Perhaps you’ve seen images of Lil Miquela, also known as Miquela, making rounds on Instagram. If so, you’ve probably noticed that she’s not real. Miquela was created in 2016 by Brud, a group in Los Angeles who specializes in “robotics, artificial intelligence, and their applications to media businesses.”
Miquela is perpetually nineteen years old and primarily a fashion model— though she dabbles in music and acting. Toting over 2 million followers on Instagram, her influencer status is fairly solid.
Miquela has released songs—last year she appeared on a Times Square billboard that advertised her single with Baauer—and more recently, she collaborated with Teyana Taylor. She even had a human (!) boyfriend with whom she had a publicized breakup.
Such a humanlike computer-generated “person” sounds odd, perhaps even eerie. But the concept is not new. In the 1970s, this phenomenon was coined “uncanny valley,” which references times when robots become so extremely lifelike that it is unsettling. Miquela, however, is out of the uncanny valley and into the valley of L.A.
In the last few days, Miquela signed with Creative Artists Agency, who has said they’re working with Miquela in TV, film, brand strategy, and commercial endorsements. Miquela will be their first virtual client, which begs the question—will there be more?
Miquela presents an interesting opportunity for advertisements. In January 2010, TechCrunch reported that Miquela’s creators closed a $125 million investment round. Brands can capitalize on her solid following and the fact that she will do whatever they’d want her to, within the confines of her image, of course. Clothes that fashion houses model on her will fit as perfectly as they’d like. Miquela, personally, won’t be able to damage their brand or engage in unpredictable behavior while working with them.
An influx of virtual avatars will force us to reexamine our relationship with influencers and fashion as well. Miquela’s image has great opportunities for increased creativity, and those at Brud seem to have painstakingly crafted a personality that can be entertaining to follow. They’ve also crafted her image—Miquela is physically “perfect,” because she isn’t real (despite the fact that on her website, she says she’s as “real as Rihanna”), and was created to be perfect. Will virtual influencers be able to overtake real models? What does it say about our current culture that supermodels cannot reach the beauty standards that we’ve set so high?
In CAA’s statement about Miquela, they say that she both reflects and influences culture. Is CAA actually pushing the boundaries of advertisement, or will Miquela’s hype fizzle out in a few years? Only time will tell.
Cover Image Credit: LilMiquela’s instagram via TechCrunch