Meet the scary looking social media stars who aren't even real people
Everyone knows that what they see on Instagram is far from the truth. Pictures are carefully selected, painstakingly edited, and planned to complement rest of a person's feed. This becomes all the more important for those individuals who use their follower count to make money. "Influencers", as they're called, use their prominence on the platform to model clothes and promote products for a living.
But the rise of a new "kind" of influencer has shaken people a little, given the fact that they're not even real. Sure, we've had virtual celebrities before, like when musician Damon Albarn collaborated with artist Jamie Hewlett to create the virtual band Gorillaz. But these new social media stars something completely different – they look incredibly lifelike and have "personalities" that are indistinguishable from the next social media celebrity.
The biggest difference? They're completely computer-generated using 3D modelling software. You'll have to meet them to fully understand, so here are three of the biggest virtual influencers taking social media by storm right now.
1. Introducing: Shudu
Known as the first "digital supermodel", Shudu has over 99,000 followers but also isn't human: she's a computer-generated creation made by Brit Cameron-James Wilson. He calls her an "art piece" and a "virtual" celebration of other beautiful dark-skinned women.
He says that he became anxious when she started getting more and more followers on Instagram, deciding eventually that she should "come out" to reveal she is a virtual creation, and not actually real. "It made me feel anxious when I was receiving messages and honestly I couldn’t wait for the day everyone knew about her," he told Harper's Bazaar.
2. Introducing: Lil Miquela
The most famous of virtual influencers is the mysterious Spanish-Brazilian-American "Lil Miquela". No-one has come forth to claim they are the force behind the hyperreal Miquela, and if it wasn't for her early photos from 2016 – you'd hardly guess that she's modeled from computer graphics.
Boasting 913,000 followers, Lil Miquela is a full-on influencer, modelling actual clothing items from high fashion brands including Chanel, Supreme and Kenzo. She's been in magazine spreads and even released a song on Spotify last year which went viral. She even has her own political opinions and uses her influence to support causes like Black Lives Matter. Miquela backs an organisation called Black Girls Code, which – funnily enough – enables girls to develop advanced skills in technology.
BBC interviewed her along with her publicist and manager over email. Interestingly, wrote that one of them was from a company called Brud: “a group of Los Angeles-based problem-solvers in robotics, artificial intelligence and their applications to media businesses”. When asked how she created her identity, Lil Miquela answered:
"Probably a lot like you! I’m still learning and still being shaped by my environment and surroundings. I’m passionate about music and art and learning so much about Los Angeles daily."
3. Introducing: Blawko
The first male of his "kind", Blawko's signature pose always features him covering the bottom half of his face (the digital artist just can't get the hang of modelling lips, perhaps?), and his feed also includes memes and clips from various video games. His "gamer bro" personality and his face tattoos have attracted just over 5,000 followers.
With their own personality types and signature poses, it's hard to convince yourself that they're not actually real. Mind blown? Same.