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How we were fooled by a movie star lookalike
A Chinese woman built a career on looking like China’s most highly-paid movie star – and she fooled us.
When Inkstone published a story about Chinese actress Fan Bingbing yesterday, we mistakenly ran a photo of He Chengxi, a woman who looks really, really like the superstar.
The photo was taken by an AFP photographer at the 71st Cannes Film Festival in France last month.
Both the movie star and her lookalike attended the festival. Fan walked on the red carpet at the opening ceremony and the premiere of Chinese film Ash is Purest White, while He showed up at the screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story and Lebanese drama Capharnaüm.
We only noticed when Inkstone staffer Xinyan Yu pointed out the mistake. Maybe she spends more time reading Chinese gossip sites than the rest of us.
We weren’t the only ones fooled by He’s striking similarity to Fan, one of China’s biggest starlets.
The caption provided by AFP identifies the woman in the red gown as Fan. The Financial Times and the South China Morning Post also initially attached He’s picture to stories about the star, who is under investigation for tax evasion.
Singapore-based fashion magazine Her World last month used He’s picture in a list of the “best-dressed at Cannes,” identifying her as Fan with the comment: “it's no wonder she's dubbed a global fashion icon.”
So who is this mysterious woman who’s tricked so many of us?
When reached by Inkstone, the 23-year-old says a number of foreign journalists approached her in Cannes, believing her to be the famous actress.
“I always said to them: I like Fan Bingbing, and I look like her, but I am not Fan Bingbing,” He said. “On the international stage, I hope people see me as an independent person.”
The lookalike said that she was glad that some fashion critics thought she was better dressed than her more famous counterpart at the film festival last month.
He Chengxi rose to fame in 2016 after she surprised audiences of a TV singing competition, appearing as a Fan doppelganger.
She says her look was achieved – at least partially – through plastic surgery.
Plastic surgery is becoming increasingly popular in China as the nation gets richer. And Fan Bingbing is frequently cited by women eager to improve their looks.
Beijing-based plastic surgeon Ma Lanhua says she often has clients asking if they can look more like Fan.
“Many people want her big eyes,” Ma says. “They also want her nose, her chin and her face shape. It is a celebrity effect.”
He Chengxi now runs a plastic surgery company in the southern city of Shenzhen that specializes in creating “celebrity faces.”
She appears to be a walking advertisement for the business.
In January, she proudly told her 1.2 million followers on the Twitter-like social media site Weibo that she had made a client look like Uyghur actress Dilraba Dilmurat through plastic surgery.
And we at Inkstone will examine our Chinese celebrity photos a little more carefully in the future.