Belle Gibson convinced the world she had healed herself from terminal brain cancer with a healthy diet. She built a global business based upon her claims. There was just one problem: she'd never had cancer.
In 2015, journalists uncovered the truth: this hero of the wellness world, with over 200,000 followers, international book deals, and a best-selling smartphone 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, including genuine cancer survivors, who were inspired by her Instagram posts.
Written by the same multi-award-winning journalists who uncovered the details of Gibson’s lies, 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 unravels the mystery and motivation behind this deception and follows the public reaction to a scandal that made headlines around the world.
The Woman Who Fooled the World explores the lure of alternative cancer treatments, the cottage industry flourishing behind the wellness and ‘clean eating’ movements, and the power of social media. It documents the devastating impact this con had on Gibson’s fans and on people suffering from cancer. Ultimately, it answers not just how, but why, Gibson was able to fool so many.
‘Meticulously researched and elegantly composed, The Woman Who Fooled The World is a journalistic detective story for the smart-phone age. Donelly and Toscano not only chart con artist Belle Gibson's rise to global acclaim and her crashing fall, they explore and explain modern society's willingness to believe in anyone, or anything, that offers hope of beating what is perhaps our greatest collective fear: cancer. For me, the book reaches its highest point when we hear from genuine cancer sufferers who believed in Gibson. Their honesty about their fears and uncertain futures counter balances the bullshit of Gibson and her profit-minded enablers. Donelly and Toscano give a master class in old-fashioned investigative journalism and a reminder of its potency and importance.’
Richard Baker, investigative journalist, The Age
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‘It gives me great pleasure that this story has been told in such a compelling and readable way, as this surely means that it will reach the wide audience it deserves to. Not only does The Woman Who Fooled the World detail the sordid story of a young woman lying her way to fame and fortune, it also savagely exposes the wellness industry that enabled her rise. Although Belle Gibson has now been exposed, this brilliant book reveals how many others were complicit and culpable. I hope they are all thoroughly ashamed, and that this book serves as a powerful reminder, helping to ensure that this sort of deception is never allowed to happen again.’
Anthony Warner, The Angry Chef
‘The Woman Who Fooled the World is a balanced and authoritative account of Gibson's career … essential reading for anyone seeking an understanding of how so many people could have fallen for her pernicious lies.’
Simon Caterson, Irish Independent
‘The book’s main lesson is how easy it is, in this age of social-media-driven “fake news”, to dupe the public. It’s also an excoriating attack on the charlatanism of “wellness warriors”.’
The Mail on Sunday
‘The Woman Who Fooled the World bracingly retells a memorable chapter in the history of human folly.’
Sunday Business Post
‘A salutary tale for our social media times.’
The Sunday Times
'[I] couldn't recommend it more. It not only forensically dissects the mind and actions of this modern fraud but cuts to the core of the growing unhealthy abuse of lifestyle and wellness by modern media and social media.'
Dr Robert O'Connor, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society
'Where The Woman Who Fooled The World really excels is in a nuanced depiction of a woman more commonly represented in one-note terminology as an evil liar and a fraud.'
‘The Woman Who Fooled the World is a fascinating character study that will appeal to true-crime fans.’
‘Thoroughly researched, well written, entirely engrossing journalistic account of a badly executed fraud that took advantage of incredibly vulnerable people in a lot of pain, physically and mentally, and how it all came crumbling down, with plenty of relevant and fascinating segues into history and the cults/culture of healing.’
‘This fascinating and thoroughly reported tale will have readers casting a gimlet eye on both the wellness industry and social media.’