Cover image for The woman who fooled the world : Belle Gibson's cancer con, and the darkness at the heart of the wellness industry / Beau Donelly & Nick Toscano.
The woman who fooled the world : Belle Gibson's cancer con, and the darkness at the heart of the wellness industry / Beau Donelly & Nick Toscano.
Publication Information:
London, United Kingdom : Scribe Publications Pty Ltd, 2018. ©2017

Physical Description:
324 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
First published by Scribe 2017. This edition published 2018.
Belle Gibson convinced the world she had healed herself of terminal brain cancer by eating a healthy diet. She built a global business based on her story. There was just one problem: she never had cancer in the first place. In 2015, journalists uncovered the truth behind Gibson's lies. This hero of the wellness world, with over 200,000 followers, international book deals, and a best-selling mobile app, was a fraud. She had lied about having cancer - to her family and friends, to her business partners and publishers, and to the hundreds of thousands of people who were inspired by her, including real cancer survivors. Written by two journalists who uncovered the details of Gibson's deception, The Woman Who Fooled the World tracks the 23-year-old's rise to fame and fall from grace. Told through interviews with the people who know her best, it explores the lure of alternative cancer treatments, exposes the darkness at the heart of the wellness and 'clean eating' movements, and reveals just how easy it is to manipulate people on social media. With the idea of 'clean eating' now routinely debunked by dietary experts, and growing scepticism about the authenticity of what we read online, The Woman Who Fooled the World is a timely and important book that answers not just the how, but why, Gibson was able to fool so many." -- back cover.
Personal Subject:
Added Author:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
364.163 DON Book Adult General Collection

On Order



Entrepreneur. Inspiration. Guru. Belle Gibson shot to fame after she convinced the world she had healed herself from terminal brain cancer with a healthy diet. There was just one problem: she did not have cancer.

Gibson, a high school dropout and teenage mother, built a global business in less than 18 months that vaulted her to fame and fortune. She had 200,000 followers from Melbourne to Los Angeles to London, international book deals, and a best-selling smartphone app, having fooled both Penguin Books and Apple. She was a digital-age celebrity, a one-woman cult, a hero of the "wellness" world, and an inspiration to many.

Written by the two journalists who assiduously uncovered the details of Gibson's lies, The Woman Who Fooled the World unravels the mystery and motivation behind this deception. It follows the public reaction to the scandal, which included headlines in Time magazine and Gibson being named in The Washington Post's list of the year's top 10 villains.

The Woman Who Fooled the World also explores the lure of alternative cancer treatments, the cottage industry flourishing behind the wellness movement, and the power of social media. It documents not only Gibson's folly, but the devastating impact this con had on hers fans and on people suffering from cancer.

Author Notes

Beau Donelly is a multi-award-winning journalist who covered social affairs for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald . His news-breaking and investigative skills have been recognised by the United Nations and the Melbourne Press Club. Donelly has been awarded for an expose on illegal brothels, coverage of clergy sex-abuse trials, and reporting on disability issues. He has also been a finalist for Australian journalism's highest honour, the Walkley Award. Donelly has a Bachelor of Journalism from Monash University, and is based in Europe. Nick Toscano is a multi-award-winning journalist based in Melbourne, who specialises in federal politics, business workplace relations, and the labour movement for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald . He has been awarded the the Grant Hattam Quill for Investigative Journalism, and has twice received the highest honour in Australian journalism, the Walkley Award, for exposing the country's biggest-ever underpayment scandal. Toscano has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Masters in Journalism from RMIT.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Investigative journalists Donelly and Toscano recount the story of a charismatic woman who used claims of a cancer diagnosis to build a wellness empire, depicting her as a fraud and an exemplar of how social media facilitates the spread of bad information. In 2014, Australian Belle Gibson, who said she had kept her brain cancer at bay with healthy eating and living rather than medical treatments, was a darling in the world of alternative medicine and its adherents on Instagram and Facebook. She had a bestselling app and a book contract for her cookbook, The Whole Pantry. But it was all a lie, and Donelly and Toscano were among the reporters who exposed the truth in 2015. For this book, they interview real cancer patients affected by Gibson's claims, doctors who treat cancer, and Gibson's estranged family members and friends. They also quote extensively from her social media posts and the comments of her followers to both consider Gibson's possible motivations and discuss the broader dangers that have arisen throughout history when "wellness practitioners" claim to be able to cure serious diseases. This fascinating and thoroughly reported tale will have readers casting a gimlet eye on both the wellness industry and social media. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

1 The Queen is deadp. 1
2 The woman who fooled the worldp. 11
3 The birth of 'Healing Belle'p. 22
4 What the hell is wellness?p. 34
5 Friends in high placesp. 45
6 The best yearp. 56
7 No such thing as superfoodp. 73
8 Pink balloonsp. 91
9 The interventionp. 107
10 The real-life Belle Gibsonp. 119
11 The tip-offp. 132
12 The backlash beginsp. 146
13 What Penguin knewp. 160
14 Corporate riskp. 170
15 You don't lie about cancerp. 180
16 Admissionsp. 193
17 The lying gamep. 203
18 No money, no honeyp. 218
19 Public shamingp. 232
20 Kate Thomas - Part Ip. 246
21 Hoping for a miracle curep. 254
22 Judgement dayp. 271
23 Kate Thomas - Part IIp. 288
24 Social media versus the mediap. 296
25 Life after Belle Gibsonp. 309
Acknowledgementsp. 323