Is Fake the New Real?

9 06 2013

It was just a day before my flight to Shanghai last month that I read the news about the new food crisis in China.  Lamb meat in restaurants and on grocery shelves was found to be in fact rat meat mixed with other sorts of animals, anything but lamb!

Fake eggs.  Photo from

Fake eggs. Photo from

It was the latest of a long list of shocking food scandals, from tainted milk to fake eggs and fake yogurt.  And here I thought I needed to be careful only with the poultry due to the H7N9 new virus scare. But the superbug is now the least of my concerns, I will need to worry about everything I eat; no poultry, no meat, no eggs and what else? Enough already!  My decision is made, I will become a vegetarian during my trip. I scrolled through the newspaper page to see if vegetables were on the list of fake items.  Phew, it’s not on it… yet!

As I got off the plane I warned my local colleagues about my intentions of temporarily becoming a vegetarian. They giggled profusely and added a few more fake things to my list. Helene, fake BMW and Lamborghini cars and fake Hummers are flooding the streets of Shanghai and Beijing, joining the rank of the Apple product copies and the fake IKEA store.

I knew about the luxury goods copies, I myself being guilty of succumbing to temptation a few times. Not that I could not buy a real one, but I particularly liked the thrill of going in a fake looking boutique, only to be dragged in the back-store, climbing two flights of stairs in narrow corridors as if I was going to enter the secret world of John Malkovich. At the door, you needed to say the magic word “Kitty” for the fake closet door to open and let you enter the Alibaba cave.

Kitty was so proud of her merchandise, insisting on the quality leather and the handmade stitches. All made in Korea, she claimed. She also proudly pointed out that her copies are so good that even some Hollywood stars purchase  Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Hermes replicas at her fake store. They offer them as Christmas gifts to their friends. Hummmm!  What kind of friend offers a fake Louis Vuitton to a friend without telling the truth? Imagine the humiliation if the friend goes into a real LV store to get it fixed or see a new model. Ah! well, Hollywood is the capital of fake friends so let’s not pretend to be surprised here.

In my life, I had also heard of the staggering number of women who fake orgasms with their lovers so fake is nothing new, but when fake enters the food chain, it becomes way too real for me to ignore.

Scene from the beautiful Fuxing park in Shanghai

Scene from the beautiful Fuxing park in Shanghai

To appease my thoughts, I went scrolling around the beautiful Fuxing park of Shanghai, looking at families playing with kites, couples on the grass preparing a picnic, two old ladies chatting with a man who was writing poems on the sidewalk using a simple brush and water. The scene was so real, so European, so human. Did I say European?? Aren’t I in Shanghai? Is this real?

There was nothing fake about this delightful scene from the real Shanghai French Concession Quarter, even if today it is filled with beautiful Asian eyes smiling at you that have become the new reality. The true and warm nature of the scenery got me thinking about the new world we are recreating in pixels, our friends on Facebook and the virtual relations that keeps it real. Some of the new accepted rules have become the norm. We think of plastic surgery for every defect or sagging area we find on our body, we can find more silicone in breasts than in labs, more fake emails in my inbox than true communications, more fake university degrees online than real ones, hence I questioned myself; Is Fake the New Real?

Water brush strokes in the park

Water brush strokes in the park

In Korea, studies show that 76% of women in their 20s and 30s undergo plastic surgery. Can we therefore conclude that being cosmetically modified in Korea has become the new norm? Upon my return at the Singapore office I quickly enquired to my Korean colleague if the stats are true, only to hear a cute chuckled laugh followed by a comment on how she only had her eyes redone! OK! Helene, let me tell you that pretty much everyone in Korea had it done too. This is just standard procedure Helene, it is quite normal in Korea because beauty prevails in the selection criteria for jobs so we do it in order to perform better in the job market. If more women have gone under the knife than there are natural beauties in a country, can we bluntly deduct that the new real is the altered reality?

