Belle Gibson's claims of overcoming brain cancer through holistic living have been called into question

By Gabrielle Olya
Updated March 20, 2015 07:45 PM

An Australian social media celebrity and wellness expert has come under fire for possibly lying about her cancer diagnosis and contributions to charity – the scandal has cost her a publishing deal and an app distribution deal with Apple.

Belle Gibson – who claims to be 26 but is actually 23, according to The Irish Times – rose to social media fame in 2013 by sharing her experience of beating brain cancer through holistic living and a healthy diet.

She created a wellness and lifestyle paid app called The Whole Pantry, which was downloaded about 300,000 times – and was such a hit that it was included on the Apple Watch demo. Gibson also published a cookbook, and a U.S. version of The Whole Pantry was in the works for later this year.

Throughout her success, Gibson made public claims that she was donating 25 percent of her company’s profits to several charities – but according to an article published earlier this month in Australia’s The Age, these donations were never made.

A spokeswoman for the Bumi Sehat Foundation – one of the charities Gibson said she was supporting – told the paper, “I can say with confidence that we have never received a donation from Belle Gibson.”

Days later, questions arose about Gibson’s cancer diagnosis.

“She admitted her diagnosis was questionable,” a former friend told The Age. “I asked her when she got her diagnosis, she said she didn’t know.”

Since being accused of fraud, Gibson has deleted The Whole Pantry Facebook account and removed all the photos from her Instagram account, which has 193,000 followers.

While she has not spoken publicly about reports that she fabricated her cancer diagnosis, she did speak to the Daily Mail about the backlash she has experienced since the media questioned her claims, saying her personal address as well as the address of her son’s childcare center have been made public.

“I do think it’s important for myself and the company to recognize everyone’s anger and confusion surrounding this last week, though this doesn’t justify how others have perpetuated this or responded so maliciously,” she said.

The scandal surrounding Gibson has cost her two lucrative deals – Apple rescinded its offer to feature The Whole Pantry on the Apple Watch, and Penguin has decided not to publish her book since they have not been able to verify her story, according to The Independent.

Requests to Gibson for comment were not returned.