A white woman with blonde hair, wearing a pink turtleneck speaks to the camera

A Notorious Wellness Scammer Returns as the Subject of a New Netflix Series

A white woman with blonde hair, wearing a pink turtleneck speaks to the camera
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Netflix, See-Saw Films, and Picking Scabs are coming together to produce a limited Australian series about health and wellness scammers, Apple Cider Vinegar, starring Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart), Alycia Debnam-Carey (Fear the Walking Dead), and Aisha Dee (The Saddle Club).

The news comes from Deadline, which reports that Jeffrey Walker (Modern Family) is set to direct Apple Cider Vinegar, co-written by Anya Beyersdorf (Black & White & Sex), Angela Betzien (The Hanging), and Samantha Strauss—the co-creator and head writer of the 65-part ABC teen drama series Dance Academy, which, in 2011, won a well-deserved Australian Logie Award for Most Outstanding Children’s Drama and was nominated for an International Emmy Award in the Children and Young People category (seriously, Dance Academy is an underrated gem, featuring real-world dancers). More recently, Strauss wrote on the 2021 Hulu miniseries Nine Perfect Strangers, based on the Liane Moriarty novel.

According to Deadline, the series is “inspired by the life of disgraced Australian wellness guru Belle Gibson, who had a huge following on social media where she claimed to be suffering from cancer but keeping the illness in check through health and wellness remedies,” but later confessed was a lie.

Gibson rose to popularity in May 2013, building a wellness empire based on her claims that she used whole foods and alternative remedies to cure terminal brain cancer. She told her followers that doctors said that she only had four months to live, and people believed her. Based on her sensational claims, Gibson gained a major social media following and developed The Whole Pantry App, where people could pay to access health information and recipes from a so-called health guru, along with a book of the same name. According to Gibson’s marketing campaign, some of the money she earned from The Whole Pantry was to be donated to charity.

But in March 2015, it all fell apart when people started to second-guess the authenticity of Gibson’s story. After a police investigation, she confessed, admitting the fictional brain cancer never spread to her blood, liver, spleen, or uterus as she’d claimed on social media; that her lifestyle and diet choices hadn’t “saved her”; and she never donated any of her earnings to charity. To top it all off, it turns out that the blogger had even lied about her age (which was thought to be 25 but was 23).

In 2017, two-and-a-half years after her 2015 confession, the former wellness blogger was ordered to pay her penance, literally, and was fined $410,000 Australian dollars (approximately $260,000 USD) when a judge ruled Gibson had “committed unconscionable conduct under Australian consumer law by lying about the proceeds of The Whole Pantry being donated to charity,” per a Cosmopolitan report. Justice Debbie Mortimer, the judge in the case, ordered the money to be given to “some or all” of the charities to which Gibson had previously promised she would donate. 

Judge Mortimer said Gibson’s dishonest conduct proved “her relentless obsession with herself and what best serves her interests,” adding: “One of the clear demonstrations of the dishonesty and self-interest attending Ms. Gibson’s conduct was the fact she and the company she controlled did not, in fact, make any donations to the organizations she had mentioned in her publicity statements until public questioning of her claims.”

(featured image: CBS)

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Rebecca Oliver Kaplan
Rebecca Oliver Kaplan (she/he) is a comics critic and entertainment writer, who's dipping her toes into new types of reporting at The Mary Sue and is stoked. In 2023, he was part of the PanelxPanel comics criticism team honored with an Eisner Award. You can find some more of his writing at Prism Comics, StarTrek.com, Comics Beat, Geek Girl Authority, and in Double Challenge: Being LGBTQ and a Minority, which she co-authored with her wife, Avery Kaplan. Rebecca and her wife live in the California mountains with a herd of cats.