TORONTO — It’s an incredible story: a woman with a terminal medical diagnosis who changed her way of eating and living, and found a new lease on life. Well, it turns out the health tale of blogger Belle Gibson was a lie.
“No, None of it’s true,” Gibson told Australian Women’s Weekly, in an article published Thursday.
The 23-year-old Australian is coming under fire for her false claims, and the money she has made as a result of her fabricated story.
Backlash has been swift.
Gibson first caught people’s attention in May 2013 with her story. She claimed to have been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and after trying traditional treatment methods, said she changed her diet to focus on whole foods. Miraculously, her health improved.
The young woman quickly built an empire. Her brand, The Whole Pantry, included a cookbook which has now been dumped by publishers. Gibson built a large social media following, currently with 186,000 followers on Instagram — an account which has now been made private.
Her app has been downloaded more than 300,000 times, at AUD$3.79 (C$3.58) a pop, according to the Daily Mail. She had allegedly promised to donate a portion of proceeds to charity, which did not happen.
Billed as “the world’s first health, wellness and lifestyle app with a vision to restore the balance and empower the whole pantry community to live their whole life,” it was awarded the best food and drink app in 2013 by Apple.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Apple even flew Gibson to the United States to redevelop the app for its new Apple Watch, banking on its popularity carrying through to become the new device’s flagship wellness app. The tech giant has since quietly stepped away from the plan.
The blogger made many claims over the years. It starts with a sad story of her childhood, through to claiming to have had a reaction to Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. Then there’s the brain cancer fabrication, which she told her thousands of followers online had spread to her liver, spleen, blood and uterus. She later blamed that claim on a misdiagnosis.
She was told she would never have children, but then become a mother.
After speculation grew that her claims were false, everything fell apart. In the tell-all interview with Australian Women’s Weekly she said she’s not asking for forgiveness.
“I don’t want forgiveness.” Gibson said. “I just think [speaking out] was the responsible thing to do. Above anything, I would like people to say, ‘OK, she’s human.’”
Gibson has recently defended herself online.
The Herald Sun reported there was talk of criminal charges against Gibson, including obtaining financial advantage by deception, but she has avoided any charges.
“The matter was assessed by Victoria Police and we are not investigating it,” a police spokesman told the paper.