The story sparked outrage the world over: A California mother, trying to give her daughter an edge in beauty pageants, injected the 8-year-old with Botox.
Turns out the only thing with wrinkles was the story itself.
The mother, Sheena Upton, claims she was paid to fabricate the whole thing - and was even given scripted quotes - and now denies she injected her daughter with anything. Meanwhile, the reporter who originated the story says Upton is lying.
Both accounts appear murky and are filled with dubious details. And the central question - whether an 8-year-old was ever actually given Botox - remains unanswered.
The twisted tale began earlier this year when British reporter Alley Einstein, who was in Los Angeles at the time, was introduced to Upton through a cousin. Strangely, Einstein says Upton introduced herself as Kerry Campbell and said her daughter's name was Britney.
The cousin, Michelle Cespuglio, declined to comment to The Associated Press unless she was paid an unspecified sum of money.
Einstein says she saw Upton inject her daughter's forehead and lips with what appeared to be Botox. She wrote the story for a British gossip magazine in February.
"I'm not a liar. I know what I saw," Einstein said. "I reported what I saw."
The shocking account was soon picked up by British tabloid The Sun and earlier this month, two national television shows, "Good Morning America" and "Inside Edition," broadcast their own versions.
The shows broadcast photographs of the grimacing girl with a syringe pushed against her face and she told GMA, "I just don't think wrinkles are nice for little girls." Upton now says the images were staged.
Each telling of the story garnered more and more scorn for Upton, and "Good Morning America" reported early this week that the child was taken from her mother as Child Protective Services investigated the case. CPS cannot comment on individual cases and attempts to reach Upton for comment were unsuccessful.
The Sun said it did not solicit or knowingly publish a false story regarding Upton and her daughter. GMA and "Inside Edition" say they are launching investigations to see if they were duped.
On Thursday, Upton appeared on Los Angeles-based celebrity gossip website TMZ.com, saying Einstein had coached her to make up the story.
For proof, she supplied what she said were emails from Einstein giving careful instructions on what to say and how to behave in an interview. The emails appear to instruct Upton to say her daughter had also been given "virgin waxes" to prevent pubic hair growing when she's older.
"It's a great mum and daughter bonding thing," the email states Upton should learn as a quote. "I think it's fantastic she tells me when she needs an injection top up or wax."
The London-based Einstein said the emails, which were posted on TMZ early Friday, were doctored and taken out of context.
In an affidavit she provided to the AP, Einstein said Upton had asked her for advice about upcoming appearances on "Good Morning America" and "Inside Edition" because she was nervous.
Einstein said she emailed her a brief, including her name, age, and background and telling her to act like a "super soccer mum." "She even told me to include how she should talk, what she should wear and advice on avoiding questions," Einstein stated in the declaration.
Upton used a false name on TV, "Kerry Campbell," and disguised herself with glasses and putting her long hair in a bun, later laughing to Einstein that "no one had found her," Einstein said.
Einstein, whose website says she will pay between $80 and $240 for "real life stories" such as "I'm in love with my father - genetic sexual attraction," "I am a top dwarf body builder" and "I had liposuction while awake." Einstein said she paid Upton a total of $6,000 out of her own pocket, plus a $184 cellphone bill.
Einstein said she would not imperil a journalism career of 20 years to fake a story and is considering legal action against Upton.
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