It’s not uncommon for people to touch up their photos for social media. In the age of editing apps like Facetune, doing a little virtual nip and tuck for the perfect Instagram shot seems almost irresistible.
However, a micro-influencer in China recently found herself in hot water when candid photos revealed a jarring disparity between her online persona and her actual appearance.
To the untrained eye, the edited photos showed that she met Chinese beauty standards perfectly — flawless porcelain skin, a small figure, and a babydoll gaze. Yet, paparazzi shots of her and her friend revealed how different they really look IRL.
The unfiltered photos made their rounds on Chinese social media in late April, after they were leaked by an unknown source.
Rather than cowering from her critics, she tackled the scandal in a post featuring edited photos from the day she was secretly photographed.
“I’ve been in a bad mood because of the recent photo exposé, so I held onto the photos and didn’t post them for many days,” she said in a post on May 3.
They then went viral internationally in May, when Facebook user Ex Treme reposted the before and after photos.
“Technological… advancement,” reads the caption.
The post has been shared over 18,000 times and have about 11,000 comments.
Facing the controversy head-on turned many netizens to her side, with many praising her editing skills.
“I saw the photos and gotta hand it to you,” commented one netizen, to which she quipped: “I’m pretty impressed by myself too.”
She also addressed the issue on the social media platform Weibo.
“I’m just a normal person and not an influencer,” she said in a post on May 6, clarifying that she has never been paid by companies to advertise their products on social media.
“I don’t think I have to tolerate any abuses from the public,” she continued. “Those photos were taken secretly and unreasonably. We didn’t know that we were being photographed, and we don’t know who took those photos. For girls, editing our photos is no big deal, I don’t want to explain anymore.”
“If one day I go to extremes because of your behaviour, just because you didn’t like what I did, will you be able to sleep at night for the rest of your life?” she asked netizens. “As humans, please be kind.”
The clap back garnered lots of support from netizens.
“Hugs! I’m with you!” said one.
“That’s right, what’s wrong with a girl editing her photos? She isn’t cheating any money or feelings, she can photoshop whatever she wants. Why do people have to care so much?” reads another comment.
Coeyyyy seems to have embraced her talent for photo editing, now incorporating it into her online persona. Her more recent posts on RED include tutorials that teach other social media users how to edit photos.
Meeting conventional and often unattainable beauty standards with photo editing is very common in China. In 2019, a vlogger was at the center of a controversy after a filter she used in a live stream glitched, showing that she wasn't the young, skinny woman fans thought she was.