The tale of Heidi Yeh is one that joins many other who have found themselves at the mercy of unwanted fame online. As BBC points out, famous memes and online “characters” have launched into viral fame online and forced those at the center to fight back. The “Techno Viking” is a prime example, so is “Star Wars Kid,” and now we have “Plastic Surgery Wife” The connecting factor between all of these things is that each decided to fight back against the source of their pain, something Yeh is hoping will change her fortune.
She never would’ve thought that a photo session in 2012 at the Taipei office for J Walter Thompson would’ve led to a viral image on the Internet. But she also didn’t think it would end up being used at multiple clinics:
But JWT later allowed another plastic surgery clinic, Simple Beauty, to use it on its website; it also put the image on JWT’s Facebook page.
Before long, the photo made its way across the internet, with a new caption: “Plastic surgery – you can’t hide it forever.”
What really launched the story into viral territory was when the image was attached to an older story from 2004 involving a Chinese man who sued his wife for being ugly before plastic surgery. Sadly the story was a fake that keeps popping up and after 2012, Yeh’s photo from the plastic surgery page appeared with it.
“When I first heard about this from a friend, I thought it was just a one-off rumour,” 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.”
The picture and accompanying stories came up on Google in several languages, including Arabic, English and Japanese, and have become a global meme.
Ms Yeh, who has shot TV commercials and ads for major companies such as fast-food chain KFC, computer maker Vaio and a Japanese facial products brand, began to get less work.
“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.”
So now Yeh is telling her story and is suing J Walter Thompson over the photo and attempting to win back her career. JWT claims the photo “was created to promote plastic surgery services in a humorous manner,” but Yeh’s legal team is citing that the original deal did not call for the image to be used by another company. No matter the outcome, the damage seems to be done and Yeh is clawing for anything:
“I’ve broken down many times crying and I haven’t been able to sleep,” says Heidi Yeh, as she struggles to fight back 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.”
The clinics are also looking to get involved, claiming that Yeh has hurt their business with her fight and demanding a public apology. No word on if Yeh will respond, but it is clear that the real struggle seems to just be starting. Worse yet, people still don’t fully believe her and are claiming that she’s seeking attention to “restart her career.”