Instagram’s Worst Con Artist

Instagrams Worst Con Artist

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9:00pm ~ 10:00pm

Week 17 2024 : Sat 20 Apr - Fri 26 Apr

Tue 09 Apr 2024

Instagram’s Worst Con Artist

[Full series drop available on ITVX here]

Episode 1

Instagram’s Worst Con Artist tells the inside story of Belle Gibson, the 21-year-old social influencer who duped millions of followers by claiming she cured her terminal cancer through wellness and healthy eating.  

Her miraculous story brought her fame and money, with a successful app with Apple, a book deal with Penguin and countless television appearances. But when journalists investigated, they discovered the shocking truth: none of her story was true – she never had the cancer.  

She misled her legion of followers - and for some there were devastating consequences.  With access to family and friends who speak on the record for the first time, this series discovers the truth about Belle Gibson. Was she a manipulative, compulsive liar, or a damaged young woman?

Using social media posts and Belle’s own voice from recordings she made, the film tells the story of how Belle’s rise to fame began. She said she had a malignant brain tumour and had six weeks to live but had given up her chemotherapy treatment after it made her sick and instead decided to adopt a wellness and natural living lifestyle.

Belle is heard describing how she started to reach out and tap into a community of people who felt ‘uninspired’ and like they wanted to be doing more to help themselves. She started her app ‘The Whole Pantry’, offering recipes and life-style tips and it became an overnight success.

Belle says: “Nobody wants to live with the fear of a terminal illness or dying. I’m really honest about my journey with my health and that opened up everyone else’s honesty and everyone else’s stories.”

Belle’s followers describe how they found her profile online and were stunned by how well she looked and amazed that she was curing her cancer with her healthy living.

Bella Johnston, who found Belle after being diagnosed with cancer, says: “I was so sucked into Belle’s life. I just thought she was so courageous and inspiring. I was like, wow, I don’t know if I want to be this woman or be this woman’s best friend.

“I started really comparing my life with hers. I was so devastated about my face and my body, in the middle of radiotherapy I started fake-tanning. I got hair extensions to try to cover all my baldness. There was this ideology that it’s the medicine that makes you look sick…she looks so good because she fuels her body with this amazing food.”

Belle’s friends tell the series that she would host lavish charity fundraisers whilst looking amazing and her success meant she was travelling the world in first class and living in a luxury home.

Journalists describe how Belle’s fame and followers grew as she raised more for charity and helped more people. Soon she was main stream and offered a book deal for a cook book.

Belle is seen on television interviews talking about her business and cancer battle. There are images of her wearing an Apple watch as the company announced plans to pre-load their products with her app and she is seen accepting awards for her work.

However, one of her closest friends, Chanelle McAuliffe, describes how she started to get suspicious when she witnessed Belle have a ‘seizure’ which she then recovered from very quickly when someone suggested calling an ambulance.

Shortly after this, Belle made a post letting all her followers know that she had been diagnosed with a third and fourth cancer. Her friends, followers and journalists recall seeing the post and how devastated they were at the news.

But, Chanelle tells the film that she felt something was wrong with Belle’s claims. She says: “I started to question everything and go over things in my mind. She always looked so well and she never looked sick. She was very passionate about wellness but then there would be times where I noticed her and another friend went to a solarium to do tanning and another time we went out to a nightclub and she was ordering shots and lots of drinks and drinking quite excessively. These weren’t things she shared with her online community. Things just didn’t add up for me.”

Chanelle talks to the film about the moment she and another friend drove to Belle’s house and confronted her. Belle denied any wrong doing but others were starting to smell a rat too and journalist Richard Guilliatt, whose wife had been diagnosed with cancer, describes how he started ringing experts to ask their opinions.

Richard says: “I realised, if it’s a scam, it’s a really big scam. She had hundreds of thousands of followers all around the world.”

Richard arranged to meet Belle for an interview and shares the recording of his meeting where Belle claimed her doctor had diagnosed her and then gone missing, making her realise she might have been misdiagnosed and maybe didn’t have cancer after all.

Richard says: “Christ almighty, Belle, you’re kidding, you actually don’t have cancer? This was just the last thing I expected…Belle Gibson just recanted on the record. She’s basically saying she can’t back up her cancer claims.”

As Richard prepared to run his story, he looked into Belle’s background and discovered even more secrets that she was hiding.



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