We were duped, say influencers whose 'used' pillows were put up for 'sale'

PHOTO: Screengrab/Instagram

Are influencers really putting up their used pillows for sale? Seems pretty sketchy — and a sketch it might actually be — after some of the involved influencers came out to say it was part of a social experiment organised by a popular local lifestyle content channel.

Just over the weekend, online reports began circulating on social media, spreading the word that a group of influencers were 'selling' their used pillows for as little as $20, or as much as $200, on a website aptly named The Sleeping Beauties.

PHOTO: Screengrab/The Sleeping Beauties

Once the news went viral, criticism and degrading comments against the young women began to pile up. They were also harassed on their personal social media accounts. 

As a result, several of the influencers involved have suffered anxiety attacks and refuse to leave the house, while others are laying low, hoping for the storm to pass, a few of them told AsiaOne. 

They also claimed that they had been hoodwinked by the company — they were asked to help out with a social experiment by taking photos of themselves with a pillow, and had not expected the photos to be marketed in such a sexual manner.

The website has been defunct since Dec 21.

Website more "sexual" than originally pitched, say influencers 

In a Facebook post uploaded on Tuesday (Dec 22), influencer Vivian Tian clarified that she, as well as other influencers, had participated in the experiment out of fun and curiosity.

The company had told them the experiment was going to be a part of their new video series. For that particular episode, which was to be titled "In 10 Days, Can We Create An E-commerce Website Selling Pre-loved Pillows", they claimed they were inspired by women who sold their hair and other pre-loved items to earn money.

I am not selling pillows and calling it a social experiment is not a cover up. As much as I understand the pain of...

Posted by Vivian Tian on Tuesday, December 22, 2020

"What we didn't expect was how the media company in charged of this project will portrayed us on the selling site [sic]," Tian wrote. "Our involvement only went as far as taking a photo with brand new pillows given to us, and then quoting a 'price' for them to list on the site.

"Anything after was out of our control."

She did not receive any payment for her participation in the project, she added. 

Another influencer who participated in the experiment, Avander Ho, received the exact same pitch from the company in screenshots seen by AsiaOne.  

Meanwhile, influencer Cheryl Allison said she wasn't informed that the pillows would be marketed as used products, but rather that she was helping to model for new ones.

"I was told that they were going to be selling new pillows," Allison told AsiaOne. "We were also not told that [the company] would be making a post on their website saying 'Omg influencers selling used pillows'."

That article is no longer available as of today (Dec 24).

PHOTO: Screengrab/Instagram

While Allison was informed by the company when the website had gone live, Ho, however, was unaware.

"Only when my friends and family asked if it was me, then I found out about the page and how sexual it was," she said. "Some influencers who they sent the website's link to early on told the company to remove their pictures, but for me, it was too late."

Company allegedly asked for pictures in silky pyjamas

In the screenshots provided to AsiaOne, a representative of the media company had asked Ho for more photos and requested for different poses. 

PHOTO: Provided by Ho 

Ho was also asked if she had silky pyjamas instead — an experience shared by Allison and several other influencers, who did not want to be named. 

Influencers not told when video would be published

Allison added that the company had not given the young women an estimated date for when the video would be uploaded.

"I expected the video to come out at the end of the 10 days, explaining that it was an experiment, but it has not."

According to Ho, the video would only be uploaded at least three weeks later, in the middle of January next year.

She was also told not to reveal that the website was a social experiment until the video had been published.

PHOTO: Screengrab/Instagram

Influencers left stranded

In the face of an increasing backlash, Ho and other influencers have asked the company to come out to clear the air, in hopes that the hate will stop.

However, Ho was allegedly told that as the influencers had willingly agreed to the experiment, they should have been prepared for the backlash. Her attempt at reasoning with her contact at the company was also shot down, with the latter allegedly saying: "Y'all should have known when girls take pictures with pillows in that way it will be sexualised."

Meanwhile, Allison has said she's yet to receive a response from the company.

Despite several attempts to contact the lifestyle content channel for clarifications, AsiaOne did not get a response.

rainercheung@asiaone.com