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Top 5 Celebrities Exposed For Having Fake Qualifications

Jun 19, 2008
There's a reason that inventing fake qualifications is advised against. Aside from the obvious ethical issues, if you're caught, you're in real trouble and could face sacking and a reputation of lying that will never pass. My experience of this is all from senior travel recruitment though, and it would be far worse if you were in the public eye. All the following have faced the accusation of lying on a CV to reach their celebrity position...

5. Paul McKenna - Celebrity Hypnotist

Paul McKenna, the former radio DJ and TV hypnotist now runs a self help empire with an estimated £10,000,000 is somewhat unique in this list as he was completely unaware of the fake qualification he held. He took legal action against the Mirror for their comments that the entry requirement for his doctorate at La Selle University, Louisiana, was answering the question "Do you have $2,615, sir?" and won, with the judge accepting that McKenna was unaware that the degree was a scam, and had not tried to deceive the public with his fake qualifications.

The worth of the case is questionable though, with McKenna racking up £1,500,000 legal fees for a settlement believed to be between £20,000 and £50,000 - as well as highlighting his qualifications as bogus. McKenna has since earned what he calls a "proper" doctorate from a UK business school, which will pass the scrutiny of any qualification checks.

4. Marilee Jones - Author and Former Dean of Admissions at MIT

Marilee Jones was the dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and co-wrote 'Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond' before it emerged that she herself had cheated the admission process in getting a job at MIT in the first place. In 2007, it became public knowledge that she had lied on her CV with fake qualifications when she first joined MIT in 1979 as an entry-level admissions officer.

When she resigned her position with a statement on the college's website, she wrote: "I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to MIT 28 years ago, and did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since." It just goes to show that lying on your CV can catch you up at any time - in this case, nearly 3 decades later.

3. Robert Irvine - Celebrity Chef

It's surprising that this British chef was better known in America than the UK, but perhaps his lies would have been easily picked up over here. After working on the hugely popular 'Dinner Impossible' programme on America's Food Network, the St. Petersburg Times exposed a series of tall tales he had spread both anecdotally and by lying on his CV. Amongst the most damning was the claim he had a degree in food and nutrition from the University of Leeds, refuted by the academic establishment after a qualifications check. He also claimed he worked on the wedding cake for Princess Diana and Prince Charles - which turned out to be a massive exaggeration: "They made the cake at the school where I was." Irvine's involvement? "Picking fruit and things like that."

All this came to light in late 2007, and by New Year, the Food Network had announced that they would not be renewing the contract of the chef, but would continue to show re-runs and the new series which had already been filmed.

2. Gillian McKeith - Celebrity Dietician

Gillian McKeith had a wildly popular television show in which she forced overweight people to reassess their lifestyles and diet. She also has a multi-million pound selection of health products and books, but after an expose by various websites, and a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, she is no longer allowed to call herself "Doctor" on any of her promotional materials, thanks to obtaining the doctorate via a correspondence course from a non-accredited American college, according to The Guardian's Bad Science section.

1. Claire Verity - Celebrity Nanny

The celebrity nanny on 'Bringing up Baby' - Channel 4's childcare programme was found to have methods 100 years out of date, no children of her own and a series of fake qualifications, following an investigation by The Times. Her controversial childcare tips included leaving babies to cry, limiting cuddling time to 10 minutes a day, and leaving babies outside to air - advice the NSPCC have stated is "outdated and potentially harmful." Her advice that babies sleep alone in separate rooms is also said to contradict guidance on preventing cot death.

With this advice dismissed as damaging from so many sources, it's no surprise to learn that the professional bodies she claimed to have obtained qualifications from were keen to wash their hands of her. ASET, where she claimed to have diplomas in child daycare and preschool practice said there was no trace of her in their database, Goal who supposedly provided her diploma in childcare denied any knowledge of her and her agent admitted she had not taken the postnatal depression or care of multiple baby qualifications that Channel 4 had said she had. Maternity Nurse Training - where she claimed to have certificates in maternity practice, sleep training and paediatrics stated she was never enrolled with them, and went as far as to comment that they "do not in any way endorse the methods employed by Ms Verity in her work."

After asking her to prove her qualifications, and none forthcoming 12 weeks after the claims were made, Channel 4 announced it assumed Verity had lied on her CV and would no longer be working with her, but claimed that only one series of the show was ever planned anyway.

So for God's sake if you insist on using fake qualifications, just make sure you don't get famous! Lying on your CV will always catch up with you, even if the initial qualification checks are lax, whether you're looking for travel recruitment or if you're a world famous TV personality...
About the Author
Gail Kenny is the managing director of Gail Kenny Executive Search, a headhunting recruitment agency specialising in senior travel recruitment. The site caters exclusively to talented individuals with skills and experience to succeed in the travel management, and businesses looking for such candidates.
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