Health blogger and app developer Belle Gibson has admitted to lying about having terminal brain cancer in an interview with the Australian Women’s Weekly.
The 23-year-old Australian rose to prominence through her food blog The Whole Pantry, in which she detailed her purported struggle with a brain tumour and how she cured it with a healthy lifestyle and diet instead of conventional medicine. An accompanying app was voted the best food and drink app of 2013, according to Silicon Angle, and her paid iOS app was downloaded more than 300,000 times.
She went on to land a book deal with Penguin, and Apple even invited Gibson to Cupertino to develop an Apple Watch version of her app ahead of the release of the new smartwatch. Elle Australia called Gibson “the most inspiring person you’ve met this year” in December 2014.
But doubts grew in March 2015 after Gibson failed to hand over a promised $US300,000 donation to charity, and she refused to provide evidence for her medical claims. Penguin — which had not verified the existence of her cancer prior to publishing — subsequently withdrew the bestselling book, and Apple removed Gibson’s app from the App Store.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald says that Gibson had profited handsomely off of her claims, “living a five-star lifestyle: designer clothes, $US2,000 handbags, first-class international travel.” Gibson subsequently deleted social media accounts and posts about her alleged disease from the internet.
The blogger has now admitted that her health issues were completely fabricated. She told Australian Women’s Weekly that “none of it’s true.”
Police had previously decided not to pursue charges, and Gibson now says she isn’t looking for forgiveness, news.com.au reports. “I just think [speaking out] was the responsible thing to do. Above anything, I would like people to say, ‘OK, she’s human. She’s obviously had a big life. She’s respectfully come to the table and said what she’s needed to say, and now it’s time for her to grow and heal.'”
In the interview, Gibson points to the way her estranged mother allegedly treated her. “When I started school, my mum went, ‘My daughter is grown up now’. All of a sudden I was walking to school on my own, making school lunches and cleaning the house every day,” she said. “It was my responsibility to do grocery shopping, do the washing, arrange medical appointments and pick up my brother. I didn’t have any toys.”
News.com.au, which appears to have obtained the full interview ahead of its publication, says Australian Women’s Weekly believes Gibson has a psychological condition called factitious disorder.