Milli Vanilli: The Olympic Edition

“Girl you know it’s true.”

That was what Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, otherwise known as “Milli Vanilli”, intended to sing when they took the stage at a theme park in Bristol, Conn in 1990.

But instead the audience just heard, “Girl you know it’s… Girl you know it’s… Girl you know it’s…” skipping over and over again in a recording. Morvan and Pilatus were caught lip-syncing and later admitted they didn’t even record their album which earned them the Grammy for “Best New Artist” in 1990. The award was revoked four days later.

Now 18 years later, we have another lip-syncing scandal. This time at the Beijing Olympics. Today, Chinese officials acknowledged that Lin Miaoke, the adorable 9-year-old who sang in the Opening Ceremonies actually was a lip syncer, just like Milli Vanilli.

So I guess, “Girl, it’s not true.”

Here’s how the Washington Post  told the story:

A Chinese government official acknowledged Tuesday that the girl was actually lip-syncing at Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” Stadium; the real singer’s face was deemed “not suitable.”

In an interview with Beijing Radio, Chen Qigang, a member of China’s Politburo, said that organizers concluded during a rehearsal that the voice of 9-year-old Lin Miaoke, who appeared before a television audience of tens of millions, “must change.” Yang Peiyi, the 7-year-old girl whose voice was judged superior, would actually sing the song. 

“We combined the perfect voice and the perfect performance,” Chen said. He added that, “The audience will understand that it’s in the national interest.”

“The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen,” Chen continued. “Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi’s voice was the most outstanding.”

Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi, from L-R. (GETTY/AFP composite image, with still grab from Chinese TV / August 12, 2008)

Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi, from L-R. (GETTY/AFP composite image, with still grab from Chinese TV / August 12, 2008)

What’s surprising is that the Chinese even admitted this ruse. Even more surprising is that the Chinese government allowed Chinese bloggers to criticize the decision. The Post reported that some bloggers felt that it taught children that deception is o.k. and than this episode could hurt China’s image abroad.

Too late.

I think China already damaged their image by how they’ve handled foreign media in Beijing this month. Jessica Golloher, a reporter with WAMU, my local NPR station, described her experience covering the Olympics on the “Kojo Nnamdi Show” today live from Beijing.

“The press conferences that they have are very strange,” Golloher remarked. “All of the questions that you’re going to ask you have to submit in written form. If they don’t like the questions you ask, then they will tell you. And they’ll say that you cannot ask those questions.”

Golloher went on to share the titles of some of the press briefings she’s been invited to:

“Happiness in the Olympics’
“China’s silk industry”
“Flower market in China”
“Work place safety in China”


No doubt, China is an economic powerhouse and the Beijing Olympics are a coming out party of sorts. But Chinese Olympic organizers haven’t yet recognized that dealing with a free press is an entirely different ballgame.

My guess is this experience will teach my Chinese counterparts working in corporate communications some valuable lessons on how to manage their relationships with foreign media who cover their companies and their industries.

In the mean time, Chinese Olympic officials can redeem themselves in the eyes of the world. They should invite Yang Peiyi, the girl whose face was deemed, “not suitable” to step out from behind the curtain and sing again for the world at the Closing Ceremonies, perhaps with the Lin Miaoke, the lip syncer.

There’s already a petition circulating on the Internet demanding just that.

Let’s see if the Olympic organizers will seize the opportunity.



One response to “Milli Vanilli: The Olympic Edition

  1. lactatingbookworm

    I hope they do bring little Peiyi out!

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