LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A Los Angeles actor and director has found himself at the center of a public relations kerfuffle, after it was found that his image, minus a leg, has been used to warn of the dangers of diabetes.
Cleo Berry’s image has been splashed all over the Internet, New York City subways and the New York Department of Health’s website as an anti-diabetes campaign. The poster shows 27-year-old Berry sitting on a stool, his right leg amputated. A pair of crutches lean against a wall behind him.
Problem is, Berry has both legs. The photos were taken several years ago, when Berry was a struggling actor eager to take $500 for photographs in a Manhattan studio so he could pay his rent, according to the New York Times. An advertising agency for the city’s health department bought the rights to use the photo, editing away Berry’s right leg and adding in the crutches, the Times reports.
Berry told the Times he was beyond shocked at the ad. “I cried at my computer screen for, like, a minute,” he told the newspaper.
Berry signed a waiver allowing his image to be manipulated.
“I am deeply saddened to see my likeness manipulated by the New York City Health Department in such a hurtful way. While I respect the city’s efforts to educate its citizens about the dangers of obesity and diabetes, using an edited image of myself, an able-bodied person, has caused me distress but more importantly, makes light of the disease and the severity of its side effects,” a statement from Berry said. “I have put a lot of time and effort into building my acting career and will continue to focus on the movie I am currently filming as well as future projects.”
New York City’s health department says a majority of adult New Yorkers (nearly 57%) are overweight or obese, and nearly 10% have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to blindness, kidney failure and amputations.
“This issue isn’t about one actor but rather the 700,000 New Yorkers who struggle with diabetes, which kills 1,700 people a year and causes amputations in another 3,000. Advertising to warn the public about health concerns saves lives and we will continue our efforts to warn New Yorkers about diabetes,” NYC Health spokesman John Kelly said in an emailed statement.