Bella Hadid and Miquela Sousa became the topic of every conversation online when they shared a kiss in a Calvin Klein campaign. At first glance, the 30-second video seemed like any other brand campaign celebrating the LGBTQ community. But here’s the twist: Miquela Sousa is not human.
This is not a black mirror episode. Sousa, widely known as Lil Miquela is 100% pixels and belongs to a growing cadre of social media influencers that are fully generated by computers.
The rise of CGI Influencers
Globally, the influencing market has grown to become a billion-dollar industry and influencers have slowly flooded our Instagram and Youtube feeds over the years – but none as enigmatically as the ones who are not human. Lil Miquela can be said to have started the CGI influencer phenomenon when she was created by LA-based firm Brud in 2016 and took Instagram and Twitter by storm. Her popularity secured her a spot on TIME’s “The 25 Most Influential People on the Internet” in 2018, alongside the likes of world Kpop sensation BTS, Kanye West and Kylie Jenner.
Another pixelated face that shot to fame was black digi-supermodel Shudu, who blew up after Fenty reposted a picture of her wearing Rihanna’s bright orange lipstick. Along with two other CGI models, Shudu joined the “Balmain’s New Virtual Army” for the French luxury fashion house’s 2018 campaign.
Just this July, British fashion house Ralph & Russo digitally presented their Paris Haute Couture AW2020 collection with in-house designed digital avatar Hauli, who donned the season’s looks while travelling virtually to the Seven Wonders of the World. Before it was cancelled this year, Coachella had booked Japanese hologram performer Hatsune Miku as one of their 2020 acts.
With restrictions in creating content under the pandemic, these pixelated influencers have the power to be anywhere at anytime to provide the internet with content humans cannot create, and with our technological expansion into 5G, the CGI influencer market is only set to grow larger. Although there have been controversies and concerns whether these CGI influencers will replace humans, it looks like they are here to stay.
From teenage music producers to fashion supermodels, here are 5 CGI influencers you should have on your radar:
Boasting a whopping 2.8M followers on Instagram, this CGI it-girl has done it all. On top of kissing Bella Hadid in a Calvin Klein campaign, Lil Miquela took over Prada’s Instagram as part of Milan Fashion Week and was a cover star on Highsnobiety. Outside of fashion, Lil Miquela also collaborated with American DJ Baauer on his song “Hate Me”, and has several other originals on her Spotify profile, which has over 600,000 monthly listens.
Self-identified as the world’s first digital supermodel, Shudu was created by fashion photographer Cameron James Wilson. She has been featured in the likes of Vogue, WWD and Harper’s Bazar and fronted campaigns for Balmain and Ellesse. She even graced the red carpet at the 2019 BAFTA film awards wearing a bespoke gown by Swarovski.
Japan’s first male CGI influencer, Liam Nikuro is a Japanese American teen music producer and model created by 1Sec Inc. This August, he was invited by the NBA into the NBA bubble as a VIP guest of the Washington Wizards and was spotted chilling on-court (yes right in the middle of the game) when NBA star Rui Hachimura scored a basket.
Imma is named after the Japanese word “ima”, meaning “now,” and she is certainly a representation of our tech-filled world today. Her eccentric pink hair and edgy Kawaii style has landed her ad campaigns with Puma and IKEA Japan. She was created by Tokyo-based CG company Modeling Cafe.
Known for his iconic black face mask look, Blawko’s accessory of choice is very timely. He is actually Lil Miquela’s best friend and is also created by Brud. Blawko owns a YouTube channel where he makes videos discussing topics that range from everyday vlogs to album reviews to relationship advice for robots.