Influencer Brittany Dawn settles lawsuit over alleged fitness scam. Here's what you need to know.
"No one wants to go through a lawsuit … but guess what? It happens. Life happens," the influencer said.
Brittany Dawn Davis settled a lawsuit on April 25 brought against her by the state of Texas alleging deceptive business practices related to her past fitness influencer business, marking the end of a years-long discussion about what creators owe their follower fan bases.
The 32-year-old, who now posts content related to foster parenting and Christianity on social media under the handle @realbrittanydawn, was set to begin a jury trial on May 15 — an unusual public forum for influencers. Neither Davis nor her attorney responded to Yahoo Life's requests for comment.
Information about the monetary value or conditions of the settlement have not been publicly released. The attorney general's office sought penalties and court fees between $250,000 and $1 million.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the state of Texas in February 2022, alleges that Davis sold thousands of supposedly personalized online health and fitness plans costing from $92 to $300 beginning in 2014. Davis positioned herself as a health and fitness expert on social media, even calling herself an "eating disorder soldier," which made her clients trust that she had "special training" on the topic — a tactic not unusual for fitness influencers. According to documents filed by the state, at least 14 of Davis' customers had eating disorders that Davis did not properly address in the "personalized" health plans she sold to them.
In 2018, Davis's customers began sharing their qualms with her fitness plans in a now-private Facebook group called "Brittany Dawn Fitness Business Complaints." In February 2019, Davis addressed the complaints in a now-deleted apology video, saying she's "sincerely sorry for any harm" she may have caused. That month, she appeared on Good Morning America to take "full responsibility" for her "mistake."
Davis took a short break from social media, returning in November 2019 to announce her rebrand to Christianity content — and marking the end of her accountability era.
"Fitness and health are no longer my identity. My identity is in Christ," she said in the video.
As of 2023, though, Davis is taking a different approach. On her podcast, Chiseled and Called, she identifies herself as a victim of "cancel culture" who was a victim of society's desire to "see an influencer crumble."
"The world watched me as I … got labeled every cringey, false, scathing title possible during the fallout," she said on a March 22 episode. "No one wants to go through a lawsuit … but guess what? It happens. Life happens."
What the settlement means
While a settlement may be viewed as a dissatisfying end to the case, especially after she walked back her apology, no matter what the outcome was, it would have signaled the new precedent of taking influencers seriously as businesspeople.
As it stands, when customers aren't happy with the products influencers have sold them, they are often dismissed for buying into the fictional narrative that social media makes it so easy to craft. This lawsuit from the state of Texas took the testimonies of more than a dozen people who said they felt deceived by Davis and treated their stories with the same seriousness as a brick-and-mortar business. But without a verdict, the case is not likely to have a broad impact.
Dawn has long refused to speak with the media directly about the allegations of deceptive business practices but has teased a tell-all about what happened with Brittany Dawn Fitness both on social media and in her new podcast.
What sets Davis apart
What sets Davis apart from other influencers — aside from the fact a state attorney general stepped in to investigate her business — is that she seems to have successfully rebranded herself in the wake of cancellation. As a Christianity influencer, she now appeals to an audience whose worldview promises radical forgiveness for past actions. At retreats she hosts with her Christian ministry, she preaches refrains like "you cannot cancel what God has called."
Though some Christians have criticized Davis for harnessing the good grace of her religious followers as a "weapon to escape culpability," she's still successful. Her followers on social media have increased exponentially over the past year, negating any loss she suffered due to "cancellation." During this time, Dawn amassed 1.3M followers on TikTok and nearly doubled her YouTube page's subscribers, according to analytics platform Social Blade. But now, a 40,000-member group on Reddit called r/BrittanyDawnSnark monitors her behavior, offering criticism and accountability.
Months before her trial was set to begin, Davis ushered in yet another new era and began sharing foster parenting content. Youth advocate and TikTok creator Kirsta Bowman, who often posts about adoption, told BuzzFeed News she was "petrified for the welfare" of the two children who have been in Davis's care given her history of "misconduct and concerning behavior." Though Davis obscures the faces of the children and withholds details about their cases, she has briefly mentioned one child's medical issues. With such an enormous audience, some expressed concern that it could impact the chances of reuniting them with their birth family.
With a new flavor of posts, it's possible Davis's new content and controversies will be forgotten — or at least unknown to her growing audience. As a foster care influencer, Davis positions herself as a hero, offering her help in a system in need of manpower and reform. As a Christianity influencer, she targets an audience quick to push her past aside in favor of forgiveness.
Though she still posts gym selfies and directs people to purchase the workout clothes she's wearing with her affiliate links, her days of crafting personalized exercise and meal plan PDFs seem to be behind her. But that won't stop her from marketing her lifestyle to an audience.
Is it really so bad for an influencer to learn from their past actions and evolve? That's the goal of an empathetic community holding someone accountable. But Davis isn't just some person. She's an influencer who wields power over vulnerable communities. Since any chance of her being held accountable by the law for her alleged actions has fizzled out, she has the opportunity to craft her own new narrative about what happened with her fitness business and move on unscathed.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
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