Belle Gibson became extremely popular back in 2013 when she claimed that she beat several different types of cancer, including terminal brain cancer, when she was 20 years old. The Australian cookbook author gained more fame thanks to her book The Whole Pantry and her Instagram and Facebook accounts. She claimed that she was given only four months to live, and she decided to forego any and all conventional cancer treatments and set out on a quest to heal herself naturally. This is how she came up with The Whole Pantry idea, and she definitely made a pretty penny off of it. She was an inspiration to many people suffering from different types of cancer. That is, until they found out that it was all a lie.
Gibson’s brand The Whole Pantry was a massive success. It included a website, a mobile phone app and a recipe book with same name. At the height of her career, the media started questioning some of her claims. They were suspicious and wanted to know the truth. She was finally under so much pressure that she admitted in an interview back in 2015 that she never really had cancer. She came clean and told the world that it was all a lie. She had everyone fooled with her elaborate tail of curing herself with food until her story began to fall apart.
So, where did she go wrong and how did people start to suspect that something was not right? Her downfall began in 2015 when it was revealed that she had not made thousands of dollars worth of charity donations that she had promised to make with the money raised through her success. Something didn’t seem to add up, and people began to dig deeper and started asking questions.
Later that month, Gibson changed her story and said that she had been “wrongly” diagnosed by a German magnetic therapist with cancers that she claimed to have in her blood, spleen, uterus and liver. She still stuck to her guns and claimed that her story that she had cured herself of terminal brain cancer was true.
She also refused to show anyone, including journalists, her medical records. She had no actual proof to back her claims that she cured herself by shunning conventional medicine and changing her diet. As time went on, people were more and more suspicious.
It was finally time to face the music. In an interview with Australian Women’s Weekly in 2015, she came clean and said, “None of it’s true. I don’t want forgiveness. I just think speaking out was the responsible thing to do. Above anything, I would like people to say, ‘OK, she’s human.’”
She was very emotional in the interviews. I would be too if I knew I was busted.
“During the interviews, whenever challenged, Belle cried easily and muddled her words,” Women’s Weekly reported. “She says she is passionate about avoiding gluten, dairy and coffee, but doesn’t really understand how cancer works.”
Many people felt extremely betrayed by her story. She began deleting her social media accounts and any blogs online that talked about her “illnesses.” Many people felt like Gibson put people with cancer in danger by suggesting that she could cure them with her dietary suggestions alone.
When asked about why she lied, she didn’t really have anything to say other than she had had a rough childhood. People were able to trace her lies online back to 2009, when she claimed to have undergone multiple heart surgeries and to have died on the operating table.
They ordered Gibson to pay a penalty of $410,000. That includes $90,000 for her false claims that she would make donations from the proceeds of her app, $90,000 for false claims that her company would make charity donations, $50,000 for false claims that following her app launch she would donate to charity, $150,000 for false claims that she would make donations to the Schwartz family, whose son suffered brain cancer, and $30,000 for false claims that she would donate to charity off the back of a Mother’s Day event.
“If Ms. Gibson were to actually pay the pecuniary penalties imposed (whether by installments or otherwise), in the court’s respectful opinion … it may be appropriate for consideration to be given to whether there is a mechanism by which some or all of the funds can be donated to some or all of the organizations, and people, Ms. Gibson had promised would receive donations...In that way, some good might still come for the vulnerable people, and the organizations supporting them, which were indirectly drawn into this unconscionable sequence of events." Let's hope those people get the money and support that they deserve.