Discredited Australian lifestyle blogger Belle Gibson is facing up to accusations that her wellness empire — built on her claim that she cured her terminal brain cancer with dietary choices — was a complete sham. In an interview with The Australian Women’s Weekly, Gibson admits she never had cancer.
“None of it’s true,” Gibson confessed to The Weekly in what will be her first interview since accusations came to light. “I don’t want forgiveness. I just think [speaking out] was the responsible thing to do. Above anything, I would like people to say, ‘Okay, she’s human.'” She admits that she has “difficulty discerning truth from fantasy.”
The 23-year-old’s business included a blog, mobile phone app, and recipe book, all entitled “The Whole Pantry.” The Whole Pantry encouraged readers to eschew conventional medical treatments in favor of diet and lifestyle choices, which were supposedly “based” on Gibson’s own “experience”. The empire began to crumble when it came to light that Penguin, the book’s publisher, never fact-checked the book before it was published in Australia.
A spokesperson for Penguin told the UK’s Daily Mail that the publisher didn’t find it necessary to confirm Gibson’s self-professed medical history. “Penguin did not seek or receive documentary evidence of Belle’s medical condition or birth date prior to publication,” said the spokesperson, “We did not feel this was necessary as ‘The Whole Pantry’ is a collection of food recipes, which Penguin has published in good faith.”
Gibson also claimed that 25% of the profits from her app, totaling $300,000, went to various charitable organizations. Those donations never came through, says the Daily Mail, who also reported on inconsistencies in Gibson’s age and medical history.
And what a color medical history it is: The Guardian reports that Gibson originally claimed to have been “wrongly” diagnosed with cancers in her blood, spleen, uterus and liver by a “German magnetic therapist.” She maintained her terminal brain cancer diagnosis was real, but refused to show journalists her medical records. Instead, Cosmopolitan Australia reported that Gibson claims she receives two cancer diagnoses, one from a “doctor” and one from a “healer.” She also claimed, according to the UK’s Independent, to have had “six weeks, four months tops” to live until she gave up chemotherapy treatments for vitamins and natural health treatments.
The Weekly interview lay out the extent of Gibson’s lies. thusly: “[S]he doesn’t really understand how cancer works … During the interviews, whenever challenged, Belle cried easily and muddled her words.”
Gibson has been publicly claiming false illnesses since 2009, when she claimed on an Internet forum to have died on the operating table after multiple heart surgeries.
Penguin announced in March it scrapped plans to publish The Whole Pantry recipe book in the UK, Atria followed suit in the U.S. shortly thereafter, and her app has been removed from the Apple Store. Gibson has deleted blog posts that mention her illnesses and and largely cleared her social media accounts.