A journalist was assigned to write a profile on Jay Shetty. It turned into an investigation.

For years, I have seen errant jabs from unverified accounts on social media taking aim at new-age self-help guru, Jay Shetty. I largely paid little attention at the time, but now I'm thinking... maybe, I should have?

Last year, journalist John McDermott was assigned to write a profile on Shetty, 36, for Esquire magazine. As he started researching the monk-turned-mouthpiece, McDermott realised the piece was turning into an investigation, as he found a large number of holes in Shetty's backstory. 

The Esquire profile never ran, and a feature was later published in The Guardian, begging the question: is Jay Shetty a modern-day self-help deity or is he just another influencer who has duped us all?

Who is Jay Shetty?

Jay Shetty was born in London to immigrant parents from Yemen and India. 

After growing up in the suburb of Barnet in North London, he graduated from the Cass Business School at the University of London before diverting his path to become a monk. He then started making YouTube videos in 2016 — spouting divine musings about purpose and following a meaningful path.

As his popularity grew online, Shetty found a niche slice of the pop psychology movement, whereby people wanted self-help delivered in a more modern fashion. He captured attention with his YouTube videos, TikTok presence and books, Live Like A Monk and 8 Rules Of Love.

His traction has garnered him worldwide fans, sold-out shows, a podcast, talk show appearances, invitations to the White House, awards and big, big money.

Jay Shetty World Tour: Love Rules in New York in 2023. Image: Getty.


A friend to the stars.

As Shetty's fame grew, so did his collection of famous friends. 

He's interviewed Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, President Joe Biden and Oprah Winfrey, among others, on his podcast, On Purpose

Ellen DeGeneres spoke of Shetty's influence on her talk show and Gwyneth Paltrow has featured him on her various GOOP platforms over the years. He even officiated Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's wedding in 2022.

Jay Shetty and Jennifer Lopez in 2024. Image: Getty.


Most recently, he appeared on Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard, where he opened up about being a monk and how he parlayed those learnings into a life helping others. 

His backstory — fact or fiction?

As Shetty's origin story goes, he was finishing up at business school when he was reluctantly dragged to a talk by a monk named Gauranga Das. 

According to Shetty, this encounter had such a profound effect on him he pulled up sticks and moved to India to study at an ashram to become a monk. 

Through various retellings of this anecdote, Shetty's timeline shifts around often, referring to his age as 18, 21 and 22. In response to McDermott's article, Gauranga Das and Shetty’s legal team confirmed this took place in 2007, which would make Shetty around 19 years old.

The article then questions whether Shetty actually spent three years studying in India to become a monk. According to accounts from people who knew him, Shetty spent most of his time around the 2010s at an estate just outside of London called Bhaktivedanta Manor and infrequently travelled to India for short stints. 


"I saw him in sweatpants more than I saw him in robes," one said refuting Shetty's claims he had become a recluse from society while studying at the ashram.

In his best-selling books, Shetty will often recall his time in India as a poor monk studying the true meaning of life. It's then he had a revelation to swap his pious existence to become a voice of a generation and platform his views for millions to consume.

Jay Shetty and Selena Gomez in 2022. Image: Getty.


The Jay Shetty life coach school.

As part of Shetty's multi-pronged approach to spreading his gospel, he offers the public the opportunity to become a life coach too.

At the Jay Shetty Certification School, you can study a master's degree in life coaching for $11,000 per term — whether these qualifications hold up is another thing altogether.

The school once claimed to be Ofqual (the British government's exam-regulatory branch) and OTHM (a private exam-certification organisation) accredited, although when contacted by The Guardian, both denied having any such ties to the school. 

It was also said to be a feeder school to top-tier universities, all of which denied association with the life coach school. 

Claims of plagiarism.

Throughout his career, Shetty has had allegations of plagiarism follow him. In his early days of content creation, he was more than a little lax when it came to crediting his source material. 

In 2019, he was called out for this behaviour by fellow YouTuber Nicole Arbour which spurred him to go through and delete previous plagiarised quotes and video content.

Will this tarnish his brand?

Since the article was published, Shetty hasn't commented directly on any of the accusations. However, people have come forward with claims to support them.

His ex-girlfriend (who was also featured in the article), Chaitanya Lila, has doubled down on her sentiments, saying she spoke up in order to help people.


Other Twitter users have echoed those thoughts.

Until now, Shetty has had few critics. After posting one of his self-help videos on Instagram, a follower commented: "Oh Jay, please address the allegations. They can't be true. I don't want to believe it. You are such a positive force."

So far-reaching is Shetty's influence we wonder if this searing investigative piece will tarnish his ongoing success.

Or perhaps his loyal fans have been drinking the kool-aid for long enough that a nay-sayer won't sway their devotion. 

Perhaps seeing isn't believing after all. 

Feature image: Getty.

Calling all beauty & fashion lovers! Take this short survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!