The new Belle Gibson documentary unravels the “wellness” industry’s darkest story

Is Belle Gibson the Anna Delvey-style scammer of the wellness industry? This new BBC Three documentary tells us the whole puzzling story.

The wellness industry is worth £2.8 trillion worldwide, according to research by The Global Wellness Institute. But what exactly is wellness? 

A new BBC Three documentary, Bad Influencer: The Great Insta Con, suggests that it actually dates back to the 60s, when people started experimenting with a holistic approach to wellbeing. 

Over recent years, however, the internet has enabled the wellness industry to grow, morph and capitalise on people’s search for “better” living. While this can, of course, be beneficial for some people – perhaps they have allergies, health conditions or dietary requirements – the industry has also come under massive scrutiny. 

And the story that this documentary focuses on perhaps confirms why there is a need to question things.

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The one-off episode, which is available on BBC iPlayer now, follows the wild story of Australian influencer Belle Gibson. Boasting more than 300,000 Instagram followers in 2013, Gibson was one of the ‘original’ wellness bloggers. She said that, after being told she only had four months to live, she “cured” her inoperable brain cancer through healthy eating.

Her five-year journey led to Gibson releasing a popular wellbeing app called The Whole Pantry and a cookbook of the same name. Her brand was backed by Penguin and Apple.

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However, the story took a turn in 2015 when an Australian reporter exposed that Gibson had been falsely claiming to followers that she was donating a portion of the profits of her book and app sales to charity. Health professionals also started to question and look into whether the influencer was also lying about her health.

Watch the trailer for Bad Influencer: The Great Insta Con

It transpired that Gibson had indeed lied about having cancer. In September 2017, the Australian government fined her £240,000 for misleading followers about donating money to charity. Gibson was then found guilty of five breaches of consumer law.

As wild as the story is, this documentary reminds us that it was also pretty heartbreaking for the people who saw her as an inspiration and followed her advice. 

One of these women featured is Kylie, a woman who was diagnosed with lymphoma and questioned her intensive chemotherapy treatment after finding The Whole Pantry. “I’m dying on the inside, getting worse with every single treatment. I look horrendous,” she recalls saying. “And she’s out there living her best life…”

If you were gripped by the Anna Delvey story, this is pretty much the wellness industry’s version – except with an even more morally corrupt story and upsetting consequences. Gibson declined to share a comment for the documentary, which only adds intrigue to finding out who on earth has it in them to pull off a scam like this.

You can watch BBC Three’s Bad Influencer: The Great Insta Con on BBC iPlayer now.

Images: BBC Three

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