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Did influencer and life coach Jay Shetty lie about his past? Here's what this report claims

Jay Shetty, known for his motivational talks and inspiring videos, has raised eyebrows over inconsistencies in his description of his earlier life living with monks in India. He has also been accused of plagiarism of social media posts.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Los Angeles Updated on: March 05, 2024 7:59 IST
Jay Shetty, motivational talks, Monks, plagiarism
Image Source : AP Popular life coach and influencer Jay Shetty.

London: Jay Shetty, a popular author, influencer and life coach who built a self-help empire with his motivational talks, has come under the scanner after a recent report accused him of fabricating details about his past and plagiarising content from other people on his social media platforms. The best-selling author runs the On Purpose podcast where he has hosted several celebrities like former US First Lady Michelle Obama and Kim Kardashian.

Jay Shetty's official website says that he was born and raised in London to his Indian parents, and his life took a "remarkable turn" when he got the opportunity to hear a monk speak. It says Shetty "made the decision to embark on a three-year journey as a Hindu monk in India and the UK. He traded his suits for robes, shaved his head, and embraced a minimalist lifestyle."

According to a report by The Guardian, Shetty's podcast ranked among the top 10 most subscribed podcasts in the US in 2023 and his meditation startup, Calm, is valued at a massive $2 billion. Additionally, his bestselling books and his life-coaching business have driven Shetty to prominence, as he even got the opportunity to attend a White House state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year and sat down with US President Joe Biden to speak about the administration's mental health initiatives.

Did Jay Shetty fake his past?

Shetty has 15.3 million followers on Instagram and over two million subscribers on YouTube and lives in Los Angeles with his wife Radhi Devlukia-Shetty, a well-known nutritionist who has become part of her husband's life coach journey. However, the report by the Guardian highlighted some inconsistencies with Shetty's past as he has told people.

Shetty claimed he once lived as a penniless monk in India, deeply inspired by a monk's guest talk. After this, he left a life of material success to live as a monk and later decided to share his wisdom with the world - a rags-to-riches backstory. However, people close to Shetty question whether his conversion to a life as a monk was so dramatic.

The report says much of Shetty's spiritual education takes place in Watford, which is located outside north-west London, and not because of a spiritual discovery but because he grew up in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). It also found that Shetty has spent a lot of time making proselytising videos for social media and hosting lectures at universities in London, while he says he fully immersed himself in meditation. This means that the life coach may not have immersed himself fully in Indian ashrams as claimed. Shetty's association with ISKCON is also something he does not talk about often, given the organisation's problematic history concerning allegations of abuse.

Inconsistent details

The Jay Shetty Certification School has also come under the scanner as it charges $7,400 a term to provide a master's degree in life coaching. The school listed some universities where students would be eligible to progress to a “top-up degree” - a full undergraduate degree - by combining the Jay Shetty Certification School diploma with only one year of full-time study. However, all universities denied any link with Shetty's school when contacted.

Furthermore, Shetty claims his life changed as an 18-year-old when he listened to a lecture by an ISKCON monk Gauranga Das. However, he has presented conflicting versions of his story, as he changed his age multiple times while describing when the lecture occurred. Das, the monk in question, told the Guardian that the lecture at Cass Business School occurred in 2007, when Shetty would have been at least 19, conflicting his earlier claim that he was 18 at the time. “He was in ISKCON before 2007," said Chaitanya Lila, an ISKCON member and Shetty's former girlfriend.

Plagiarism allegations

Shetty has repeatedly said he lived as a monk for three years, from 2010 to 2013, in a Hindu ashram in India, but some people close to the life-coach say he spent the majority of this period as a monk at the Bhaktivedanta Manor in Watford and visited India only occasionally. His own writings in his blogposts conflict with his accounts, the report found.

The influencer has also been dogging plagiarism allegations for years, as another social media influencer Nicole Arbour exposed how she received messages from writers and digital creators who accused Shetty of copying their work and refused to give them credit. Some of the videos he published online had already gone viral, published by other contact creators before.

Concerns over inaccurate advice

The Jay Shetty Certification School has accredited more than 1,100 students in three years, according to its brochure, which, at seven grand a student, means more than $7 million in revenue. Shetty’s wellness industry success allowed him to purchase a home in Nichols Canyon, in the Hollywood Hills, in fall 2021 for a reported $8.4 million. However, the report found none of the students earning a full-time living from their coaching businesses, a year after graduating, even if they were satisfied by the expensive course.

"Shetty is hardly the first self-help guru to embellish his spiritual credentials to amass followers, but he demands huge sums of money for his guidance," the report said. His former girlfriend Lila, a practicing psychotherapist for 13 years and the head of mental health services at a university in the UK, fears Shetty and his life-coaching school provide inaccurate and potentially dangerous mental health guidance.

“My issue as a mental health professional is that Shetty has misrepresented his persona, his knowledge and his credentials,” Lila said. “Misinforming others is not only unethical, it is potentially harmful to vulnerable people.”

Despite this, Shetty's rise has fewer critics. He has been endorsed by several celebrities and his two books - Think Like a Monk and 8 Rules of Love - have been bestsellers. He also recently made his acting debut in Jennifer Lopez’s semi-autobiographical musical film 'This Is Me … Now' and even has a menu item named after him at one of the ultra-high-end grocery chains in Los Angeles. Shetty has remained silent on the allegations of plagiarism and faking his story so far. 



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