
Lies vs. Self-Defense
Hanna has indicated that she cares greatly about what people think of her and cannot handle criticism of any kind throughout her online career. When an individual, famous or not, says something that is not 100% positive about her, Hanna immediately delivers a passionate response. Nothing is inherently wrong with wanting to defend yourself against criticism or comments that feel undeservedly negative or hateful. Nevertheless, responding to every single critique and resorting to equally distasteful responses in the name of standing up for yourself is highly questionable. It also crosses the line when creators like Hanna lie to protect themselves.
During the June 2020 phone call with Vasquez, Hanna finally admitted to posting numerous tweets that poked fun at Vasquez’s rape and asserted that Vasquez lied about the ordeal; her statements online regarding Vasquez’s assault were the crux of the issue all along. Hanna’s lying is especially problematic for her notably loyal, young fanbase, who might not do their research before criticizing the YouTuber’s foes.
Today, audiences invest emotional energy in celebrities — YouTubers included — because they can more directly interact with them. Thus, the audience actually has an active role in the content that the online personality cultivates. Due to new technologies, though, the boundary between viewer and creator can also start to blur.
Lying about an incident to defend yourself or exempt yourself from criticism is incredibly harmful and deceitful. Adopting the title of influencer already assumes that one will confront love, hate and everything in between. As stated before, it is not necessarily bad if a public figure feels obligated to address unnecessary hostility from “haters.” However, when a person devotes most of their time to hate and negativity, it becomes excessive and unproductive, which only paints a worse picture in the public eye.