An Asian-American model has accused a designer of allegedly editing her face with artificial intelligence (AI) to make her look white in a runway photo.
Taiwanese model Shereen Wu went viral after she claimed Project Runway star Michael Costello had replaced her face with a white woman’s face in a runway photo he shared on his social media.
@shereenwu Michael Costello has yet to take responsibility for his actions. I want to explain what happened, and I hope other models in the future feel comfortable to speak up. He has since offered to post my photo side by side with the AI one, but has not voluntarily post it. This offer did not contain an apology, and only happened after a model who’s close with him brought light to the situation. Some points I couldn’t fit: -Replaced the face of a model from the same collection -Lightened the skin of a black model in a photo and proceeded to push blame on the makeup artist (mua did not lighten the skin) -Screamed at models backstage (he screamed at the girl who stumbled on the runway to near tears, only to make an Instagram post praising her after.) But considering how long he’s been acting like this, I doubt any apology from him would be sincere; they would be performative at best. (Sorry for the weird cuts and sped up video I was trying to fit as much as I can in) #michaelcostello #greenscreenvideo #drama #michaelcostellocontroversy ♬ original sound – shereenwu
In a TikTok video, that has amassed over 1.8 million views, Wu shares how Costello posted a photo from his recent Los Angeles fashion show.
While the original photo depicts Wu in a black ballgown on the runway, her face has allegedly been changed in Costello’s photo — to make her appear to be a white woman instead.
The model says she believes AI technology was used to replace her face in the photo.
“I recently walked for Michael Costello… but that’s not me who he posted on his story,” Wu says in the TikTok video.
“Michael’s a big designer with 1.7 million followers. Editing my face and removing my race is completely disrespectful.”
Wu, who did not get paid for walking in the runway show at Los Angeles Fashion Week, explains how she hoped to get some exposure from her appearance.
“But I didn’t get exposure, because this is an edited photo,” Wu explains.
“By cutting off my head, neither did the makeup artist, hairdresser, or photographer. That’s what peeves me so much.”
‘He Essentially Blamed the Photographer’
Wu contacted Costello about the edited runway photos and she claims that the designer “essentially… blamed the photographer” for the image. Wu shared alleged screenshots of her correspondence with Costello.
However, Wu claims to have approached the photographer in question — who confirmed he never edited or altered the Instagram photo. The photographer also claimed that Costello had started deleting messages between the two of them.
According to The Guardian, Costello denied Wu’s accusations in a now-deleted Instagram Story — saying that the image was “fan art” sent to him by an unspecified and that he never edited the photo.
In the now-deleted Instagram Story, Costello reportedly said that “in light of the false allegations presented in [Wu’s] videos,” his brand would be “moving forward with legal proceedings” against her.
However, Costello reportedly said he took “responsibility” for choosing to share the photo and allegedly offered Wu “compensation for her time and talents” after finding out the model was not paid.
The Guardian reports that Wu contacted the advocacy group Model Alliance following Costello’s threat of legal action — and they referred her to an attorney.
“For over a decade, we’ve heard from models who have walked into a store or browsed a company’s website only to find that their image has been heavily manipulated or otherwise used without their informed consent or compensation,” founder of the Model Alliance Sara Ziff tells the publication.
“Unfortunately, Shereen’s experience is one of the many examples of why models need protections as workers.”
Ziff says: “AI technology may be new, but the problem of models’ images being misused is not.”
Image credits: Header photo via TikTok/@shereenwu.