Aussie blogger lied about having cancer
AN AUSTRALIAN blogger who found fame after claiming she was conquering brain cancer through natural therapy, with her app even getting chosen for the new Apple Watch, admitted yesterday that she never had the disease.
Belle Gibson, 23, launched her successful The Whole Pantry business in 2013 - billed as the world's first health, wellness and lifestyle app community - on the back of healing herself naturally through wholefoods and alternative therapies.
She also released The Whole Pantry cookbook last year, which publisher Penguin pulled from sale last month when suspicions sparked by the Australian media first arose. It had been due to go on sale soon in the United States and Britain.
Her app had also reportedly been handpicked by tech giant Apple for its new smartwatch, which goes on sale today. Her paid iOS app, which was downloaded more than 300,000 times, has been pulled from the Apple App Store.
Ms Gibson, 23, has admitted that she had faked having cancer, when quizzed by the Australian Women's Weekly.
"No. None of it is true," the mother of one confessed in an interview published yesterday titled "My lifelong struggle with the truth".
"I just think (speaking out) was the responsible thing to do. Above anything else, I want people to say 'OK, she's human'."
Ms Gibson, whom Elle Australia called "the most inspiring person you've met this year" in December, added that after years of lies, confronting the truth was "very scary, to be honest".
Reports said she had received hate mail and even death threats since being exposed. She said the backlash had been "beyond horrible".
Ms Gibson did not go into detail about her motivations for lying, other than that she had a troubled childhood.
The magazine said accountants were winding up The Whole Pantry business.
Ms Gibson's lie began unravelling when it emerged last month that she had failed to donate A$300,000 (S$312,500) in profits from the sales of her book to charity as promised, and friends started to question her diagnosis via the media.
The consumer-affairs authorities in Australia said they were checking whether she had breached any laws in claiming to give to charity when the money had not been donated.
Todd Harper, chief of local charity Cancer Council Victoria, urged patients to be wary of cure claims that sounded too good to be true.
"We are very concerned about anyone who makes unproven scientifically flawed claims about cancer treatments because the risk is that cancer patients will take them seriously," he said, without commenting specifically on Ms Gibson.
Bloggers faking disease and even death to gain attention is not a new phenomenon. Earlier this month, a 27-year-old woman from New York state in the US was jailed for 20 years after killing her five-year-old son by poisoning him with salt, so she could write on social media about his "illness".
The court heard that Lacey Spears suffered from Munchausen syndrome, in which a person fakes illness to get attention.
The Australian Women's Weekly said medical specialists it had spoken to suggested that Gibson could be suffering from a similar condition.