Belle Gibson. If you’ve not heard her name, she’s the blogger who, back in March, had us all asking Who Would Fake Cancer? The health food blogger and face of The Whole Pantry’s story shocked the world when it was revealed her whole backstory, including the cancer she said she’d ‘cured’, was a lie. On top of this was the news that she’d never donated any money to charity despite claiming to have donated millions. In short, her entire multi-million pound business was based on lies – and they’d just come crumbling down.
Until the revelations, Belle Gibson’s story was one of triumph over adversity. Her business The Whole Pantry, was born in 2009 when a then unheard-of Belle Gibson began posting recipes on Instagram which she claimed were helping her heal a ‘malignant brain tumour’ doctors had said would kill her in six weeks. She said she’d shunned chemotherapy and radiotherapy for Ayurvedic treatments (a type of holistic therapy) and oxygen therapy, and removed meat, gluten, sugar and preservatives from her diet.
And she claimed that it had worked – the tumour was no longer a threat to her life.
Inspiring story, right? Within months, Belle Gibson accumulated 195,000 followers, wrote a bestselling book and developed a recipe app so popular that it was set to be one of the few preloaded onto Apple’s watches. She claimed she donated a third of her proceeds to charity, and delivered motivational speeches across the globe.
It seems unthinkable that her story could be made up. But there had long been rumours about the authenticity of her claims, with entire forums devoted to uncovering ‘the truth’, along with pictures of Belle Gibson drinking alcohol and partying, apparently taken the week she was meant to have been diagnosed. In July 2013, Belle Gibson released a statement denying the rumours.
This hushed the gossip for a while, as did her devastating announcement 12 months later that the cancer was back, and had spread to her blood, spleen, uterus and liver. While many reacted with shock, Australian magazines began receiving anonymous letters saying Belle was lying, not just about the cancer returning but about having the illness in the first place. Then a newspaper found that £200,000 made from The Whole Pantry app had never made it to the charity she claimed to be donating to.
It didn’t end there. Friends came forward claiming they’d never known her to be ill and that she wasn’t even called Belle Gibson. Eventually, she admitted that not everything was true. “It was more of a misdiagnosis than fictional,” she said of the secondary cancer. Then she vanished, removing her social media pages from public view and making a statement asking her family to be left alone.
Eventually she resurfaced in April to give an interview to Australian mag Women’s Weekly in which she admitted that NONE of it was true. “I am still jumping between what I think I know and what is reality,” she told the magazine. “I have lived it and I’m not really there yet.”
So yep, if you’re confused by her lies – it seems Belle Gibson is also.
But now she’s recorded an exclusive interview with America’s Channel Nine show 60 Minutes in which she says she is willing to tell the whole truth – and in which she admits she’s lost everything.
However, many of her critics are angry at the channel for giving her a platform – especially as it is rumoured she is being paid $45,000 for the appearance.
But while many have been quick to attack Belle, and the channel, others are calling for more sympathy as to why she may have lied. ‘It is possible this was a lie for attention that spiraled out of control,” explains psychologist Dr Paul Seager. ‘Social media allows those who have low self-esteem are lonely to focus attention on themselves. That’s how this could have started, without any knowledge of how viral it could go.’
Whatever the truth, we can’t wait until the interview airs (Sunday night at Channel 9, at 8.30pm)