Later on, I shared my thoughts with a few friends over a good authentic Chinese meal only to hear the most surreal stories on how altered reality has become the new norm in society. It is my friend Geoff who deserved the status of the best story. While exchanging on how the new set of statistics published on Facebook promoting the value of a fan page and “likes” was a distorted reality, he pulled a communication he had just received from a friend:

Dear Geoff, I met a guy who has a business of selling Facebook “Likes”, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest “Followers” etc. There is a simple price structure depending on whether you want follows/likes from real people, fake people created by real people or fake people created by robots and whether or rather how often you want them to interact with your page/Twitter feed etc. He is currently diversifying into selling positive reviews for restaurants via Yelp, fake positive product reviews on Amazon and a few other things on which he wouldn’t elaborate. I asked him whether I could hire him to post negative reviews of my competitors and he just smiled and asked me if I was serious. He lives in a very nice part of town and drives a Mercedes SL55 (real one) and dresses well, so it’s working quite good for him I guess.

I reckon that fake businesses can make real good money!

And to crown my day, a very nice Thai lady called Darika shared with me the story of Miss Tiffany who became a monk! You ought to know that the Thai Tiffany contest is like Miss Universe but for transsexuals. The “girls” are beautiful and certainly could fool a considerable number of men. So the story goes like this:

The drag queen, Jazz, winner of the 2009 Miss Tiffany Universe is now back to being “100% male,” and has become a monk! Little did I know that in Thailand, only males can become Buddhist monks. So, back to Miss Tiffany, Jazz, who had spent most of her/his life as a woman and had gone through plastic surgery and breast in-plants to become a beauty queen, has now reversed the surgery to get back to her status of man and embrace a monk life.

Now that is a great story if I’ve ever heard one. You get the courage to live your real identity only to find out that it seemed fake to you!

As they sincerely say in Hollywood: Call me, we’ll do lunch.

Miss Tiffany in Thailand:

Fake eggs in China:

Fake lamb scandal in China:

Fake Lamborghini:




16 responses

9 06 2013
diane laberge

Hélène, il y a longtemps que nous n’avions eu le plaisir de te lire. Wow! Quelle plume. J’adore le sujet, ta façon de l’aborder, impossible de s’arrêter en pleine lecture……il faut aller jusqu’au bout……tu nous tiens…..jusqu’à la fin et on en voudrait encore. Il faut faire quelque chose ensemble. Publier par exemple…….Ton sujet ferait un bel article……En résumé? Quel talent! xx

9 06 2013

Ma chère Diane, venant de toi, une éditorialiste, je suis très flattée. J’ai du plaisir à écrire et oui il faut faire quelque chose ensemble. On s’envoie un petit courriel privé et on en parle. Merci pour le compliment.

9 06 2013
Roger Grégoire

Très bel article Hélène. Il me rappelle cette petite phrase qui dit ” je ne mens pas ! Je dis ce que la vérité devrait être ! ” Le virtuel et la technologie sert maintenant à détourner, biaiser, embrouiller la réalité afin qu’elle réponde à nos besoins imaginés.
Merci encore pour avoir tenu ta parole de nous ouvrir la fenêtre sur ta vie à l’étranger.
Au grand plaisir de te revoir.

Roger xxx

10 06 2013

Merci Roger. Moi non plus je ne mens pas 🙂 A bientot!

11 06 2013
Bonnie Wurst

Really??? I mean… fakely? Quite eye opening indeed! I try to visualize where we are all going from this point in our evolution. It seems very bleak at first glance. Technology and it’s direct effect on globalization came on so very, very fast – the consequences are making themselves quite apparent! More, more, more, faster, faster, faster – bigger, better and some! It does all seem so negative right now, but in my picture I see it as I would the stages of childhood development… from infancy, to learning to toddle… to where we are now, the “terrible two’s” – having found our legs but are running, jumping, twirling, sliding and bouncing, without even thinking about where we are going. And we’ll cry when we fall down, perhaps throw a tantrum or two – but we will have learned and begin to move forward with more awareness – albeit the hard way. Am I being too optimistic here?
To change the subject just a bit… I have one question I need to ask – how is ‘Fuxing’ park pronounced. (You know I had to ask that!)
Once again, you have much talent with the pen… Hélène! (It rhymes too!)

11 06 2013

Why did I not think that you would ask this question is beyond me. Fuuuuu ksiing Bonnie. Thank you my dear for the compliment. You do a hell of good job as a journalist too.

