"I've broken down many times crying and I haven't been able to sleep," she told the BBC, crying

By Adam Carlson
Updated November 07, 2015 12:55 PM
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A Taiwanese model said her personal and professional lives have been damaged after a photo shoot she did for a local cosmetic clinic has now spread around the Internet as a cruel meme about plastic surgery, sometimes attached to made-up stories, with her at the center.

Heidi Yeh told the BBC that she did a photo shoot for a Taiwanese clinic in 2012, which was aimed at people looking to get plastic surgery.

In the ad, she posed as the mother of a family with three young children, but she and the “father” have features completely unlike the three children.

The ad’s caption said, according to the BBC, “The only thing you’ll ever have to worry about is how to explain it to the kids.”

While Yeh said she signed a contract stipulating the ad only be used in print media by that particular clinic, she alleges that the photo was later used by another clinic by the advertising agency, JWT, according to the BBC.

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

Over the years, the ad was cropped into memes (like, “Plastic surgery – you can’t hide it forever”) and was attached to a story in China about a man who reportedly received compensation from his ex-wife after discovering she had had plastic surgery before they met, and was only outed after giving birth to daughter with different features.

“When I first heard about this from a friend, I thought it was just a one-off rumor,” Yeh told the BBC. “Then I realized 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.”

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The stories spread in multiple languages, according to the BBC. Yeh – who had appeared in ads for KFC, Vaio and others – said she saw a major drop in potential earnings as her face became attached to a meme and reported story.

As an attempt to clear her name, Yeh is considering suit against both JWT and the second cosmetic clinic who initially used the photo from the first clinic, against her wishes, according to the BBC.

Yeh told the BBC that despite repeated requests, the photo was only removed online from JWT and the second clinic’s sites after she held a press conference earlier this month.

“I’ve broken down many times crying and I haven’t been able to sleep,” Yeh told the BBC in a video interview, in tears. “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.”

JWT and the clinic are in turn threatening to sue Yeh over her allegations, and are demanding an apology, according to the BBC.

JWT told the BBC it owns the copyright to the photo – which the clinic said it properly obtained – and JWT said it has the right to modify or use the photo.

Yeh’s lawyer disputed to the BBC that she had given over the right to have the photo used by another clinic, or used online.

“As we all know, no-one controls the Internet … We can’t anticipate what degree of an impact it will have, how people will view it, and what they will do with it,” JWT told the BBC.