How Influencer Arielle Charnas Became The Face Of "Privilege In The Age Of The Coronavirus"
The Something Navy blogger has become the unwitting poster child for what not to do in a pandemic. Here's how we got here.
Arielle Charnas is a New York City–based influencer and fashion designer who has been embroiled in drama and scandal for the past few weeks, with fans and haters condemning and analyzing her every move.
Why? Like pretty much everything nowadays, it all has to do with the coronavirus pandemic. Along the way, Arielle has become the unwitting poster child for what one critic said "privilege looks like in the age of the coronavirus" and for the phenomenon of rich New Yorkers fleeing the city for smaller towns. She now says she is getting death threats.
If you're confused about what exactly happened, or you just like a good internet drama rabbit hole, I am here to help.
Here's a rough timeline of what exactly went down.
March 16: Arielle announces she feels sick and gets tested for COVID-19.
It all started when Arielle announced to her 1.3 million followers that she had been feeling sick for the past few days. After first saying she had been told she didn't meet the criteria for testing in New York state, she later announced she would be tested.
A friend, Dr. Jake Deutsch (whom she tagged, natch), told her his urgent care facility would swab her from her car for both the flu and the coronavirus. So, she took her followers along, showing the process for being tested and swabbed for the virus.
Later, she went live on her account with Deutsch explaining more about her symptoms. While many followers praised her openness, many others also questioned how she was able to get a test when so few were available. Influencer critic Diet Prada called out Arielle for "flaunting her privilege."
"The issue is still about the flaunting of privilege on social media during a time when so many people who are more at risk are being denied treatment," Diet Prada wrote, adding, "What’s the point of showing/normalizing the testing process if it’s not available or affordable for so many people?"
Arielle also got some hate for posting an "unboxing video" of some Louis Vuitton products shortly after posting about getting tested. In another Instagram post, she wrote she was choosing to continue posting regular content on purpose.
"This is the last time I’m going to talk about feeling sick right now on my Instagram and move on to the things that make me happy, like my kids, family life, fashion and work. If it offends anyone or seems as though I’m being insensitive during this time, I’m sorry but it’s what I’ve chosen to do. Back to regular content/programming. Can’t wait to post my partnerships and my outfits from inside my apt every day."
March 18: Arielle reveals she has tested positive for COVID-19.
In an Instagram post, Arielle announced that she in fact has COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. She also addressed the criticism that she was able to be tested, saying she wanted more testing in the US. "It is the responsibility of our government office to ensure all Americans can access necessary tests," she wrote.
For the next few days, Arielle and her husband, Brandon, who she said also showed symptoms, recovered. Brandon even went kind of viral on TikTok with some quarantine content.
But then, the Charnases really pissed people off when...
March 26(ish): Arielle leaves NYC for the Hamptons.
On March 26, Arielle began to post photos and videos indicating that her family had relocated from New York to the Hamptons, a big no-no for several reasons.
For one, if you have COVID-19, like Arielle, the CDC says you are supposed to not leave home until you have had no fever for three full days, all other symptoms have improved, and at least seven days have passed since first symptoms.
It's unclear if Arielle met all the criteria, although she later said she had first developed symptoms on March 13. However, New Yorkers were told that same week to self-quarantine for 14 days if they left the city, regardless of whether they had COVID-19. Small towns and vacation destinations, like the Hamptons, have also been begging New Yorkers not to come to their towns and overwhelm local resources.
On Saturday, the CDC issued a federal travel advisory asking people from the New York metro area "to refrain from non-essential travel for the next 14 days."
The backlash was immediate. Commenters on Arielle's Instagram, who for the most part had been sympathetic, began to go after her.
They accused her of spreading the virus on her trip out of the city, and blasted her Instagram posts of herself going for walks outside and enjoying the "fresh air," as she wrote in one caption.
"WHY DID YOU COME TO THE HAMPTONS. WE HAVE BECOME THE NEXT HOT SPOT FOR CORONA BECAUSE ALL OF YOU WONT STOP COMING OUT FROM THE CITY," one person wrote.
"Wow. Wow. Wow. Shocked and Sad you all couldn’t stay quarantined to slow the spread when you posted sooo much about staying home. You’re probably still shedding. I’ve been a big fan for a long time and this makes me sad," another user wrote.
