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Jay Shetty is a fraud — but what took so long to say so?
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Jay Shetty is a fraud — but what took so long to say so?

While the mainstream media promoted him, America's go-to guru has long been a target of online citizen journalists.

Shakespeare’s suggestion that “all the world's a stage” reminds us all that life is little more than one big performance.

As another saying goes, there are no small parts, only small actors. Which is not to say a bit player shouldn’t seize the spotlight when the opportunity arises.

Want the truth about the latest celebrity guru? Ask his haters online.

Take America’s go-to guru Jay Shetty. He’s built a hugely successful career on the strength of his charm, a dubious backstory, and little else. He’s even scored a sit-down with President Biden.

For those who have somehow missed the countless rehashes of Shetty’s path to awakening, here’s the TL;DR version: Indian kid in London goes to business school, hears a monk speak, then chucks it all to live in a Hindu ashram. Three years later he emerges, frightened and confused by our modern world of striving and commerce, with a new mission: share his hard-won wisdom with everybody he can.

Like many a guru before him, Shetty quickly got over any misgivings he may have had about monetizing enlightenment, turning a few viral, inspirational videos into a business empire encompassing books, a podcast, public speaking, corporate consulting, and life coaching.

Celebs love him. Shetty took charge of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's wedding ceremony in Savannah, Georgia, back in 2022. Rumor has it that Lopez was deeply captivated by Shetty and just had to have the esteemed "Hindu monk" officiate their special day.

Assigned to profile Shetty for Esquire, writer John McDermott seemed perfectly positioned to add another puff piece to the growing Shetty hagiography. But then he witnessed the self-help swami in action. As McDermott’s skepticism grew, so did the magazine’s reluctance to give him a forum.

McDermott then approached the Hollywood Reporter. They too balked at publicly criticizing Tinseltown’s favorite holy man, mumbling something about a “conflict of interest.”

So, McDermott took his extensive research to the Guardian, which attracted the ire of Shetty’s legal team by publishing McDermott’s “Uncovering the higher truth of Jay Shetty” late last month.

Whatever the substance of the “legal complaint” referenced in the article’s recently added disclaimer, the paper has not detracted any of McDermott’s allegations. They paint a picture of a media-savvy, fame-hungry influencer not above fabricating his background and passing off other people’s content as his own.

McDermott also exposes Shetty’s ties to Iskcon (more commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement), an organization with an unsavory history of cult-like behavior, including allegations of sexual abuse. According to McDermott’s piece, as a Hare Krishna “superstar,” Shetty was able to recruit a team of young members to disseminate his content for free.

Shetty also runs the “Jay Shetty Certification School,” which sells expensive life-coaching courses with a suspicious resemblance to a multilevel-marketing scheme.

It’s no surprise that Shetty’s managed to dupe the usual gullible celebrities like Jada Pinkett-Smith, Dax Shepard, and Ellen DeGeneres. That he’s managed to get a free pass for so long from the likes of the WSJ Magazine, the New York Times, and the Times of London is a bit more concerning. Maybe the state of journalism is worse than we thought.

Kudos to McDermott and the Guardian for exposing Shetty, but one has to wonder why it took so long. The extensive plagiarism claims against Shetty first surfaced in a video by influencer Nicole Arbour titled “Jay Shetty Is Full of S**T!” (which McDermott cites) way back in 2019.

The video was enough to get Shetty to take down more than 100 posts and to start attributing the material he swipes. But it didn’t make much of a splash in the mainstream media.

It’s yet another lesson that in many cases, we’re better off doing our own research, if only to supplement the official narrative established publications push out. Fortunately, there’s a growing network of online citizen journalists to help fill in the gaps.

The Instagram account BallerBusters has been exposing the likes of Shetty since 2019. A person behind the mysterious account told Align that Shetty is:

an iconic example of the modern day social media grifter who appears to be selling you a lifestyle with hope, hype, and sensationalism. He, and others like him, prey on the internet’s willingness to believe in messaging despite what would otherwise be clear and obvious red flags. He has no credibility, verifiable experience (especially not as a monk), and rose to fame based on a character he was playing — not who he actually was. ... Listening to Jay Shetty’s life advice is tantamount to taking medical advice from Mother Teresa.

Haters? Most certainly. But when it comes to the grifters, fakes, and snake-oil salesmen vying for our money and attention in 2024, we could use a little more hate.

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John Mac Ghlionn

John Mac Ghlionn

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has appeared in the American Conservative, the New York Post, the South China Morning Post, and the Sydney Morning Herald.
@ghlionn →