If you were to ask someone what they thought the future would look like, I’m sure the answer would have never been a computer-generated social media personality, who also happens to be a model and singer/songwriter. Lil Miquela was introduced to us on April 22, 2016, on Instagram. Users of the app immediately became absorbed into the life of Miquela Sousa.
When scrolling through Lil Miquela’s Instagram, you get the sense that this woman is a pretty cool 19-year old. She supports many liberal causes such as black lives matter, the innocence project, the LGBTQIA+ community, planned parenthood, justice for youth, etc… She’s also incredibly fashionable, sporting streetwear brands like Supreme and luxury brands like Chanel. Her 1.3 million+ followers are constantly updated about her day to day to life, whether that be her past drama with Bermuda, a CGI influencer and “self-professed Trump supporter”, her love of memes or her political opinions.
Lil Miquela may have a somewhat realistic appearance of a trendy young adult, but she is actually an avatar puppeteered by Brud, an L.A. based startup of “engineers, storytellers, and dreamers who claim to specialize in artificial intelligence and robotics.” The leaders of Brud have figured out that by creating a character, that for example, creates her own music and releases it on Spotify, it allows for an otherwise confused audience to be able to view Lil Miquela as being apart of their own world, and not just a 3-D character on social media.
Despite there not being many CGI social media influencers at the moment, this sort of combination of storytelling through computer-generated imagery on social media could allow for an interesting marketing strategy involving robotics and digital art. Lil Miquela has already partnered with Giphy and Prada and just recently, Brud has raised millions of dollars from Silicon Valley investors. Lil Miquela has also shot for the cover of Highsnobiety and Hypebae and has done magazine spreads for many other publications such as Paper Magazine and Nylon.
With the popularity of Lil Miquela on the rise, I can’t help but think that real people could have potentially been given an opportunity to sponsor brands or shoot for magazines over an animation. If digital art and social media become popular, real influencers could lose popularity quickly. Lil Miquela has the advantage of being new, interesting, and the perfect usage of advertisement for big brands to take advantage of. CGI is a cool new way of viewing the boundaries between real and fake in the world of social media, but is the world ready to put their trust into “people” living in virtual realities?