Move over humans, it’s time for computer-generated characters to fill your social media feeds. Introducing Lil Miquela, a CGI character acting as a nineteen-year-old robot girl from California. She is an Instagram model and music artist that was created by Trevor McFedries and Sara Decou as an art project in 2016. McFedries is also a former DJ and music producer, so the musical aspect to Lil Miquela makes sense. Her song ‘Not Mine’ was in the Top 10 on Spotify, mostly utilizing a rap style of singing with heavy auto-tune to emulate her robotic nature. She quickly caught the attention of the public and other YouTube and Instagram stars, and now has over 1.5 million followers on Instagram.
McFedries and Decou are behind the creative agency Brud, which is focused on robotics and artificial intelligence in media. While Lil Miquela remains their most successful character, they have made two more CGI influencers: Bermuda and BLawko. These two characters have even dated and act as Lil Miquela’s enemy and best friend respectively, creating even more interest because people are invested in their relationships. Brud is slowly creating a whole cast of CGI robot characters that are taking the internet by storm.
The reaction to Lil Miquela, at first, was not a positive one, with people being mostly confused about her. People theorized that it was an advertising scheme to promote the new Sims game, or that she was a real girl who edited her photos to look fake. Trolls are still in the comments of her photos saying she isn’t real, even though that is pretty evident to anyone who sees the account. Since then, she has had numerous interviews and magazine covers that have only aided in her popularity. Even now, people are upset that she is taking jobs away from other influencers, especially in the fashion industry. It is easier to have Lil Miquela digitally inserted into a campaign instead of hiring a model and taking the pictures.
The virtual star has started a trend that shows no signs of stopping for the future of social media. Since the creation of Brud and Lil Miquela’s fellow CGI characters, there has been even more intrigue into their story and backgrounds, increasing the popularity of computer-generated personas. It’s only a matter of time before even more robot characters are added to Brud.
Lil Miquela’s popularity seems to reject the desire for authenticity in social media, embracing the idea of having a mask online rather than encouraging the real face behind it. It takes the phrase “hiding behind a keyboard” to new heights, because anyone can become someone else if their computer skills are good enough. This is a small look at how technology is going to drastically change media the more it develops, making it hard to decipher real from fake as we’re flooded with even more CGI characters. Lil Miquela promotes her own type of faux-authenticity, acting as though she is a real person with political beliefs, hobbies, and feelings while also clearly being digital. A major part of her story is her struggle with her own reality, finding out that she is a “robot” and having to deal with the identity crisis that follows. The world seems to be entranced by Lil Miquela, not only because she’s virtual, but because of her compelling story that we can all relate to: where is the line between real and fake in our own lives, and how often do we cross it online?
by Victoria Vitale