Ian Rylett, a 55-year-old YouTube producer, was arrested on August 16 for allegedly molesting a minor at an Orange County, Florida hotel, per BuzzFeed News. Rylett operates the YouTube umbrella SAKS, which encompasses several channels sharing vlogs starring young girls like SevenAwesomeKids, SevenPerfectAngels, SevenFabulousTeens, SevenCoolTweens, SevenFuntasticGirls, and SevenTwinklingTeens. SAKS also included channels that have since been shut down, like the channel SevenGymnasticsGirls.
According to BuzzFeed News, Florida police arrested Rylett after he demanded that a girl under the age of 16 undress for a video shoot reportedly for one of the SAKS channels. The girl claims, per the arrest warrant, that Rylett fondled her and tried to remove her underwear. Rylett has pleaded not guilty, according to BuzzFeed News. Refinery29 has reached out to Florida police for further comment.
Rylett's actions call into question the nature of SAKS programming, which is centered around young women. Rylett started the channel with six other families in 2008 as just SevenAwesomeKids. SAKs — an acronym for "Seven Awesome Kids" — later expanded into many different channels, most of which designate the age of the women on the channel. (On the SevenTwinklingTweens channel, girls can be seen saying goodbye once they reach 13. At age 13, they graduate to the SevenFuntasticGirls branch.) As of 2017, Rylett was the only parent still involved in the company. A New York Times profile of the YouTuber Jojo Siwa described Rylett as the sole operator of SAKs. Rylett told the Times that he takes care of themes, sponsorships, and copyright issues. He also said that the girls involved do not sign contracts, but they do own their own content.
A former SAKs performer who spoke to BuzzFeed News said that, following a segment on Comedy Central's Tosh.0, the SAKs performers got nervous about the nature of the channels. Comedian Daniel Tosh pointed out that the videos, which all feature women under 18, could be used for a more sinister purpose. His monologue might have even had an immediate effect: The channel SevenGymnasticsGirls, which he talks about in the segment, has been been shut down.
"Things that didn’t feel weird at the time — like the themes, the leotards, and the camera angles — started to feel strange. I started to get that feeling especially when you think that some of these girls are 9 years olds," the performer, who remained anonymous, told the outlet. Another performer said that the crew of girls viewed Rylett as "creepy."
As of now, seven of the SAKs channels are still live. Refinery29 has reached out to YouTube regarding this decision.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).