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Taiwanese American model says face modified with AI to look white

Editing my face and removing my race is completely disrespectful: Shereen Wu

Original photo of Shereen Wu (left) and AI-edited version. (TikTok, Shereen Wu screenshots)

Original photo of Shereen Wu (left) and AI-edited version. (TikTok, Shereen Wu screenshots)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwanese American model is accusing a fashion designer of uploading a runway photo altered with AI to whitewash her appearance.

Shereen Wu, a 21-year-old fashion model, recently appeared at a fashion show in Los Angeles for well-known designer Michael Costello, who has worked with the likes of Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, and Celine Dion. However, after the show ended, Costello allegedly posted a photo of Wu to Instagram that had been digitally altered to make her look white, reported The Guardian.

In a TikTok post uploaded by Wu on Oct. 29, Wu posted the original photo of herself in the show in a black, long-sleeved ballgown and compared it to a version of the image uploaded by Costello that had been allegedly altered to make her look white. "Editing my face and removing my race is completely disrespectful," said Wu.

When Wu confronted Costello about it via online messaging, he claimed that he had received the image in its current state from a photographer and said that he had no control over how contributors edit photos. However, when Wu contacted the photographer, he said that he had not made any edits to the photo when he sent it to Costello.

She pointed out that on the photographer's own Instagram feed, the image of Wu did not have facial modifications.

Wu said she is an independent model, not signed with any talent agency. She said that she took part in the fashion show for exposure and did not receive any compensation.

She said that in exchange for doing such shows for free, there is a "tacit understanding that I'm doing this for exposure and for photographs." However, she said by not using her face, he took advantage of her without any recompense.

On Nov. 2, Costello uploaded a statement on Instagram in response to the controversy. Costello denied making any alterations to the photo and claimed what he posted was "fan art" submitted to him by an unnamed source, but "took responsibility" for posting it.

In the post, he denied that he had produced the show and claimed that he was unaware that Wu had not received payment for her participation until seeing her TikTok post. He said after seeing her claims of not receiving payment, "I offered Shereen compensation for her time and talents."

Costello added that “in light of the false allegations presented in (Wu’s) videos,” his brand is “moving forward with legal proceedings.” However, the Instagram post soon disappeared.

In response to Costell's threats of legal action, Wu was referred to an attorney by Model Alliance. On a new Instagram account Wu on Nov. 2 wrote that her original Instagram account was repeatedly being suspended and on the third time was "permanently deactivated with no explanation from Instagram."