Models Sue For ‘Ugly Baby’ Photo: $155,000 Lawsuit From Heidi Yeh Over Fake Story

Chances are, if you’ve been online for any period of time, you’ve seen the photo of Heidi Yeh, a pretty model who posed for a photo with a man who posed as her husband, with their three “children” in the photo. The stock image type of photo, which was supposed to represent a nondescript type of family photo you’d see anywhere, was turned into a meme when the world wide web users got hold of the picture.

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Model turned meme

According to Next Web, the photo didn’t merely turn into a meme, but full fictional stories and articles were created about the photo and the people therein.

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Google stories about the photo

Indeed, a Google search for the image turns up all sorts of web pages that claim the photo involves a Chinese man who sued his wife for having ugly children. It turns out none of those stories were true. Instead of the photo containing a real family, with a real mom who had three children, it featured Heidi Yeh — a woman who had experienced success as a Taiwanese actress and model — until the photo turned into fake stories about Heidi being a woman who had plastic surgery, and claimed her real looks surfaced once she had children and they turned out not as beautiful as she was, said the cruel hoax reports.

As a result of that press, Yeh has filed a lawsuit against a talent agency and a plastic surgery cosmetic clinic due to the photo that she says ruined her life. The Simple Beauty clinic used the photo — which is designed to look like a real family’s portrait, and probably the reason why the story that accompanied it was so believable to some — with a damning headline.

“The only thing you’ll ever have to worry about is how to tell the kids.”

That headline was picked up all over the Internet and went viral, and later — when a publication in Heilongjiang (a province of the People’s Republic of China) claimed that Yeh was really in the photo with her real spouse and kids — the damage began. Yeh claims she lost business due to the article claiming that the model had duped her husband by having so much plastic surgery. The implication was that Yeh led him to believe she was a naturally gorgeous beauty, and he found out otherwise only after their children were born.

While it may have been a funny story to some who viewed it and moved on, it was harmful to Yeh’s career, reports the model, and she’s suing to try and recoup some of the money lost and to the damage to her reputation. Instead of being looked at as a successful model, Yeh was viewed as a wife who lied and deceived her husband into a marriage that he was locked into.

Sites like ABC15 called the story probably untrue back when it first went viral, along with other publications like Snopes and the Huffington Post. The fact that so many places repeated the false story while others debunked it showed just how much it was spread across the web — and shows how much of an impact it had upon real lives. A joke to some can be a hurtful reality to others.

The photo also proves that there’s a fine line between fiction and non-fiction. Certain stock images may accompany articles in order to display the thought process of the article, and not represent the subjects being discussed in the article. It’s for this reason that unflattering articles — say, ones about athlete’s foot or something — may feature a photo of an athlete, but also a note that explains the article isn’t about the person pictured.

[Image via NextWeb]