She’s built her brand as a bright-eyed, bush-tailed wildlife warrior, but behind Bindi Irwin’s permanently plastered smile lies a sea of torment.
With her relationship with long-term love Chandler Powell under strain, fresh family betrayal, and a gruelling work schedule to contend with, pals close to the 19-year-old say the cracks are starting to show.
"Bindi is having a very tough time right now," an insider tells New Idea. "She’s been burning the candle at both ends, working non-stop and jet-setting round the world with Chandler."
Not only does Bindi work tirelessly to promote and support Australia Zoo and honour her late dad Steve’s legacy, she has also just embarked on a month-long crocodile research expedition on Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.
"She crams as much into her schedule as possible and has a hard time turning work down. But as positive as she is on the surface, there’s no doubt it takes a toll. She’s exhausted and stressed from all the travelling and pressure. It’s taken a toll on her emotionally," the source says.
Tellingly, Bindi’s social media accounts have diverged from the usual smattering of wildlife tidbits, updates on her conservation work and pictures of her family adventures, to include cryptic posts that hint at her inner turmoil.
On August 8, Bindi uploaded a photograph to Instagram showing a whiteboard, which carried the message: "When a toxic person can no longer control you, they will try to control how others see you."
Pals believe this message was directed squarely at Bindi’s estranged grandad Bob, who recently revealed he "keep[s] up to date with what Bindi and Bob do on social media".
Having now aligned himself with Australia Zoo rival Wildlife HQ – where he has a reptile barn named after him, and he was a guest of honour at their recent third birthday – friends believe Bindi is feeling nothing but betrayal.
"Bindi throws everything she has into Australia Zoo – it is her way of staying connected to her dad and keeping his memory alive," a pal says.
"Bob turning his back on the zoo is one thing, but to turn around and start working with their direct rival? That’s a real kick in the guts for not only Bindi, but Terri and Robert, too."
And while Bindi would usually seek solace in the arms of her beau Chandler, 20, a barrage of negative comments and opinions on social media – suggesting the wakeboarder is simply using Bindi for her status – is starting to take its toll on the young couple’s relationship.
"If my daughter was dating an obsessed fan of my husband, if I was Terri, I would be very uncomfortable," one follower commented.
With a constant stream of negativity thrown at her, Bindi is starting to crumble.
"Bindi hates how people keep dragging her romance with Chandler through the mud, suggesting he’s using her for fame and fortune," says a source.
"Of course she doesn’t believe a word of it, but the mere suggestion is beyond horrible."
This article originally appeared on New Idea.