Daily Mail UK (by Siofra Brennan):
A model who starred in an advert for plastic surgery says her life has been ruined after her image was turned into a notorious internet meme that went global.
Heidi Yeh, from Taiwan, is suing the clinic for damages after she posed alongside a male model as the beautiful parents of three aesthetically-challenged children. Their features were digitally altered to make their eyes look small and their noses flat, and the original caption read: ‘The only thing you’ll ever have to worry about is how to explain it to the kids.’
However, the photo made its way onto the internet where it was turned into a meme with the caption, ‘Plastic Surgery: You can’t hide it forever.‘
In an emotional interview with the BBC’s Cindy Sui, Heidi said that losing control of the image has ruined her career and her personal life.
A boyfriend split up with her because of the constant embarrassing rumors about her, and she had to endure people gossiping about her in the street.
‘I’ve broken down many times crying and I haven’t been able to sleep,’ she confessed.
‘The biggest loss for me is I don’t want to be a model anymore. Just because I’m a model, people can hurt me like this and I can’t fight back. I just want to hide.‘
Heidi, who had previously modeled for fast food chain KFC and Japanese beauty brands, originally posed for the shoot back in 2012.
It was intended to be used as part of a campaign for a Taiwanese cosmetic surgery clinic.
Heidi insists that her modeling agency signed a contract with US-based international advertising agency J Walter Thompson (JWT), stating that the image would only be used by one clinic in Taiwan. The agreement also allegedly ensured that her photograph could only be reproduced in newspapers and magazines. However, JWT subsequently allowed another plastic surgery provider called Simple Beauty to use the image.
They also posted it on their Facebook page, and it quickly spread across the internet. The image was turned into various memes all poking fun at the people featured.
To make matters worse, a Chinese newspaper then used it to illustrate a fake story about a man who became suspicious about his wife’s looks after she gave birth to ugly children. He then discovered she’d had cosmetic surgery before they met and decided to sue her for deceiving him.
‘When I first heard about this from a friend, I thought it was just a one-off rumor,’ said Ms Yeh.
‘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.‘
As well as the impact on her personal life, she said her modeling career went downhill because of her notoriety.
‘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.’
She says she’s lost around $4million new Taiwan dollars – the equivalent of £80,000 or $150,000 US dollars – in earnings because of the meme. Despite repeated attempts by Heidi and her modeling agency, she only recently managed to get the clinic and JWT to remove the image from their websites.
She says they only acted after she made a threat to sue both companies at a press conference. Now, she’s pressing ahead with her claim and is demanding $5million new Taiwan dollars in damages. However she insists that money is not her priority, and that she just wants people to know the truth about the image.
A spokesperson for JWT told FEMAIL the campaign was created to ‘promote plastic surgery services in a humorous manner.’
He said the company own all the rights to the photo including copyright, giving them full rights to edit, modify and use the image.
‘Our campaign was created for print publication in the Taiwan market. With technology, smart phone cameras and social media, however, even a print ad can go viral,’ he said.
‘We can’t anticipate what degree an impact it will have, how people will view it, and what they will do with it.’
But Heidi’s lawyer Chang Yu-chi said: ‘
We gave you the copyright and the right to edit it, but we didn’t give you the right to let another company use it, and to use it online.’