Wyoming embraces Jeffree Star despite homophobia, past…

Wyoming embraces Jeffree Star despite homophobia, past…

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FILE – In this March 5, 2017, file photo, Jeffree Star arrives at the iHeartRadio Music Awards at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Jeffree Star is, inarguably, the biggest celebrity in Casper. The Youtuber-slash-makeup mogul first landed here in December, saying publicly he wanted to work on his autobiography. In June, Star announced in a video that he was moving to Casper permanently, and selling his mansion outside Los Angeles to prove it.




CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Jeffree Star is, inarguably, the biggest celebrity in Casper.

The Youtuber-slash-makeup mogul first landed here in December, saying publicly he wanted to work on his autobiography. Videos and pictures of him exploring the state, eating at local restaurants and roaming his 70-acre ranch soon dominated his social media channels. In June, Star announced in a video that he was moving to Casper permanently, and selling his mansion outside Los Angeles to prove it.

He’s donated to local organizations, most recently the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra for its upcoming Pops in the Park concert, but mostly lays low at his ranch, where he enjoys mountain views and recently started keeping yaks.

Star is gay, covered in tattoos and often dresses androgynously. He drives luxury cars — one with the custom Wyoming license plate “1 STAR” — and until the move, had lived in Southern California for all of his 35 years.

In a state that can be suspicious of outsiders and has a record of homophobic incidents, Star’s transition to life in Casper has been surprisingly quiet, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. And even knowing about his controversial past — which is marred with racist comments and accusations of assault — locals, average Joes and community leaders alike seem willing to look beyond it and embrace him — and his money — here.

Star is a Youtube success story — with more than 16 million subscribers and over 2 billion total views amassed across a decade and a half of content.

He got his start making music on Myspace, part of a near-extinct breed of edgy early internet celebrities. By 2006, the year he started his Youtube channel, Star was the most-followed person on the social media site.

These days, he posts makeup reviews, vlogs (video blogs) and collaborations with other makeup gurus and Youtube stars. Until recently, many of the videos were shot at his mansion in Hidden Hills, California, which is now up for sale at $20 million as Star makes Casper his full-time home.

Star may be just as famous for his businesses, most notably Jeffree Star Cosmetics, which sells makeup and accessories and has gathered a dedicated following largely thanks to his Youtube fame.

More recently, he’s also ventured into other markets with his Star Lounge line of marijuana-themed clothing, grinders and stash jars, which ship from a newly opened distribution center in Evansville.

It’s unclear how many local people Star employs there, but he promoted the center’s opening and the jobs it would bring on social media for months after moving to Wyoming. Star did not respond to multiple requests for comment, made to his social media sites, for this story.

In April, shortly after he made headlines for a rollover crash on Hat Six Road that sent him and friend Daniel Lucas to Wyoming Medical Center, Star announced he was shipping orders for Star Lounge from Wyoming and shared a video of “thousands” of boxes going out from a warehouse in Casper.

In the last eight months, it seems Star’s every move in Casper — all well-documented on his Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat and Twitter accounts — has been covered by some local news outlets.

But what almost always gets left out in the news of his business moves, expanding yak ranch and charitable donations is any mention of his past, which has been covered extensively by national and L.A. media.

Brendan LaChance, managing editor for local news site Oil City, said stories about Star tend to rack up a lot of reactions, shares and comments on social media. However, besides one story from July that mentions accusations of “physical, sexual and verbal abuse” in its final paragraph, the site’s coverage has left out any mention of Star’s past.

“I think our interest is more, how does this impact Casper? How does this impact the state?” LaChance said. “People can do some of their own research as well, they can come to their own conclusions.”

In 2020, Star was accused of sexual and physical assault by multiple people in an Insider investigation. Later, leaked documents obtained by Insider indicated Star’s camp paid up to $45,000 to an accuser in exchange for retracting his comments to the publication. Star and his lawyers have denied the allegations, calling them “false and defamatory.”

Several older videos showing Star making racist comments and harassing and yelling slurs at Black women, some from more than a decade ago, have also surfaced in recent years. In one now-deleted MySpace video, Star suggested throwing battery acid on a Black woman to lighten her skin. In the early 2000s, he registered the website “LipstickNazi.com” with a landing page showing his face, name, swastikas and a razor blade.

Since then, Star has taken to Youtube and social media several times to address the allegations and old videos, and to apologize for his past actions.

“I look at them and I see them resurface and it makes me sick to my stomach because I do not know who that person was,” Star said in a 2017 video titled “RACISM.” “That person was depressed, that person was just angry at the world, that person felt like they were not accepted, that person was seeking attention.”

Kiss Casper’s Shawn Jackson, who goes by DJ Nyke, is the only member of local media regularly in touch with Star. As a Black man, Jackson said he was “hesitant” to meet Star knowing about the celebrity’s past racism, but all of their interactions have been good.

