Vegans have a huge presence on Youtube. Everything from lifestyle tips to recipes to commentary can be found for those interested in veganism, but some stars are more controversial than others. One of the most outspoken vegans on Youtube for the past decade has been the Australian Leanne Ratcliffe, known as Freelee the Banana Girl.
Beginning in 2008, Freelee has been collecting more than half a million followers as she chronicles her life eating a vegan, raw diet. Specifically, the diet she advocates is known as “Raw Till 4,” which means she doesn’t eat any food that’s been cooked until after 4 pm. Other characteristics of her special diet include eating low-fat, high-carb foods, especially fruit. She claims to eat 30-50 bananas per day, and drink three liters of water, as well. She says she lost over 40 pounds eating this way. Health professionals and nutritionists are very skeptical about the benefits of Raw Till 4, saying that a diet with no focus on protein or fat can lead to serious health problems, like problems with absorbing nutrients. They also point to the fact that Freelee does not have a degree in health or nutrition, and so is simply not qualified to be giving dieting advice.
With such an extreme diet, it’s not a huge surprise that Freelee is extreme in other ways. In her videos, she has attacked the meat industry, and said that obese people prevented trimmer folk from escaping the towers during 9/11, saying that the obese got stuck and blocked the stairs. She is also against chemotherapy, and said that fellow Youtuber Talia Joy, who died in 2013, could have beaten cancer if she went on a raw vegan diet instead of undergoing chemo.
Freelee’s taste for controversy came to a head in 2015, when she and her then-boyfriend (another vegan Youtuber) were sued for defamation by Kayla Itsines, the creator of the Bikini Body Guide. In the lawsuit, Itsines said that Freelee had falsely claimed that the Bikini Body diet program “starved” people and that Itsines’ boyfriend was on steroids. The case ended up settling out of court. This event highlights a culture of bullying and almost cult-like behavior that has characterized the Vegan Youtube community for years. When Freelee and her boyfriend would attack someone in their videos, their followers would often follow suit, to the point of sending death threats. Though DurianRider only has 200,000 followers, they are fiercely devoted, which is bad news for anyone who speaks against him.
What’s Freelee up to now? Big changes are coming her fans’ way. She has opted to shut down her Freelee vegan channel, and start a new one that’s focused on veganism, minimalism, saving money, and “tree houses.” She is now going by “GoFreeYourself.” Fans have pointed to the fact that she broke up with her boyfriend as a possible motivation for this transformation. The same boyfriend from the lawsuit, the Youtuber known as DurianRider has also made similar fiery comments about people who eat meat and his critics. Since their breakup, Ratcliffe has said DurianRider emotionally and physically abused her. Fans have described her new videos as more “peaceful” than before. Only time will tell if her beliefs and style of criticism have toned down as well.