For a community that’s supposedly united by a common cause, YouTube’s vegan vloggers are being torn apart. And right at the centre of the storm is Australia’s very own Freelee the Banana Girl, who’s been accused of bullying a 17-year-old fellow vegan Tana Mongeau.
If that sentence left you scratching your head, here’s some background info: Freelee, whose real name is Leanne Ratcliffe, is a self-proclaimed “health guru” who advocates a high-carb, raw vegan lifestyle.
She has a ‘Raw til 4’ diet ebook to her name and is particularly fond of fruit, once boasting that she would eat 51 bananas in a day (hence the Banana Girl title.)
The 35-year-old, who has more than 600,000 YouTube subscribers and 400,00 Instagram followers, doesn’t shy away from sharing her thoughts on others in the online ‘health’ sphere.
Right now, she’s ensconsed in a war of words with Mongeau, an American teen who’s found a huge following with her videos on veganism, fitness and lifestyle. And it ain’t pretty.
The so-called feud began in March, when Freelee posted a critical response to Mongeau’s Q-and-A-style video about how she “stays skinny”.
Freelee took particular issue with Mongeau’s description of “bored eating” and instructions for how her fans could distract themselves from mindless hunger. (Post continues after video.)
“This video should really be called ‘How to get fat’,” Freelee quipped, before telling Mongeau she needed to “carb the fuck up” and stop ignoring her body’s hunger cues.
Her partner Harley Johnstone, who often appears in her videos, popped his head in and added, “[Mongeau]’s going to blow out, by the time she’s your age Freelee she’s going to be 80 fucking kilos … she looks washed-out as.”
As you might imagine, Mongeau and her followers were not happy about this, with the teen sharing her own strongly-worded response, opening with, “Freelee, why you gotta be a bitch?”
This sparked a back-and-forth of video responses and responses-to-responses which is still continuing. Both women have accused one another of lying and bullying, while Mongeau has fired up the hashtag #tanachallengesfreelee on Twitter. Ooooooph.
While all this has been playing out, a member of the online vegan community has slammed Freelee in an XoJane article, calling her a “brutal cyber bully” who’s “promoting hate” among vegans.
“It’s possible that Freelee’s controversial videos are a scheme to get more hits on her channel. She once described herself as someone who promotes tough love, but her attacks aren’t ‘tough love.’ They’re bullying plain and simple,” Elizabeth Ribar writes.
“This sh*t needs to stop.”
This isn’t the first time Freelee’s had friction with others in the online ‘health’ sphere. In 2015, fitness star Kayla Itsines took Ratcliffe and her partner to court, alleging the pair had falsely claimed Itsines was starving herself and her followers. She’s also had a stoush with Blogilates YouTube star Cassey Ho.
Watch: An excerpt of a video by Freelee, contesting the accusation that she has orthorexia. (Post continues after video.)
Freelee’s strong views, not to mention her lack of qualifications, have also drawn a lot of attention and criticism in recent years.
She’s posted videos with claims like “chemo is killing us” and menstruation is “toxicity leaving the body”, while more recently she questioned the authority of qualified health experts in a segment on Today Extra last month.
“I’ve had obese nutritionists try and tell me that my diet is wrong, and I’m like ‘hey – just because you’ve got a bit of paper, doesn’t mean I’m going to take your advice’,” she told a dietitian on the programme.
One thing is for sure — the vegan community’s message and purpose is being drowned out by all this drama.
Do you follow Freelee or Tana’s posts? What do you think of their feud?