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.
“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
View all reviews
“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
“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
“A salutary tale for our social media times.”
The Sunday Times
“The Woman Who Fooled the World bracingly retells a memorable chapter in the history of human folly.”
Sunday Business Post
“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
“[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
“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.”
Rennie Sweeney, “What's Nonfiction?”
“This fascinating and thoroughly reported tale will have readers casting a gimlet eye on both the wellness industry and social media.”