The New York Post even picked up the story, dubbing her a "covidiot."
Arielle later posted a video on her Instagram stories addressing the online backlash, including a subset of people who accused her of faking her diagnosis. "That's just like, the most absurd thing I have ever heard in my entire life," she said.
She also denied using "money and wealth" to get a test, saying that she called all the doctors she had in her phone contacts and one of them offered to test her because she showed all the symptoms.
"So I went there, paid my $40 co-pay and got tested for both [the flu and coronavirus]," she said.
March 31: Writer Sophie Ross goes viral for her Twitter thread about Arielle's behavior since being diagnosed.
Ross, an NYC-based writer, told BuzzFeed News she "used to be a fan" of Arielle a few years ago before she became "baffled by some of her past behavior and lack of accountability."
"So when the COVID news came out, I was just watching her behavior unfold in real time and was horrified by it so I kept taking screenshots to document," she said.
Ross began to share all of the screenshots she had of Arielle's behavior that she felt were troubling. The thread quickly went viral, with tons of people on Twitter now invested in the saga.
Ross also shared a DM she got from a follower, who claimed to have had a "lovely interaction" with Arielle's husband, Brandon.
While this was all going on, other influencers began to come under fire as well. Naomi Davis, aka Love Taza, received a ton of hate for fleeing NYC in an RV to travel out west to get "more space" during the quarantine.
Other publications began to write about this phenomenon of influencers leaving New York, saying it is indicative of the bigger issue of the rich leaving the city while the rest of us suffer in quarantine. Arielle and Naomi were two of the people frequently cited.
During all of this, Arielle continued to release normal content from her Hamptons home.
April 1: Nordstrom responds to complaints about partnership with Charnas.
As the drama continued to spiral, many people began to reach out to Nordstrom, who Arielle had a line with, to ask them to remove her as a partner.
Nordstrom responded by saying the partnership had ended in 2019, and a rep for retailer wrote on Instagram that they had "no foreseeable Something Navy collaborations."
Some people saw this as "shade" from Nordstrom, but Arielle's brand, Something Navy, responded on Instagram saying the partnership had ended before all the drama.
April 2: Arielle releases a tearful apology.
After about a week of backlash, Arielle released a long apology on Instagram and on the Something Navy website. She said she aimed to reveal the "truth" and express her "sincerest remorse."
In it, she said her symptoms began on March 13, and her nanny and husband also felt sick. They all decided to quarantine together, confirming rumors that her children's nanny had been with them the entire time.
Arielle said she tried to "maintain a sense of routine" by continuing to play with her two young daughters, who were at low risk for infection. She also said they only broke quarantine once they met the three criteria by the CDC, and went to the Hamptons to escape the pandemic in New York.
"We felt that it would be safer for us to resume our lives while continuing to quarantine elsewhere," she said.
Arielle then posted a tearful apology to her stories, saying she "never in a million years wanted to hurt anyone" and "we're not bad people."
"I'm sorry for anyone that I've offended or hurt in the past couple of weeks...I'm just sorry that I let down my community in any way," she said.
She added that her family has been receiving "horrible threats," including death threats.
So, what now?
Arielle did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and her clothing line referred BuzzFeed News to her blog post. But it will be interesting to see how she will weather the storm. For now, she seems to still have plenty of support behind her, but also a lot of brand-new haters.
Why has this story gotten so big? A few reasons come to mind.
Arielle and her husband certainly made some mistakes in their handling of the situation. But they also were the perfect scapegoats for this moment in time.
The past few weeks have made the divide between the haves and the have-nots in America stark, even when it comes to something as equalizing as a pandemic.
Arielle is a white, affluent New Yorker who likes to post online about her outfits and fashion, and who was able to easily get tested for the coronavirus when even health care workers couldn't. She had the means to "escape" an NYC apartment for a beautiful Hamptons home. And she's showing it all, online.
She made just enough missteps to create a perfect public relations storm. And people filled with constant anxiety and fear about the pandemic need something to be mad at.
Ross said she wants to make it clear she has never condoned death threats against Arielle, saying she hasn't even contacted the Charnases herself. She's just holding Arielle, someone with a lot of influence, accountable.
"I pretty much just presented the facts to readers so they can make their own judgment call," she said.