“Honestly, even before we ever talked or hung out, he never came across racist or anything like that to me,” Jackson said. “I’m always going to go off how somebody treats me personally, and I’ve never had anything happen with him.”

If the allegations against Star ever became formal charges, both Jackson and LaChance said, their news teams would write about them. But right now, Jackson said it’s a matter of “he said, she said.”

“A lot of that stuff happened way prior to him moving here,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t like, he’s been accused of something, ’Alright, I’m leaving California because I don’t want to be in the public eye. This is stuff that was years old, at least 3, 4, 5 years old.”

Star makes news on his own terms, Jackson said, and will alert the DJ when a new post or video that might be newsworthy is going up. Maureen Harrington, a journalist who’s covered Star in Los Angeles, said the Youtuber basically lives online, hardly making public appearances or being snapped by the paparazzi.

LaChance said that in eight months of writing about Star, with over a dozen stories published about him, Oil City News never heard back from any of their attempts to contact him — until Star himself reached out after the site posted its piece on his most recent donation. The Star-Tribune has found a similar experience.

Earlier in August, Star announced that Jeffree Star Cosmetics (JSC to fans in the know) would be co-sponsoring the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra’s Pops in the Park concert, alongside Jonah Bank.

On social media, locals praised the donation and Star, commending him for investing in the Casper community. Rachel Bailey, executive director of the symphony, said his donation (of an undisclosed amount) has helped keep tickets affordable for more Casperites.

Star’s past did come up when the donation was proposed, Bailey said.

“If somebody is trying to participate in the community, and in the arts community and has injected money into our community, we will give them a fair shot,” Bailey said. “We want to encourage Jeffree to continue to spend money in the community.”

Kim Devore, president of Jonah Bank, said the same. When she’s introduced Star to other local organizations, DeVore said, his first question is always wondering how he can help.

When Star first arrived in Casper, before Christmas last year, he made a good first impression with his first local donation — $25,000 to Wyoming Food for Thought’s Stuff the Van toy drive.

“That was my first exposure to who he was and the fact that he lived in Casper,” DeVore said. “I remember thinking, my gosh, you move here and you make a significant contribution like that right out of the gate. He’s very community oriented.”

The Casper realtor who sold him his $1.1 million 70-acre ranch off of Hat Six, Forefront Real Estate’s Kendra Deal, said she connected him with the charity while she was sitting on its board. Deal said she vetted Star just like any client, but his past hasn’t been a concern.

“It’s not my place to ask him, and it’s never come up,” Deal said. “I try to just judge people on my interactions with them … I think he’s a great person, and I consider him a friend.”

Jamie Purcell, executive director at the anti-hunger nonprofit Food for Thought, said she and the Stuff the Van crew internally discussed Star’s donation in light of his past. It’s the charity’s standard to review all donations before accepting, to make sure there are no concerning strings attached.

They would do the same thing if, for example, a company building a pipeline across indigenous lands came to the organization with a donation.

“What it comes down to for us when making a decision to accept a donation is: what will this money ultimately be going toward?” Purcell said. “So we haven’t ever turned one away, simply because the people we serve matter more to us at this point.”

Purcell said Star’s donation helped her organization say yes to everyone needing food and toys in a pandemic year where Food for Thought served twice as many people than normal. Accepting the money, she said, doesn’t mean Star shouldn’t be held accountable for disparaging or racist comments.

“It’s a very challenging place to be, running a grassroots nonprofit,” Purcell said. “You have to be fiscally smart but also not endorse that kind of behavior.”

Star, born Jeffrey Lynn Steininger, announced he was moving to Wyoming last fall. First, he bought a ranch near Kaycee for his mother, with whom he reportedly reconnected in 2018 after 10 years without contact.

Then, in December, Star arrived in Casper. With his home base at a ranch at the base of the mountain, he began posting evidence of him embracing Wyoming life — changing his license plates, filling up one of his sports cars on CY Avenue and cruising around his land with guns in tow.

For months, Star split his time between Casper and Southern California, traveling back and forth on a private plane or, when he was recovering from the April crash, on a bus large enough for his crew and gaggle of Pomeranians.

Jackson, the Casper DJ, said that much like when Kanye West first moved to Wyoming, Star’s arrival was initially greeted with skepticism by locals wary of California transplants coming to their state.

“It was what I would call the normal Wyoming welcome, which is not warm, especially for people from different walks of life,” said Jackson. “People were like, ‘Don’t bring that crap here.’ Then he donated to a couple of charities, and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’”

In July, Star surprised locals and fans when he announced he was starting a yak ranch on his property. It was a new chapter in his life, he said in an Instagram caption, and owning a lot of land in the peace and quiet of Wyoming fulfilled “something (he’d) always dreamed about, but never pursued.”

