In 2015, Woman’s Day published some scandalous info about Rebel Wilson based off an anonymous tip from a commenter, who said Wilson was lying about her age and background. This week, Wilson’s defamation case against Women’s Day’s parent company Bauer Media for writing pieces based off this tip from an “obsessed and weirdly jealous” former schoolmate began.
In 2012, Woman’s Day writer Shari Nementzik reached out via email to someone who had commented on a post about Wilson who claimed to have gone to school with her. The original comment stated that Wilson was “not 26 she is 33 and her real name is Melanie Bounds,” and that Wilson had gone to a ritzy private school, and “did not grow up in the bush like she has said.” The commenter responded to Nementzik, saying that if they were to divulge more information and provide photos they would want “maximum payment.”
In emails published by ABC News Online in Australia, Nementzik reveals that research indicates Wilson had never misrepresented her age, and has admitted her real name is Melanie. As such, over the coming months, Woman’s Day was reportedly discouraged from posting an article about her by their legal team. But when Pitch Perfect 2 was released in 2015, so was Nementzik’s story. Titled “Just who is the REAL Rebel?” it was the first of eight posts released over three days about Wilson, reports the Herald Sun.
Wilson’s defamation case against Bauer began on Monday in a court in Melbourne, The Guardian reports. Wilson testified that the commenter is likely an old school friend affected by “tall poppy syndrome,” an Australian expression about attacking a flower that stands up high in the meadow. (You know, jealousy.) Though her accuser hasn’t been identified, Wilson believes she knows who it is.
Wilson claims that when the story was released she was at the height of her career, but the implication that she was a serial liar got her kicked off of Trolls and Kung Fu Panda 3. She says her work offers dried up, and stress from the situation caused her to break out in a lip sore during the filming of How to Be Single. She claims that several of her scenes in the movie were deleted because of the sore, reducing her role. Since the articles were published, she has been cast in one film, a cameo in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, for which she says she was not paid. (According to IMDB, Wilson just wrapped filming Pitch Perfect 3, and has two other movie roles coming up.) She has given lengthy testimony about how the stories have affected her physical and emotional well-being. “I don’t have a drug past. I don’t have a weird sex tape or a criminal history,” she said. “They’re calling me a fake when I’m known for being myself.”
Wednesday was day three of a three-week defamation trial, and likely marks the end of Wilson’s testimony. Wilson’s alleging that Bauer Media damaged her reputation when they printed articles, painting her a liar. She told the jury, “If [Nementzik] did about five minutes’ research on the internet she could have worked out that there are problems with the story.”
The Australian constitution does not explicitly state a right to “free speech,” but according to the News Manual, there are a number of ways for journalists to defend publishing facts that could be considered defamatory. Most hinge on proving the “truth” of statements, and while Rebel Wilson’s age and real name may be easily presented as fact, the notion that she ever lied about them remains the murkier point.
Bauer Media has denied that the pieces in question were defamatory.