When China probed its top actress for tax evasion, it was a less-known internet celebrity who made global headlines.
Fan Bingbing, who played the character Blink in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, is now under investigation for tax evasion after she was accused of hiding her income. Foreign media reported on the news fully and accurately—except that many used a photo of the wrong person.
News outlets including the Financial Times (paywall) and Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post mistakenly ran a photo of a Fan look-alike as the real movie star; an erroneous caption from AFP was in part to blame.
The doppelgänger is a 23-year-old named He Chengxi, who runs a plastic surgery clinic in Shenzhen that specializes in creating “celebrity faces.”
He shot to fame to China in 2016, when she attended a TV singing contest and surprised audiences with how similar she looked to Fan—something she credited to a string of plastic surgeries. Last month, both He and Fan walked the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. In an interview with Inkstone, part of the South China Morning Post, He said a couple of foreign journalists did approach her at Cannes and took her as the real Fan Bingbing. She explained:
“I always said to them: I like Fan Bingbing, and I look like her, but I am not Fan Bingbing… On the international stage, I hope people see me as an independent person.”
The mix-up highlights how far people in China can go in using cosmetic surgery to look like their favorite idols. On their smartphones, young women in China can easily apply for loans for cosmetic surgery (“face loans”), and then monetize their new looks through live-streaming and short-video apps. There’s even a Facebook-like platform in China, SoYoung, where plastic surgery aficionados can share their experiences. Last year, China’s plastic surgery market was estimated to grow six times faster than the global average, with Chinese clients accounting for more than 40% of the world’s total.
Earlier this year, He touted to her 1.2 million followers on microblogging site Weibo (link in Chinese) that she turned one of her clients into a look-alike of another famous Chinese actress after just 22 days of plastic surgery.
“Plastic surgery really can change one’s destiny,” she wrote.