“The Star Yak Ranch is NOT open to the public,” Star wrote in the July 16 caption. “Thank you.”

There have been some sightings of Star around town — in Walmart, while getting his COVID vaccine or grabbing lunch at Tacos Mexico. Jackson, one of the only people interviewed for this story who has met Star in person, said the celebrity has also been spotted downtown at Rock the Block or similar events.

But Star mostly makes headlines based on his online presence, when releasing a video or updating his social media. Neither Bailey nor DeVore would say whether Star plans on going to Pops in the Park himself.

“Honestly, he’s the only celebrity of his tax bracket that I’ve ever seen that runs his own Facebook page,” Jackson said.

Deal said she’s become friends with Star since selling him his home, and said most people she’s encountered with him seem excited he’s here. His being accepted in Casper, Deal said, is a good sign.

“I’m a Wyoming native, born and raised, and so I get how people in Wyoming — and I’ve heard it my whole life — don’t want change,” Deal said. “But the reality is that we need to diversify in order to create jobs and keep our kids here, so that’s just the reality.”

Bailey said the reception to the news of his symphony donation was also completely positive, and Purcell said the same for his Food for Thought support.

Jackson said most feedback he’s seen from Kiss Casper’s coverage of Star has been welcoming, after the initial hesitancy toward the transplant. At first, negative comments would tell Star to go back to LA or judge his appearance.

“It’s definitely gotten better in the months since he’s been here,” Jackson said. “Nine times out of ten, the negative people are going to be a lot more loud or boisterous than the people that either don’t care or are happy that he’s here.”

When he landed in Casper, Star promised to bring more than just star power to the area. For months, he talked about opening a distribution center in the area before making that a reality in April. The warehouse ships orders for his pot-focused Star Lounge line, a smaller and newer business than Star’s flagship cosmetics line, that launched in time for 4/20 this year.

According to the Star Lounge website, the facility is on Wildcat Road in Evansville. County assessor records show it’s likely being leased from commercial real estate company Wyoming Wildcat Investments.

The Star-Tribune could not confirm how many people have been hired to work in the distribution center.

State filings show Star is planning on keeping his businesses in Wyoming — all four of them. Jeffree Star LLC, registered to Star’s home address, is the only one which lists him as an agent.

Jeffree Star Cosmetics, which makes an estimated $7 million with each product launch, is registered in Wyoming to Cody lawyer Mary Helen Reed. She’s also listed as the agent for another LLC, Jeffree Star Pets, which was first filed in September 2020 and does not appear to be selling products yet. Reed could not be reached for comment.

Star’s newest venture, Star Yak Ranch, was registered last month and lists Casper lawyer Ryan Ford as its agent. Ford declined to speak with the Star-Tribune, citing client confidentiality.

Star is far from the first celebrity to move to the Equality State in recent years.

Most famously, rapper Kanye West (who used to live with ex Kim Kardashian in the same wealthy LA suburb as Star) moved to a ranch outside of Cody. Actors Sandra Bullock and Harrison Ford live part-time in Jackson, and drag queen-slash-reality host RuPaul spends part of the year at a ranch outside of Douglas owned by his husband.

Deal, Star’s realtor-turned-friend, said there’s been a definite uptick, at least among her clients, in out-of-staters looking to move to Wyoming. About one in four of her clients are moving from other parts of the country, to take advantage of the scenery, privacy and lack of income tax.

But while the Jackson Hole area attracts most of the wealthy and famous moving to Wyoming, Star chose to settle in the more humble (and less pricey) Casper area. Even here, though, it seems like Star has been getting some unwanted attention.

“He’s probably the biggest celebrity who calls Casper home,” Jackson said. “It was a similar thing when Kanye moved here, but that was big for Wyoming and super big for Cody. This is big for Wyoming, but it’s also super big for Casper. He’s here.”

In April, a few weeks after his crash, Star indicated that some of his new neighbors haven’t been leaving him alone as much as he’d like. In a pair of tweets, he told Wyomingites to stay away from his ranch but to feel free to ask for photos when out in public. He attached a photo of a sign saying “No trespassing — violators will be shot, survivors will be shot again.”

“(Please) stop showing up. Please stop driving by. Please stop taking pictures. Please stop trespassing. Please stop making us feel unsafe.” Star tweeted. “Thank you!!!!!!”

Anecdotes from Casperites shared on social media say Star’s been spotted eating at Sherrie’s or HQ BBQ, at Wyoming Gun Company or riding around in a white Jeep or bronze Rolls Royce. Popular reviews say he’s mostly friendly, if a little aggressive on the road.

“Smaller places like this, it’s a lot easier to live a normal life,” Jackson said, “to actually enjoy, you know, without prying eyes, whatever it is you want to do.”

For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune.

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