11 06 2013
Sylvie Laferrière

Chère Hélène,
Comme tous tes fans, je lis toujours avec énormément d’intérêt tes articles. En fait, je les dévore! Ce matin, dans la salle d’attente de mon ophtalmo, ça m’a permis de m’évader et je me suis même surprise à espérer que l’attente se prolonge suffisamment pour me permettre non seulement de terminer ma lecture en tant que telle, mais pour la réflexion que celle-ci susciterait assurément par la suite. Heureusement pour moi, les planètes étaient bien alignées … on m’a fait attendre assez longtemps pour que j’en sois heureuse … cette fois-ci!!! Voici donc l’effet que tes articles ont sur moi : ma vie prend soudainement un autre sens lorsque tu es dans les parages de mes pensées! Merci, merci et merci encore pour toute cette générosité. Extrêmement heureuse que nos chemins se soient croisés. Au plaisir, Sylvie

11 06 2013

Ma chère Sylvie tes propos me touchent beaucoup et c’est en espérant que des gens comme toi l’apprécie que j’écris, Ca me donne l’énergie et l’inspiration de le faire. Merci infiniment de ce beau compliment, et moi aussi je suis très heureuse de te connaître.

11 06 2013
Allan Riley


Was that really you writing the article or the fake you? Very intersting and at the same time very troubling to know that the fake market has now entered the food business.

11 06 2013

Yes Allen, the story and the writing is real 🙂 Thanks for sharing

11 06 2013


I enjoyed it very much! Miss/Mr Tiffany might find some truths out of fakes through her/his plenty of life experiences.

Also, I think real or fake is not so important. Even if it is a fake, we sometimes like it.


22 06 2013

LOL Takeshi San I did get the comment, thank you very much. Hmmmmm. Even if it is fake we like it very much! We need to discuss this one over a a real good coffee! Cheers

12 06 2013
Nicole Blanchette

Ma soeur, est-ce bien toi qui a écrit l’article LOL!!!! Est-il vrai? Blague à part, ce que l’on comprend aussi de ton article est que ce sont les femmes qui se font faire toutes ces chirurgies pensant que c’est ce que les hommes désirent. Je me demande si c’est bien le cas…. bon sujet pour une autre petite enquête! Nic

12 06 2013

Hélene je t’aime!! WOW j’ai adoré ! (pour vrai!)
incroyablement réaliste et si bien écrit.

Que dire de notre époque; je travaille actuellement sur un projet humanitaire avec des jeunes Haïtiens et Haïtiennes de 18 à 24 ans et au cours de discussions j’ai été renversé d’apprendre que les jeunes filles de cette communauté qui ont des cheveux ”au naturel” sont l’exception – pas rares mais presque uniques – dès l’adolescence elles ont lissé leurs cheveux, ont ajouté des rallonges droites, bouclées ou tressées. La majorité portent des extensions de cils (posés avec de la colle très forte près des yeux), elles ne peuvent vivre sans leurs longs ongles peints et plusieurs font des économies en vue d’une augmentation mammaire et portent des soutiens-gorge coussinnés en attendant!

Je parle de ces jeunes filles mais le phénomène ne me semble pas limité à cette communauté ou même à ce groupe d’âge, je me suis mise à observer les jeunes filles et les femmes que je croise dans la rue et tu as raison le ”fake” semble vraiment devenir le ”new real”, où donc s’arrête l’amélioration ou la mise en valeur de nos attraits (mascara, coiffure ou rouge à lèvres) et où commence l’extra qui nous fait basculer dans le faux?

Manon xx

22 06 2013

Allo Manon, merci de tes propos, je pense que de plus en plus, la tolérance envers le faux augmente et c’est la que tout est basculé. Est-ce mauvais ou non, tout dépend du domaine que ça touche. La nourriture, ça c’est inacceptable, mais est-ce que les gens sont prêt à enlever tout artifice, je ne pense pas, la concurrence dans tout est trop forte donc les gens vont avoir tendance à tout mettre de leur côté, même si c’est basé sur un idéal artificiel. Malheureusement. La pression sociale est forte et c’est le vrai monde dans lequel on vit tous. Porte toi bien et garde ton beau sourire naturel

2 07 2013

Excellent article Hélène. Pour la bouffe, je suis devenue végétarienne en premier en Chine et maintenant pas mal régulièrement et partout. Pour le reste, tu nous donnes beaucoup de matière à réflexion mais j’adore le discours! Et zut!, j’étais à Shanghai en avril et aussi en juin; dommage, on aurait pu se voir! Je te fais signe dès que je retourne 😉

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