Paradox: A social media influencer whose thing is living off-the-grid. That’s Freelee the Banana Girl, a woman you may recognize as the naked forest-dweller from viral Instagram photos. As she puts it in one of her YouTube videos, entitled “Why Doesn’t Anybody Like Me” and beamed out to her well over 700,000 channel subscribers, “I’m a walking contradiction who constantly strives for harmony in life,” so the whole grid-based off-the-grid lifestyle makes a sort of sense.
In short, Freelee is, in her own words, “an introverted extrovert, an ambivert, that rarely fits in anywhere—even with vegans,” a camp to which perhaps only she belongs.
5 fascinating facts about Freelee the Banana Girl
Born Leanne Ratcliffe and hailing from Brisbane, Australia, Freelee the Banana Girl draws her nickname from her signature diet. In short, her nutrition plan amounts to eating a mountain of fruit every day. She moved to Ecuador in early 2018, where she now lives in a rainforest with her partner, Robin. They grow the bulk of their food supply and find ways to sustainably repurpose the resources around them. The eventual goal: Achieve zero-waste status.
On her YouTube channel, Freelee functions almost as a motivational guru for the clean-living, government distrusting, organically inclined. She speaks animatedly, even harshly into the camera, urging viewers to abandon their sheeple lifestyles and throw off the chains of capitalism and media-contrived beauty standards. Before she moved to the jungle—where she now spends most of her days naked—many of her videos (which I’ve been watching for hours now, as research, please somebody come save me from myself) took on the tone of Dr. Jacoby’s missives in the Twin Peaks reboot. She was fired up and inspirational in a way that sometimes veered off into judgment and with a tone suggestive of a conspiracy theorist. See this video below:
The approach seems to resonate: From her nudist, treetop platform, Freelee preaches to over 44,000 Instagram followers on her @freelee_official page, which boasts just 15 posts (although it bears noting that her old page was more robust, if not entirely naked). Her Twitter feed shows more activity, with 4,545 tweets and over 37,000 followers, but her YouTube channel—with nearly 772,000 subscribers—seems to be where Freelee shares most of her teachings.
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1) She used to live a very different lifestyle
As she writes on her website, Freelee used to be a “clogged up, undercarbed, dehydrated meat and dairy eater.” Just like the rest of us, I guess. She used to work at a McDonald’s, avidly consuming its fast food bounty and doing a number on her skin in the process. But the highly processed diet constituted just one plank in what Freelee seems to view as a shaky foundation.
In her younger years, she dated a drug dealer and frequently partook in the product. On top of using various stimulants, she also developed an eating disorder. She was anorexic, bulimic, and over-exercising—and definitely not living the healthy lifestyle of a personal trainer, her job at the time. Her body, she explained, was “a systemic candida feeder.”
[I] had acne all over my face, shoulders and chest. I felt gross. I had chronic digestive issues with foul explosive diarrhea. My energy was almost completely gone, I felt like a dehydrated sloth on Xanax. Many mornings I couldn’t even get my depressed ass out of bed, and would make up excuses to my clients, who I was supposed to be inspiring to health! I was in a hole and suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. I had reached an all time low, but yet there was still a small fire burning within and it wasn’t from poor food combining.
2) She has had a bunch of very different jobs
In a 2014 video, Freelee recalls some of her choicest previous career paths. In addition to gigs at McDonald’s and as a personal trainer, Freelee has been a bartender, a promoter for an alcohol brand, a snack vendor at a movie theater, a receptionist, and—what she finds the most interesting—a stripper. “Granted, it was only one night,” she explains. (Does one night of work qualify as a job? Meh.) Freelee was then, as she is now, on a major self-empowerment kick. One step in her personal development road was to face something she feared, “and one of those things was nudity in public, or stripping.”
“At the time, I was also hard up for cash,” she explains. “My good friend was a stripper, and she seemed to be fine with it: She made all this money and she could switch on and off.”
“I went to this stripping place and I got a wig so no one recognized me, because I thought, hey, I don’t want my old school teachers to recognize me and stuff like that,” she continues. “It was a high-class place, it was very expensive for men to get private sessions and stuff like that. And when it came my turn to pole dance, I was like, I can’t do this, I don’t even know how to pole dance. I hadn’t done any lessons.”
So she gave the pole dancing a pass, but she did give one dude a naked private dance. Ultimately, though, the stripping didn’t feel like the right fit for her.
3) Eventually, Freelee got free
Around 2006, Freelee began sobering up: She quit drugs, alcohol, and coffee before being hit with the “sledgehammer” of veganism. She was, in her own estimation, of the “skinny bitch” mindset in the beginning. However, Freelee began linking her lifestyle choices to what she saw as the larger global reality of unethical meat consumption. Then came the fruit.
“I started pounding back the fruit like no tomorrow. After so many years of being a full-time bitch to my body I realized that I needed to give it time to heal itself,” she writes.
Initially, she gained weight, but once she stopped chasing the “superficial thigh gap” and focused instead on bodily fitness, she began dropping pounds. Still, wouldn’t you know it; she wound up with that thigh gap. She describes her transformation as the practical magic of high-carb fruit consumption. Now, she eschews the “mask” of makeup society forces upon women—see her YouTube video, “I’m not as pretty as I thought I was”—and lets her body hair grow, living a more natural lifestyle in the jungle.
4) Freelee branded the fruit-centric diet
And now we come to the “Banana Girl” portion of the programming. In 2014, Freelee’s “Raw Until 4” diet hit the internet, surprising many (me) with its wildly pared down menu options. Freelee thrives on “mono meals,” which basically means bulk quantities of a single fruit in one sitting. So: A couple of pineapples, half a dozen mangoes—or 20 bananas in one go. Everything she consumes before 4 p.m. she consumes raw, but after that point, she might have a hot meal, oven-baked pounds of potatoes or something like that. Freelee sings the praises of a high-carb, raw vegan calorically unrestricted diet. She maintains that you can eat the volume she does and achieve a comparably slim figure if you’re eating the right things. She has published her plan in two eBooks.
But obviously, overloading your system with such a limited nutritional profile cued criticism from actual nutritionists, who alleged that her program advocates a different brand of disordered eating. Watch Freelee and a dietician duke it out on Australia’s Today show:
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5) Freelee now uses her own poop to fuel that diet
Freelee strives to live a zero-waste lifestyle, and part of that is repurposing her own excrement thanks to a composting toilet. “I no longer flush my poop out to sea via the grid sewer,” she explains in a video tour of daily jungle life, tamping leafy greens into a wooden bucket and sliding that under a homemade port-a-potty seat. “I use a compost toilet, so instead of wasting valuable plant poop, it is composted and recycled to eventually use on the garden to feed the plants that feed us. It’s the perfect cycle!”
Regular, at least.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.