Taiwanese model who became a meme claims modelling career was ruined after image went viral

Heidi Yeh posed for an image to advertise a plastic surgery clinic, but the image was later used in a fabricated viral story 

Heather Saul@heatheranne9
Friday 30 October 2015 15:46
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A Taiwanese model who appeared in an advert for plastic surgery is threatening to sue the clinic and advertising agency after the advert became an internet meme.

Heidi Yeh posed for a picture advertising plastic surgery by showing two parents with big eyes and long slim noses with their children, who had their faces manipulated to make their eyes small and their noses flat and upturned.

The original caption reads: “The only thing you will ever have to worry about is how to explain it to the kids.”

Ms Yeh claims she was told the photo would only be used in print by one unidentified Taiwanese cosmetic surgery clinic. Instead, the image was shared on a Facebook page belonging to the advertising agency J Walter Thompson (JWT), who allowed it to be used by another cosmetic surgery company, Simple Beauty. She claims it then began circulating around the internet, quickly going viral.

The picture was then used in a fabricated story about a woman whose husband realised she had lied to him about not having had plastic surgery when their children did not resemble her appearance.

The story claimed he sued her for deceiving him about plastic surgery, and won his case. The original image was shared with a new caption: "Plastic surgery - you can't hide it forever.”

She told the BBC the ubiquitous nature of the fabricated story meant even her fiancé’s family questioned whether it was true. Ms Yeh had featured in adverts for major brands during her career but struggled to find work after this point.

"People refused to believe that I had never had plastic surgery,” she said. “Clients would ask me if I was the woman in the picture. After this, I only got small roles in advertisements.

"I've broken down many times crying and I haven't been able to sleep. I can’t bear to look at the picture. I hope it will not appear anymore.”

Ms Yeh held a press conference about the image earlier in October where she stated her threat to sue in a bid to get JWT and the clinic to remove it from their sites, which they eventually did.

JWT said the image was only ever shared on it’s Facebook page.

It said in a statement: “The ad appeared in U-Paper, a daily newspaper for subway commuters.

“Local news media ran stories on the campaign, and that news coverage was shared online.

"At some point later, individuals shared the image online in other contexts.

"Our campaign was created for print publication in the Taiwan market. With technology, smart phone cameras and social media, however, even print ad can go viral. We can’t anticipate what degree an impact it will have, how people will view it, and what they will do with it."

It claims Ms Yeh only contacted the company once in September 2015 before giving her press conference.

It said in a statement: “She spoke to a project manager, and requested that our agency contact various search engines to ask them to remove the image from the entire internet. This is, unfortunately, an unrealistic request.

“After Ms. Yeh made that one call, our managing director tried several times to call her back to set up a meeting to discuss her concerns. She did not return our calls, and we had no further contact from her prior to her press conference.

JWT says it owns all rights to the photo and it has the right to edit and use the photo. It claims the services contract signed by Ms. Yeh also states it can appoint copyright to a third party.

“Ms. Yeh was shown a mock up and layout of the ad, and she understood the ad was for the promotion of a cosmetic surgery company. The concept ultimately ran as a campaign for Simple Beauty Cosmetic Clinic.”

Ms Yeh's lawyer says JWT was not given the right to publish the image online or allow another company to use it. JWT has said it reserves the right to take legal action.

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