Up until a day before launching the original Apple Watch on April 24, 2015, Apple had been working closely with a woman named Belle Gibson. A blogger, iOS app developer, and rising health and wellness star in her native Australia, Gibson rose to fame in 2013 when she was, in her own words, just “a single mum who was diagnosed with brain cancer.” And instead of relying on traditional medicine, she attests, by turning to “whole food cooking and eating” Gibson was healed completely.
“She wanted to share what she had learnt but didn’t want to use a website or blog,” Gibson allegedly explained to Apple in an email at the time, a copy of which was obtained by The Age. “Belle decided she wanted to build an app for iPhone and iPad.”
And so she did. And according to court documents filed on behalf of those now seeking legal action against her, Mr. Gibson’s iOS app, The Whole Pantry, was then sponsored by Apple as one of its premier “health and fitness” apps of 2014 — in a move that generated over $500,000 in book deals, app revenue, and additional perks for the 20-year-old Gibson — all within just 18-months of her app going live in August, 2013.
Gibson’s is a fascinating story of overcoming obstacles, entrepreneurship, and using knowledge to benefit the greater good.. There’s just one problem, as authors Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano explain in their riveting tale of The Woman Who Fooled The World — it’s not even half true. As multiple Australian media reports would corroborate in the months that followed, Gibson’s story was actually fabricated from the ground-up.
What’s most interesting is that while highly-discrediting reports were tearing her story to smithereens, it wasn’t until the literal eleventh-hour that Apple finally acknowledged Gibson’s indiscretion and decided it was time to sever ties.
In fact, according to The Age’s report, Gibson and some of Apple’s senior-level staff had formed an extremely close relationship, oftentimes headlining their back and forth email correspondence with “Hello darling one” or “Lovely” or “Sweetest,” while signing off with kisses.
Emails as recent as March, 2015, reveal that even after her story began falling apart, Apple maintained an unwavering support for Gibson and commended her work on The Whole Pantry. Even when Gibson, herself, admitted in an interview with The Australian that she “may have been misdiagnosed,” one of Apple’s top, Australia-based PR managers, Ms. Jesse James, emailed her and allegedly signed off “Hope you’re feeling a bit better today lady,” according to the report.
Ultimately, Gibson’s con was exposed for what it’s worth — and during the week leading up to Apple Watch’s debut, The Age reports that “a flurry of panicked correspondence” was exchanged between the company’s senior PR teams in America and Australia, which culminated in the severing of ties with Gibson on the night before Apple Watch was to be announced.
By the following morning, all traces of The Whole Pantry had been removed from the App Store and from Apple’s online promotional materials, which originally featured Gibson and The Whole Pantry as an original Apple Watch app alongside Nike and Pinterest.
While Gibson was recently fined $410,000 on guilty charges of “deceptive and misleading conduct” by the Federal Court of Australia, Apple, for its part, clearly just wants to put it all behind them, and has repeatedly refused to speak publicly about Gibson in any capacity.
“In relation to your story,” said Apple’s director of communications, Fiona Martin, in response to an email from The Age seeking comment. “We have nothing further to add.”