The Unforgettable Story of Milli Vanilli: A Cautionary Tale for All Time

A Personal Reflection on the Biopic “Girl You Know It’s True”

Last Tuesday, as I sat watching the biopic “Girl You Know It’s True” based on the unbelievable but true Milli Vanilli story at the exclusive and intimate media screening, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of emotions wash over me. Firstly, at the beginning of the movie, the name of the adoptive father of Robert Pilatus, “Hans Winkler” hit home for me. Not the character but just the name; I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before but my stepfather was German, and his name was also Hans Winkler.

This unexpected coincidence transported me back to my childhood which was in the apartheid era of South Africa. Back then our interracial family would often attract curious stares during outings, a poignant reminder of the complexities of our society at the time.

(L-R) Elan Ben Ali as Fabrice Morvan and Tijan Njie as Robert Pilatus in GIRL YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE

This biopic highlights the story of Milli Vanilli, the pop duo that rose to fame in the late 1980s. It certainly resonates deeply for me as I loved their music back then and I still do listen to “their” music to this day. The film’s portrayal of their tumultuous journey, from stardom to scandal, left me pondering the true cost of fame and the importance of authenticity. I could not help but draw comparisons to examples I am aware of in current life scenarios.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

The film masterfully transported me back to the 80s, and if you follow me on TikTok, you will know by now how much I love the music from the 80’s. The lead actors’ performances were nothing short of phenomenal, capturing the essence of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus with such an uncanny resemblance. I have no idea what they were like in real life, but their roles portrayed them to be rather naïve. Each time one of their songs featured, it was like reliving a bygone era, with the catchy tunes and iconic beats that defined a generation.

Some stills from the movie:

The Milli Vanilli Scandal Revisited

The lip-syncing scandal that rocked the music world in the late 80s was a watershed moment in pop culture history. While some may view it as a trivial matter, I believe it highlights the importance of honesty and transparency in the entertainment industry. I also do feel that the scandal was overexaggerated, even though I myself at the time was disappointed to have had the wool pulled over my eyes.

If only Milli Vanilli had been upfront about their performance style, perhaps the outcome would have been different. Perhaps we would have celebrated them as a story from rags to riches. Their determination was admirable. Instead, the scandal led to a tragic downfall, one that left a lasting impact on the lives of those involved.


Lessons for the Modern Era

As I write this review and reflect on the film, I can’t help but draw parallels to current issues we face today which appear to be exacerbated by social media. In an era of social media obsession and curated perfection, we often forget the importance of authenticity and honesty. We have also seen so many stars rise to fame by simply lip syncing. The timing just wasn’t right for Milli Vanilli then, but I think it’s not so much about the fact that they lip-synced but more so about the deception of it all. The story of Milli Vanilli serves as a poignant reminder of the dangers of deception and the importance of staying true to oneself.

Below are some key life lessons which I took from this biopic.

  1. Authenticity matters: Always be true to yourself and as well as to your audience. Authenticity is crucial in building trust and credibility.
  2. Honesty is the best policy: Deception may seem convenient, but taking the easy way out can and usually leads to severe consequences. Honesty, even in the most difficult situations, is always the best choice.
  3. Fame and success are not everything: Milli Vanilli’s story shows that fame and success can be short lived and empty if not grounded in substance and integrity.
  4. Mental health is important: Rob Pilatus’s struggles with addiction and depression highlight the importance of prioritising mental health and seeking help when needed.
  5. Learn from mistakes: The duo’s downfall serves as a reminder to learn from mistakes and use them as opportunities for growth.
  6. Stay true to your passion: Milli Vanilli’s story encourages us to stay authentic to our passions and not compromise our values for fame or success.
  7. The power of forgiveness: The film shows the importance of forgiveness, both for oneself and others, in moving forward and finding redemption. The sad reality, to me anyway, is that not everyone finds redemption.
  8. The impact of societal pressure: The movie highlights the pressure to conform to societal expectations and the importance of staying true to oneself despite these pressures. I find this phenomenon is not only prevalent offline but also widespread in the realm of social media where we on a daily basis find people living their lives based on the number or likes or followers they have.

A South African Connection

As a South African, it pleased me to learn that some scenes were shot in our beautiful Mother City, Cape Town. This added a personal touch to the film, making it even more special.

My Overall Thoughts on Milli Vanilli – Girl You Know It’s True

“Girl You Know It’s True” is a skillfully made biopic that will have you humming the memorable melodies while pondering its profound themes. I do wish that the story delved more into the relationship between Rob and his adoptive father though.

I think that this was an excellent German production. With its meticulous production design, phenomenal acting, and nostalgic value, this film is a must-watch for anyone who grew up in the 80s or loves a good cautionary tale. It goes without say that if are a Milli Vanilli fan, you’ve got to watch this biopic.

For those of you who already watched it, I’d love to know your thoughts, please do share them in the comments below


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One Reply to “Deception, Devastation, And Redemption: A Scorching Review of ‘Girl You Know It’s True’”

  1. I didn’t even know that there’s a film about their deception. We are living in a very superficial world. The need to present and the desire to arouse attention is growing. Authenticity is rare. I’m actually not sure if it’s social media or do we enjoy fantasising to escape from our real world?

    Thanks for a thought provoking article.

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