Taiwanese actress and model Heidi Yeh never thought that a simple advertisement photo would ruin her life instead of catapulting her to stardom.
Heidi Yeh’s nightmare began when she had a photo shoot for an advertisement aimed at convincing people to get plastic surgery at a Taiwanese cosmetic clinic.
The photo shows a family portrait of a very attractive “parents” with sought-after big eyes and long, well-defined noses. Next to them are their average-looking “children” who have smaller eyes and flat noses. The caption reads “The only thing you’ll ever have to worry about is how to tell the kids.”
This is the ad photo that turned the pretty model’s life into a living hell.
In 2012, Heilongjiang Morning Post, a tabloid known for publishing urban legends without verification, published a fake story – which first emerged early as June 2004 – about a wealthy Chinese man named Jian Feng who sued his beautiful wife for giving birth to unattractive children. The article claimed that Feng won a lawsuit against his wife after she confessed to having plastic surgery following the birth of their “ugly baby daughter.”
A Chinese man has divorced and sued his wife for £55,000 after discovering she’d had plastic surgery before they met. Jian Feng, 38, was said to have been “horrified” when his beautiful wife gave birth to an ugly baby daughter. He immediately suspected her of having an affair.
His wife then confessed to having plastic surgery costing £70,000 in South Korea before they met and showed him a picture of how she used to look. He filed for divorce two years after marrying her following a whirlwind romance. The Heilongjiang Morning Post said Jian successfully sued for deceit.
The hoax story featured Ms Yeh’s advertisement photo for a Taipei-based plastic surgery clinic. It went viral on the internet after several social media websites picked it up and eventually became a global meme with a caption, “Plastic surgery – you can’t hide it forever.”
“When I first heard about this from a friend, I thought it was just a one-off rumour.”
“Then I realised the whole world was spreading it and in different languages. People actually thought it was real. Even my then-boyfriend’s friends would ask about it.”
Ms Yeh, who used to have TV commercials and ads with major companies such as fast-food chain KFC, computer maker Vaio and a Japanese facial products brand, started to get less job offers.
“People refused to believe that I had never had plastic surgery.”
She claimed it affected her personal life as well. She even suspects her then-boyfriend broke up with her partly because he was embarrassed by the rumours. She says relatives and her current fiance’s family have also asked about them. Strangers would spot her in public and gossip about her, she adds.
“People refused to believe that I had never had plastic surgery. Clients would ask me if I was the woman in the picture. After this, I only got small roles in advertisements.”
Ms Yeh claims she is a victim of cyber-bullying.
Everyone had a good laugh as versions of the fabricated story spread like wildfire in the Internet. Unfortunately for Yeh, the ad photo had given her three years of living hell.
“I’ve broken down many times crying and I haven’t been able to sleep,” says Heidi Yeh told BBC News, as she struggles to hold back her tears.
Speaking to the Taipei Press, a tearful Yeh admitted that job offers started slowing down for her after the fake stories broke headlines.
Ms Yeh sued the Taipei office of US-based international advertising agency J Walter Thompson (JWT), as well as the Simple Beauty cosmetic clinic for 5 million NTD or approximately $155,000 for potential earnings as talent agencies began to turn her down.
She claims that her contract with the ad agency states that the ad photo would only be used in newspapers and magazines, by that clinic only. However, JWT allowed another plastic surgery clinic, Simple Beauty, to use it on its website; the photo was also published on JWT’s Facebook page.
In response, JWT stressed that the agreement signed by Yeh gives the agency absolute copyright to the image with the understanding that the photo could be altered according to the company’s preference.
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