Last week, Sam Pepper removed all the videos from his YouTube channel and deleted all his tweets, save for the lone message “I give up.”
It’s now clear that the social media sayonara was really just another attention-getting ploy by the 26-year-old Brit, who became an overnight pariah in the YouTube community back in September 2014 after he posted a video of himself pinching the butts of women he approached on the street.
On Wednesday, Pepper uploaded a 20-minute video titled “i’m sorry,” in which he apologized for faking his videos and explained he was merely trying to keep up with the YouTubers who were staging increasingly outlandish (and likely fake) pranks.
Two days later, he posted the video “Exploring a Huge Abandoned Mall.” “This is the first of my new videos,” he wrote in the description. “I’m still not sure 100% what format I’m going to have on my channel now, but I do love exploring and putting together edits like this.”
Over the weekend, he followed with the vlog “If you like PUPPIES, you’ll LOVE this” and the DIY video “Table made out of pennies?”
Back in the fall of 2014, Pepper was one of YouTube’s top stars when his women butt-pinching video led sex education activist and vlogger Laci Green to post an open letter to Pepper on Tumbler, decrying what she felt was his consistent lack of respect shown to women in videos such as “How to Make Out with Strangers” and “How to Pick Up Girls with a Lasso.” It was co-signed by several dozen of her fellow YouTubers, including big names such as Tyler Oakley, Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, Meghan Camarena and Hannah Hart.
Pepper fought back. He posted the video “Fake Hand Ass Pitch Prank — The Reveal,” in which he said the videos were scripted, the women were willing participants and the arm he used to pinch the butts was a prosthetic. He also claimed the women butt-pinching video and its men butt-pinching video follow-up were social experiments, inspired by a friend who was abused by his wife and his own mistreatment at the hands of his fans. In last week’s “i’m sorry” video, Pepper admitted, “I made a bullshit story and I made a bullshit video, and I just made my situation worse, because then everybody wanted to attack me.”
And it wasn’t just fans. Hank Green said Pepper wasn’t welcome at VidCon. Pepper’s multi-channel network, Collective Digital Studio, dropped him like a bad habit, and his butt-pinching videos (including one in which he pinched men’s butts) were pulled from YouTube. It went from bad to worse (and more than a little disgusting) when sexual assault allegations against Pepper surfaced.
After that, Pepper seemed to fade from view. But, while he may have been forgotten by many, he wasn’t quite gone.
Last November, Pepper posted a video in which Vine stars Sam Goldbach and Colby Brock are kidnapped by a hooded figure, and Brock is shot in the head. The action is presented as real, but, at the end of the video, Colby gets up and reveals it’s all a prank.
Once again, there was a public outcry. A petition calling for the deactivation of Pepper’s YouTube channel was posted online, and it received more than 222,000 signatures.
So Pepper decided to give them what they wanted… in exchange for a large sum of money.
In December, he launched a GoFundMe campaign in which he pledged to delete his YouTube account if he raised $1.5 million. Rewards offered included an opportunity to kick Pepper in the nuts, priced at $7,500. For a mere $25,000, you could be the one to push the delete button.
But GoFundMe quickly pulled the campaign because it didn’t meet the crowdfunding platform’s requirements, and Pepper seemed to skulk off into the internet ether yet again, before returning for his short-lived surrender last week.
Today, Pepper was back again with yet another video, titled “just a little secret,” in which he announced the debut of the first item in his new Momints line of inspirational wearables, a bracelet, priced at $17.50 (25 cents of which goes to charity).
“We wanted to make a company where, number one, it’s something really cool for you to wear,” says Pepper in the video. “And, number two, it promotes like positivity and like encouragement and motivation.”
It’s unclear if fans will buy Pepper’s bracelets or the new direction he’s taking with his videos, but he’s off to a decent start, with more than 70K views for “just a little secret” at press time. Then again, the video is also closing in on 400 dislikes, so maybe Pepper is just a YouTuber people love to hate watch.