In 2015, Xeni wrote about wellness huckster Belle Gibson, who lied about having cancer and was helped in her money-raising wheeze by a crowd of enablers: "The reality of living with cancer whomps us over the head every day. And the make-believe thinking that liars like Gibson promote does real harm to real people."
Six years on, the BBC has produced a documentary about Gibson called "Bad Influencer" told from the prespective of those who "followed, adored and tried to mirror her lifestyle"—a lifestyle that existed in context only to prop up a fraud.
"People will create a narrative that is compelling in order to sell you something, whether that's a book or a lifestyle or just their own brands, they will craft this narrative that is often completely false. So just don't trust everything you see online."
Maxine hopes by speaking out people will stop blaming themselves for their illnesses, like she did, and that social media will introduce more regulation – making sure posts are clear about whether what is being stated is evidence based and whether the person has the qualifications to be sharing advice about someone's health.
After finding out about Belle's fabrications, Kylie restarted chemotherapy and is now in remission.
Yet even now the BBC goes from noting that in excess of $1 million was made in sales of The Whole Pantry app and describing how things fell apart after she was caught withholding $300,000 raised for charity, to saying that "no-one knows why she did it." Auntie Beeb, I think she did it for love and money.
The documentary is on iPlayer, so license payers outside the UK might need a VPN based there until they get home.
Bad Influencer: The Insta Con [BBC iPlayer]
The shocking story of the rise and fall of one of Instagram's first super-influencers. By 23, Australian wellness guru Belle Gibson had cultivated an adoring global following online with the story that she had successfully treated her own terminal cancer by eating a plant-based diet and using alternative natural therapies. But there was one problem with Belle's story: she had never had cancer.
Seen through the eyes of those who adored her and those who exposed her, this film lifts the lid on one of social media's great mysteries: who was the real Belle Gibson – an ingenious con artist or damaged young woman trapped in a lie?