An up-and-coming model was on the verge of reaching her dreams when it all went terribly wrong. She found herself in hot water after being accused of having a dirty little secret.
Sarah McDaniel had started her social media accounts in the hopes of making a name for herself. By all accounts, the up-and-coming model had grown successful and was on the verge of international stardom when she was publicly accused of being a “fake.”
McDaniel stood out as a model, according to Elle Magazine, because she appeared to be “uniquely imperfect.” McDaniel emphasized that alleged flaw—her mismatched irises, one startlingly blue and one brown—which became her calling card as a model.
McDaniel was a girl-next-door Snapchat and Instagram sensation (handle: @krotchy) with a genuine appearance. In interviews to promote the topic, McDaniel spoke on growing up with heterochromia, a rare and generally subtle genetic condition that can result in irregular irises, a trait she claimed she was bullied for as a kid.
Just as McDaniel’s career was taking off, an internet vigilante known as Celebface shared a series of images that appeared to show the color of McDaniel’s blue eye shifting. Celebface has a cult-like following. “Your page makes me feel so much better about reality vs. media personas,” goes a usual comment.
Celebface also shared a childhood photo of McDaniel, who had matching brown irises. “Expectation: A poor girl with different-colored eyes,” the caption went, “Reality: An ordinary liar who had eye color surgery and tells everyone about her ‘real’ heterochromia now.”
McDaniel’s estranged father submitted the childhood photo and alleged that his daughter was lying about the eye problem. The backlash was brutal for the California model.
“I mean if you want to alter yourself there’s makeup, photoshop, liposuction, filters… but eye implants? Too far,” wrote one commenter.
“I have heterochromia and it really isn’t that noticeable in most people. Her color is so clearly fake and if you look through her older photos and photo shoots versus newer ones the blue changes colors often,” wrote another.
“People are craving authenticity so much that they’re even going so far as to fake things that make them look different,” another remarked.
Sarah McDaniel asserts that the ordeal and allegations have crushed her. “I do have heterochromia,” McDaniel declared. “I guess my eyes sometimes look different in different light, or with different camera quality.” As a result of the attacks, the social media personality claims she had panic attacks and debilitating depressive episodes.
“I think it mostly reflects badly on the person who made this account, because when you think that negatively about other people, karma’s going to get back at you,” McDaniel says. “I mean, have you ever felt the need to comment something really mean on someone’s photo? I haven’t.”
According to the woman behind the Celebface account, she is not attempting to facilitate harassment. She said that she is performing essential work in this climate of poor body image and mental health difficulties, particularly among young people who compare themselves to these internet-famous models. “People often thank me for my work. Some girls write to me that they become more confident,” she said.
Jean Kilbourne, creator of the film series Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women, agreed with Celebface’s beliefs about social media and body image. “With Photoshop and social media, girls end up comparing themselves not only to supermodels but to idealized images of each other,” she said. “Then they feel pressured to create their own images. It’s a never-ending cycle.” The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery indicates that social media selfies are millennials’ leading motivators for cosmetic procedures.