At the end of last year we, like many media outlets, found ourselves so taken by Belle Gibson, her story of cancer survival through whole foods and her social media success that we approached her publisher to secure a careers-focused interview. Read the unedited interview here.
Just over one week ago, the Melbourne social media entrepreneur’s empire begun to crumble after The Age reported Gibson had failed to hand over the $300,000 she claimed to have donated to charities last year. Gibson admitted to these claims and responded by saying the company had been unable to pass on money raised due to cashflow problems and had hired an external accountant to manage its struggling finances. Upon investigation, the ABC reported neither Gibson nor The Whole Pantry are registered charity fundraisers.
Soon after, it came to light that these already very serious claims of charity fraud could be just the tip of the iceberg and that Gibson’s claims to have been battling multiple life-threatening cancers may be false. Since then, each day brings with it a new challenge to her credibility, a new report, or a new official statement from one of Gibson’s business partners.
Here’s what we know so far…
The Australian reported beginning an investigation in which they uncovered a series of contradictory and unusual medical claims dating from May 2009 when she claimed to have undergone multiple heart surgery operations and momentarily died on an operating table. Gibson had also stated in July of the same year a doctor informed her she had terminal brain cancer and would be dead in four months. She claimed to have been 20 years of age at the time (2009) while the birth date recorded on her own corporate files says she would have been 17 at the time.
After interviewing Gibson, The Australian quoted her as saying she had a “misdiagnosis.”
In the days following, Gibson’s Instagram’s photos were gradually deleted and the Whole Pantry Facebook page was deleted while several media outlets reported having received an anonymous email from someone claiming that Belle Gibson’s cancer claims were nothing but claims. Here is an extract from an email that was published on Elle.com.au:
“Unfortunately, there are a few things you might need to know before you consider publishing more about this woman. She’s a compulsive liar. In fact, she got so tangled in her own web of lies living in Brisbane, she moved to Melbourne to start a new life of lies – “the cancer lie” this time. For one – This girl isn’t 26 years old. She was born in 1991, class of 08, Wynnum High School in Queensland. My younger brother was in her form class. Secondly, she never had/nor does she have currently have any form of cancer (Where’s the proof?)” Read more here.
Elle Magazine forwarded the email over to Bauer Media sister magazine Cosmopolitan, who had awarded Gibson the Fun, Fearless Female Award in 2014, who went on to publish an honest account of their experience with Belle Gibson here.
During all of this, Gibson had remained silent until, on Friday night, she hit back in a rambling Facebook post sarcastically encouraging her followers to speak to the media because, “it says more about you, and your priorities than me or the story you’ll get paid to tell.”
By Monday, Lantern Books had sent us this official statement in response to our request; “Despite our best endeavours, we have not received sufficient explanation from Ms Gibson, author of The Whole Pantry recipe book, in response to recent allegations. As such, we have been left with no other option but to stop supplying the book in Australia. We remain hopeful that we will receive the formal assurances we have requested in the coming days.”
Yesterday (17th of March) Daily Mail Australia published an interview with Gibson in which the Whole Pantry founder said that the, “police came to our home checking in on my safety” last week. She continued, “I do think it’s important for myself and the company to recognise everyone’s anger and confusion surrounding this last week, though this doesn’t justify how others have perpetuated this or responded so maliciously.”
The website also claimed Gibson had refused to answer any questions about her health claims. Read more here.
Although Apple, who have heralded her app, have reportedly continued to refuse to answer questions about Gibson, news has today emerged that The Whole Pantry app has been pulled from the app store, though it continues to be linked to promotions for the Apple Watch. Fairfax Media say it remains unclear whether it was Apple or Gibson who decided to pull the app and Android users can still download the app via the Google Play store.
Meanwhile, once-supporters of the disgraced entrepreneur have started a Facebook community, Belle Gibson Uncovered, to share information about Gibson and photographs of her drinking alcohol despite her clean-living claims.
Watching this interview on Sunrise from February 27 2014 in hindsight, it’s difficult not to cringe at Samantha Armytage’s comment, “You look so great for someone who’s had cancer. What’s your tip for looking healthy?”
At this stage, no one can really assure the truth about these claims against Gibson and until investigations are finalised we await Belle’s version that Business Insider have said is coming this week. Stay tuned — we will update this story as it progresses.
Image: Simon & Schuster