News & Opinion | July 3, 2018 8:11 am

Inside the Emerging World of Digital Supermodels

Miquela and Shudu present on Instagram just like real-life influencers, but they’re computer generated avatars.

Miquela (@lilmiquela)
Miquela (@lilmiquela)

Living life online has never before been so realistic.

Digitally constructed supermodels are here, Elle reports, and while their personhood doesn’t exist, their millions of admirers do.

Miquela, a 20-year-old computer-generated influencer, partnered up with Prada to announce a set of GIFs to the world in February 2018 — and that came a year after her debut single, “Not mine,” hit the viral chart on Spotify.

Shudu, a brainchild of photographer Cameron- James Wilson, flashed pouty lips covered in Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty lipstick earlier this year, which caught the company’s attention and earned a repost on the brand’s official page. Shudu has only posted 26 photos, but she has 127,000 followers — an impressive amassment by any user, real or fake.

??? . . ?@cjw.photo . #fenty #fentybeauty #mattemoiselle #sawc #3dart

A post shared by Shudu Gram (@shudu.gram) on

But her legions of fans pales in comparison to what Elle calls “the PR machine” behind Miquela, who regularly churns out updates to her life to her 1.2 million followers — including mundane activities, like packing for a flight or getting into fights with friends.

Elle poses the question: If we “like” what an account is posting, does it really matter if the subject isn’t human?

“Perhaps the future of social media isn’t about what’s real and what’s fake, but about what we ‘like,’” Elizabeth Holmes writes. “After all, crusades against Photoshop happen alongside rampant usage of filtering and Facetuning. We want it all—the fantasy and the facts—and the most successful influencers exist somewhere in between.”